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Student Spotlight: Christopher Gemmell

By Academy Xi

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Christopher’s decision to retrain as a Software Engineer with Academy Xi paid off with an exciting new tech role at Macquarie Group.

Christopher enrolled in the Software Engineering: Transform course with big ambitions to launch a new career in tech. After teaching web development for 6 months, he finally landed a dream role as a Software Engineer with Macquarie Group.

What were you doing before you studied with Academy Xi?

Career-wise, a bit of everything. I was a labourer for a little while and then an engineering estimator for a glass and aluminium company. I worked in civil construction after that and more recently, managed an arcade. It was while I was working at the arcade that I decided it was time to make a serious career. 

I’ve always enjoyed working with tech, so I decided to sign up for the Academy Xi Software Engineering course. Luckily, I was able to cut back my hours at the arcade. Even though the course was full-time, I was able to study and keep working. 

I was on very good terms with the owners and had already automated a bunch of the company’s paperwork with Excel scripting. I’d built tools to help with roster scheduling, task management and stock management. That bit of exposure really sparked my interest in programming. The owners saw the value in me developing my tech skills and backed my decision to study.    

Why did you choose Academy Xi specifically?

I looked at quite a few different options before I settled on Academy Xi. The main motivation for taking the course was to kickstart a new career, so the Career Support Program was very appealing. Other courses had similar programmes, but they seemed a bit strict. 

It also helped that Academy Xi offered decent payment plans. In the end, it worked out best for me to borrow the money from my parents, pay in full and then repay the loan. Even so, the study-now-pay-later options were a big draw when I was making my choice.  

How did you find the course?

It was really good. I’d had a bit of coding experience before the course started, mostly using VBA to automate Excel. VBA’s pretty frustrating to learn, but once you’ve picked it up it can help you turn a 6-hour task into something that takes 20 seconds. 

Working through the course content really throws you in the deep end. You download the coding software and immediately have to start learning how to use it, which isn’t easy. 

With other coding courses, one of the biggest problems students have is they’re not solving real problems. They get given instructions and then perform certain tasks, without really understanding the process and testing out the different possibilities. As a result, nothing sticks until they’re pushed to do other things. 

With Academy Xi, you get exposed to the technical stuff as soon as the course begins, which might seem harsh, but it ultimately means you learn a lot very quickly. Plus, everything you learn really beds in. I think a lot of that was due to my mentor being super knowledgeable and very keen.       

How did you find working with your mentor?

My mentor was Schuman Zhang and I can definitely attest a large amount of my success to him. I took up as many of Schuman’s one-on-one slots as possible, not because I was struggling, but because I wanted to make the most of his experience and know-how. 

By the time I reached the final assessment, I was doing everything in TypeScript instead of JavaScript, which definitely added a layer of complexity. Schuman was able to give me the technical advice I needed to get that project over the line.   

In the end, I developed a really good working relationship with Schuman. He was a reference for me and recently helped me land a new role. I’m still connected with him on LinkedIn and now that I’ve moved to Sydney, I’m sure we’ll meet up soon. 

What was your favourite project that you worked on?

For the first project we had to program an app using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. I built a stock app, which allowed you to type in a particular stock, an investment amount and a date. The app would then calculate the return you’d have gotten if you’d made that investment on that day. 

I really stretched myself with that first project. I spent a lot of time coding and problem-solving by myself. It helped that it was a project I’d designed. If you’re working on something you care about, you’re more willing to bash your head against the wall trying to get it to work! With other courses, you’re just working on a project because you’re told to, which means you’re less likely to put in the hard yards. 

I also enjoyed the industry showcase at the end of the course. It had been a few weeks without any classes, so it was great to check out everyone’s projects and see just how much they’d grown. 

What have you been up to since graduation?

After the course finished, Renju from Academy Xi put me in touch with Generation Australia. Generation needed teachers for the Junior Web Developer programme they run in collaboration with Academy Xi. 

I taught with Generation for 6 months, which involved leading Zoom classes with large groups of students. I was 25 years old and teaching students who were older than me, which gave my confidence a real boost. The soft skills alone made the job worthwhile and helped me land my new role.  

Can you tell us about your new role?

I’ve been working for about a month as a Senior Associate Engineer at Macquarie Group as part of their infrastructure and personal technology department. The role involves working with servers, laptops, mobile phones and any other physical technology the company relies on. 

My team’s in charge of automating tasks that would otherwise be performed manually. Our motto is that if you save 2% of someone’s time, it might seem like a small amount, but over the course of a year it adds up. To give an example, we might make sure that if a laptop is being repaired, all of its files and settings are automatically downloaded and then uploaded to the new device. 

