In 2015, James Buzzard (TC 2003) joined consulting firm KPMG as a graduate. Many KPMG graduates come straight out of university, but James’s career has taken a slightly different path. We caught up with James to chat about his career journey, cookery, consulting, Foundation Studies and a longstanding Trinity record.
Science Student and Passionate Cook
After finishing high school, James (who was enrolled to study Arts and Science at Monash University) was sat down by his brother and father and told, in no uncertain terms, that he was to live at Trinity College and study Science. Not long after beginning his course, James realised that his passion was not in Science. He struggled through his studies, relying instead on his close Trinity friendships and co-curricular experiences to determine his direction in life. In his own words, he became involved in ‘dramatic arts, volunteerism and everything in between’.
Quite separate from his studies in Science, James returned to the College in 2007 and 2008 to offer cooking classes alongside fellow ‘foodie’ Michael Rooke (TC 2006). This unexpected interest in cooking developed from his time with his babysitter Emma Templeton (TC 1991). ‘Emma spent time developing her cooking whilst working with us. I used to enjoy learning to cook with her and I think that’s where the whole passion for cooking precipitated from.’
The cooking tutorials were well received, despite James and Michael’s difficulties teaching within time constraints and to fit a ‘traditional tutorial model’. ‘I was recently really chuffed walking into a café in Carlton - a guy came up to me and he said ‘you might not remember me, but you taught me how to cook’’. The man who James had taught all those years ago was Ciaran Ardren (TC 2008), now co-owner of The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, the very café he was sitting in.
James’ interests didn’t end with cookery. While at university he also started working as an IT consultant to earn some extra money, repairing computers for family and friends. He explained, ‘it was easier earning money fixing computers rather than working as a waiter/ cook on Lygon st…’
At just 24 years of age, James founded Babeltech, an IT consultancy company, aimed at ‘translating technology’ for the layperson. ‘Instead of trying to pursue a slightly alternative pathway in science, I would double down on this whole technology/IT consultancy thing and incorporate my own company.’ The company quickly became successful, so much so that James realised he needed to hire his own contractors to work across clerical support and as website developers.
He found the work could mostly be broken down into two categories, the first being the traditional break-fix model - a computer or system would break down and he would come to fix it. The second was more strategic work - trying to help small business and start-ups to utilise technology in an advantageous way. ‘How they can build a website, how they can build social media presence, how they can make sure they have the best technology to support their day-to-day.’
His advice to any young entrepreneurs is ‘stick to your core competency, realise what your value add is and outsource the rest.’
James concluded it was the strategy and innovation he felt most passionately about and decided he wanted to study entrepreneurship at Deakin University. This decision ultimately led to him selling Babeltech in order to pursue his passions further.
KPMG and Foundation Studies
James is now an engagement manager with KPMG, using strategy, technology and innovation to deal with complex client needs. He loves his job for the challenges it presents him, and for the range of people he gets to work with. ‘I can approach clients knowing that I’ve got a number of people behind me with various capabilities, across a wide range of areas.’
While many find dealing with a range of people challenging, James attributes his appreciation of diversity partly to his personal links to Trinity College. His father, Professor Anthony Buzzard (TC 1959), was instrumental in the establishment of the Foundation Studies School at Trinity.
Professor Buzzard, along with then Warden Evan Burge, Robert Clemente (TC 1968), Denis White and others, in the face of much nervousness and speculation, set to work ‘formulating this idea of what Foundation Studies might look like in terms of a support program to help international students.’ It was an inspired idea, embracing and supporting diversity for all of its benefits.
The business case for Foundation Studies School required just over 30 students per year. Now, it has grown to house over 1800 students in 2016. ‘It’s absolutely amazing to see what it has become, the legacy it has become, and the impact on the College.’
James views the move towards co-habitation of space between the Residential College and Foundation Studies as a natural progression, and is delighted by the College’s move towards further cohesion and interaction between students. ‘At the end of the day, diversity is something completely natural within the wider workplace. It is the people you work with, so the sooner you get used to it, the better.’
Trinity College’s global citizenship ethos has organisations such as KPMG interested in Trinity graduates. Corporations are increasingly looking for graduates capable of exercising their corporate citizenship values and goals. ‘At Trinity you have super intelligent people, who are globally minded, and they naturally start thinking about ways of helping others.’
This interest will see KPMG opportunities presented to our students and young alumni in coming months.
Despite all he has achieved, perhaps what James is best remembered for at the College is an infamous record he set along with Gil Marsden (nee Bilson, TC 2004). Back in the depths of winter in June 2004, farewelling a mutual friend by drinking several bottles of wine (each), they decided to run naked through every building on every floor of the College.
‘I don’t know how the hell we didn’t get severely ill out of it, it was in the middle of exam period as well, we got into a lot of trouble from a lot of people. But we owned up early the next day. It was stupid, it was idiotic, we wrote a letter of apology to the entire College and admitted fault. Subsequently, the College announced such actions were banned.’
Despite the acknowledged error of judgement on his behalf, James takes quite a philosophical approach to the nudie run. ‘What I’m getting at was the nudie run was stupid, but regretting experience is probably a bad idea because experience informs who you are. That experience is still something that we talk about to this day, and something that seems to provide ongoing entertainment to those who hear it.’
James’ experiences at Trinity College, from science student, to nudie runner, have shaped who he is and what he has achieved.
‘From all accounts the record still stands, though considering there are now two new buildings (The Gourlay and Gateway buildings) the challenge is out there.’