April 1, 2020

One Man, Two Careers : How a Lead Developer & Firefighter Juggles it all.

By We Discover

With the Summer of 2019/20 having drawn to a close, we thought it was important to put a spotlight on the Firefighters who have worked tirelessly in what was the most tragic and devastating Summer our country has seen in a long time.

Josh Russell is We Discover’s Lead Developer. Alongside developing his professional career, Josh has developed his career as a member of Fire and Rescue NSW, sacrificing endless hours each week to help members of the community facing emergency situations.

Previously stationed at Helensburgh, Josh relocated to Picton Fire and Rescue Station on the 16 December 2019. From the day he started at Picton Fire and Rescue Station to the 6 January 2020 when We Discover resumed work for the New Year, Josh was called to around 45 jobs. During this time, when most people are relaxing with family or friends and celebrating the holiday season, Josh was responding to (on average) six calls per day.

We sat down with Josh to discuss what it really means to be a member of the Fire and Rescue NSW team. We wanted to capture the sacrifices made by Firefighters beyond the media-worthy accolades and high-profile stories.

AM: While working a 40 hour work week at We Discover, how many hours do you put your hand up for at Fire and Rescue?

JR: Our government award requires us to commit to a minimum of 24 hours per week. On average, I mark myself available for 120 hours per week (having marked myself available for 133 hours this week).

AM: What are the most common calls you get? Are they generally more fire or rescue related?

JR: Picton Fire and Rescue are the Primary Rescue agency for the Wollondilly Shire, so we do attend a large range of rescue calls. Rescue calls range from serious motor vehicle accidents, vertical rescue to access patients that have fallen from cliffs, industrial and domestic rescue incidents, medical access emergencies etc.

Aside from rescue, we attend a large range of fire-related emergencies such as house fires, building fires, car fires and bushfires. Fire and Rescue NSW are also the primary combat agency for hazardous materials incidents such as chemical spills, chemical exposure and dangerous chemical reactions.

So as you can see there’s a tonne of variety which is what makes the job exciting because every call is different, it requires a lot of problem solving and good teamwork.

AM: Are all the people in your life supportive of your busy lifestyle?

JR: Obviously sometimes it can get in the way of things, but ultimately, I choose to surround myself with people who see the value in what I do. Without that certain level of understanding and support, I wouldn’t be able to make it all work.

AM: How does being in Fire and Rescue affect your relationship with other employers?

JR: Well, just like my friends and family, it’s important for my employers to see the value in what I do. I would hate for an employer to think that I’m just trying to make additional money on their time because it’s nothing like that. It’s not a money grab, it’s for my community, it’s just something that I love doing.

AM: Are there any days you can remember that have been particularly horrific?

JR: There was a day which we referred to as ‘The Blowup Day’, which was the 19 December last year. It was about 40 degrees with 60/70km per hour winds, and with so many bushfires already lit around the state, we knew it was going to be a massive day for us.

I ended up having to call Scott to say I had to stop working for the rest of the day because of all the 000 calls. All day and night we were driving around to different scenes. After being called to a building fire, my team and I got back to the station only for the bells to go off again. At this point, we were so worn out.

We responded to the call and when we arrived we realised that we were responding to a fatal RFS truck rollover. It was by far the worst day I have experienced in my five years of working for Fire and Rescue.

I went to work at We Discover the next day despite having responded to calls all day and night, but that’s just a part of the commitment you make when you have two different professions.

AM: What did you do to personally recover from all the work over the recent fire season?

JR: After the 19 December, I actually marked myself as unavailable from Fire and Rescue for two days. I don’t think that I ended up taking the full two days off, though.

AM: What is your biggest tip for juggling it all?

JR: You really just have to be very organised. You can make yourself unavailable for specific hours, so if I have a meeting at a set time I just have to make sure I’m marked unavailable for that time. There has never been any pressure from the brigade to cover any hours where I have marked myself unavailable, however, we’re a team and we’re there to support each other, just like in my professional career.

AM: What makes you want to sacrifice so much of your time to work both jobs?

JR: I sacrifice so much of my spare time for the fire brigade because I love every aspect of the job and I want to give back to the community. It provides unique situations, teamwork and problem-solving unlike any other career.

They say “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” and that couldn’t be more true as a firefighter. We show up on your worst day to make it a little bit better, it’s an incredibly rewarding job.

On the other hand, my professional career as a web developer is paramount to my livelihood and is what actually enables me to also work as a firefighter.

I taught myself to code when I was 16 years old and I’ve been working as a professional developer for more than 12 years. It’s something I’ve always found a lot of satisfaction in. Much like the fire brigade, it offers variety, problem solving and a great culture.

While working with We Discover, Josh has never once compromised on the quality of his work. No matter whether he has a full nights sleep under his belt or whether he is running off 45 minutes of sleep, his passion sustains him in both roles and has done so at every point in his career. Whether it be meeting with clients to conduct interviews or responding to a fatal motor vehicle crash, Josh brings a level-headed and judicious perspective.

Sometimes as members of the community we fail to understand the sacrifices that first responders make to protect others. The next time you meet someone who is in one of these positions, whether it be a Policeman, Paramedic or a Firefighter, take a moment to show your gratitude.