Justin McGowan

Justin McGowan

Image: DFAT

Master of Management 2006/ Graduate Certificate in Management 2006 

Justin McGowan is the Australian Commissioner General for Expo 2020 Dubai. A Senior Executive and Minister Counsellor within the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Justin has held a succession of senior roles within DFAT, since he commenced there in 2009, as well as a position at the Australian Embassy in Thailand.  

Before joining DFAT, Justin spent time in the private sector as General Manager of a successful consulting and software development company, prior to this served as a member of the Royal Australian Navy, undertaking numerous operational deployments including leading teams to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolutions in the Gulf. He has also managed strategic programs within the Australian Department of Defence. He has been awarded numerous medals including the Australian Active Service Medal, Australian Service Medal (Solomon Islands), Operational Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Australian Defence Medal, and the Maritime Commander Australia Commendation.  

Justin holds a Master of Management and Graduate Certificate in Management from ANU. He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and has studied at Melbourne and Harvard Kennedy Business Schools. 

Justin’s responses to questions from CBE students

When it comes to public sector vs private sector career paths, how would a student decide which is best for them?  

The only way to know is through experience. I have had such rewarding careers in both. The private sector career paths may well involve selling goods or services for profit, but the public sector is about selling ideas and policy and demonstrating the benefits to Australia and its citizens. The ideas we have about either sector are often based on assumptions. My experience is that more and more public sector organisations operate like private sector companies – driven by ‘doing more with less’ and efficiency dividends. The public expects a lot from the public sector and rightly so, so don’t discount a career in either. DFAT has been a wonderful employer and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in a career in the public service. 

What is your advice for students interested in applying for international job opportunities after graduation?  

The world has so much to offer. I definitely recommend applying for international jobs, including at DFAT, which offers a wide variety of careers within a career, given the broad span of the Department’s responsibilities. Depending on where in the world the job is, it is important to highlight that you have strong cross-cultural skills, tolerance and resilience. Often your first job overseas is not in the most glamorous location, so it’s great to be able to demonstrate that you are prepared to do the tough roles early as this will demonstrate your credibility and commitment. 

In your work, you must meet a lot of people on a daily basis. What’s your trick to remembering foreign names?  

Firstly, I remind myself how it feels when someone doesn’t remember my name. It is important to make everyone feel valued and a simple way of doing that is by remembering names. In a practical sense, I find an exchange of business cards is often helpful, and then marking up a few points about the interaction to help me remember. It is also useful to repeat their name and ask if your pronunciation is correct. If they have a very tricky name, I discreetly write it down phonetically and note any context on their business card for reference.