Student Spotlight: A 7 Year Detour With Usama Riasat

Usama was getting ready to complete his course and start his career in work health and safety (WHS) when his Australian visa came through. There was just one problem: the qualification he was finishing was for the UK.

Pursuing your goals can be difficult, especially when life gets in the way. Seven years later and Usama is back on track, more dedicated than ever. Though it hasn’t been an easy road, he was kind enough to share his experience of returning to study, refocusing on his goals and the tough choices he has had to make.

Starting study again

When Usama started his new course with CAL, he ran into another problem – balance. He was now working a full-time job (including two hours of overtime) with a two-hour commute, which left him no time for studying. Something had to change. That meant reviewing his goals and making a hard choice. Usama hoped to move to a part-time arrangement with his company but was offered a casual position instead – he accepted it. The new position meant work was not guaranteed, though he now had the freedom to deny shifts and focus on his priorities, not work.

So why is this course a priority?

Usama currently works in sales. While he appreciates it isn’t easy, it lacks technical elements and has no clearly defined trajectory. With a background in chemical engineering, he appreciates the value of technical skills.

“If you get technically good, you are irreplaceable “

It’s why people wait months for a doctor’s appointment and it’s how Usama plans to ensure his career. The move from chemical engineering (with a detour in sales) to a role in WHS is also a strategic choice. Usama is playing to his strengths. Engineering requires a lot of WHS, and with his background, Usama is a double-threat.

“The best thing that worked for me is: always play to your strengths.”

Usama is making himself distinct by upskilling alongside his experience. It also keeps him motivated, as everyone has skills that guide their unique careers, so he doesn’t need to worry about what others have to offer.

Maintaining motivation

Having studied a previous course seven years ago, Usama has some knowledge of the work to be done, though he still finds it challenging. His current schedule has him starting at 7 am and working to 10 pm. It’s tiring, but despite the challenge, he enjoys it.

“If you’re doing something you don’t enjoy, that’s a different level of hard.”

That doesn’t mean he is immune from demotivation. Always chasing “another next” can leave him downcast when he gets stuck on an assignment. Thankfully, he has support.


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Finding study support

Usama is a lucky man – not only does his partner help make his timetables, bring him cups of coffee and pick up extra chores, she supports and pushes him to reach his goal. Other important members of his support team are his mother and sister. Though they are back in Pakistan, by sharing his current subject and assessment due dates, they check in and keep him on track. Having a support network – a group of friends and family – is critical for helping you stay motivated.

At CAL, we also provide support with our learning coaches – an asset Usama makes great use of.

“I book her every four to five days … one of the best teachers in my whole life.”

Robyn is Usama’s learning coach and they are often chatting, providing technical support in the best way.

“She is great at recognising if you are ready to take on new challenges and doesn’t hold you back.”

Holding himself accountable

Despite having a great support network, clear goals and organised timetables, completing the course still rests on him doing the work. If he books a roleplay with his coach, he sticks to it – even if that means doing it in the car on his lunch break. His schedule stays fixed and everything else moves around it. He makes it a point to hold himself accountable instead of relying on others to keep him honest.

“If I’m tired, I’m already tired – I may as well get something out of it.”

Graduating and realising the value of studying

Usama has successfully finished his Diploma of Work Health & Safety (BSB51319), completing it at a record pace. His learning journey is perfectly encapsulated in his favourite quote:

“Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.” – Robin Sharma