From a non-tech perspective the role might sound a bit boring, but I find it really challenging and rewarding. The team is pretty hands-off, so if I find something that I think needs improving, I have the freedom to tinker and do my own thing.    

Are you using what you learned in the course still?

Definitely. Academy Xi gives you a solid framework, but you need to build on it once you start working in the industry. 

In terms of the hard technical stuff, I’m working at a much deeper level than I did during the course, but that’s more a reflection of how complex banking systems are. 

At Academy Xi, we were taught how to code the front and back-end. We learnt the full-stack and dealt with everything from the databases to the UI. At Macquarie, we have a specific team that only deals with the databases, and even that team splits into further teams which work with specific parts of the process. 

My team works with the API and automation, but there are about five other teams involved in that too. I’m a very small part of the business, working on very specific projects, so the level of the detail I work with is extremely high. 

Would you recommend Academy Xi?

Absolutely. I’ve already recommended Academy Xi to a friend who’s signed up for the next Software Engineering cohort. 

For anyone interested in studying Software Engineering specifically, I’d say go for it, but make sure you keep yourself in check and stay motivated, because a lot of your work will be self-directed. 

It’s also important to really engage with the content and test out everything you’re developing. It’s one thing to read the material, pass the tests and then move on to the next module, but if you’re not putting everything into practice, it’s not going to properly sink in. 

I went to the weekly classes, spent about 5 hours working through the course material, and then supplemented that without about 10 hours of my own study. That level of commitment meant I could experiment and really get to grips with coding. As long as you put the time and effort in, you’ve got all the resources you need to develop those deeper skills.   

Are you keen to launch a new tech career just like Christopher? If so, check out our Software Engineering: Transform courses.  

Academy Xi Blog

Market update: game developer demand and salary in Australia, 2022

By Academy Xi

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A growing games industry exists in Australia, with the sector contributing $226.5million in revenue in 2021, which was a 22% increase on the previous year. Want in on the action? Read on.

Globally the gaming industry is worth $240 billion and predicted to reach $294 billion by 2024. Within Australia, 83% of gaming revenue is coming from overseas and now the Australian government is finally recognising the massive growth of the sector. Support on both federal and state levels is on offer in the form of tax incentives (the Digital Games Tax Offset or DGTO came into effect in 2022). 

Attracting employees with the right specialised skills is reported as being one of the difficulties faced by Australian gaming development studios. The global demand for experienced staff demonstrates that if you’re keen to get into the industry, now’s the time to strike.

What is a video game developer?

Game developers bring video game designer’s ideas to life by developing the code which creates the audio and visuals that make it a playable game. Video games exist across a number of platforms such as game consoles (we’re looking at you XBox, Playstation and Nintendo), mobile phones, PCs and different web browsers.

Are game developers in demand in Australia?

Recognised as a strong contributor to the national economy, the projected job growth for game developers over the next five years is tipped to be 25%

With a projected industry growth of 7% annually and a shortage of skilled workers to meet the increase, it’s safe to say that game developers are in demand.

How much does a video game developer make?

The average Australian salary for game developers hits roughly the $100k mark, with entry-level positions likely paying less. However, with plenty of opportunities available, you may find yourself climbing the ranks faster than in other industries. 

Keep in mind that if you specialise in certain aspects of gaming, you could command a higher salary.

Skills needed to be a game developer

It goes without saying that having a true passion for video games really is paramount if you want to be a game developer. In addition to your love for all things gaming, the following skills and attributes are also needed in your kit:

  • Proficiency in programming languages (C# and C++ for example)
  • An analytical mindset
  • Creative thinking
  • Great at working solo and as a part of a team
  • Be across the latest gaming trends

Do your homework

If you’re interested in working in the gaming industry, it pays to know about the companies in the field. Scan through game developer job listings to see who is who and learn about which services they offer. You can also read through the job descriptions to gain an understanding of the skills and experience required to join their ranks.

If there’s a studio you’re particularly interested in, check their website directly to see if they’re hiring and the skills they require. You can also ask about work experience or internship opportunities to get your foot in the door, which can be a great way to network while you gain a relevant qualification

How to become a game developer

How to become a game developer It’s a wise idea to have some training under your belt to become a game developer, in software engineering ideally, as a proficiency in relevant programming languages is required.  Some developers are self-taught, but it can be a much longer road to get up to speed, particularly when you consider that you might be up against people with computer science qualifications when applying for positions in game development companies. At Academy Xi, we offer industry-approved training via an intensive approach, so you can get yourself out there into the game development workforce sooner rather than later, instead of sinking four years into a university degree.  Our tech training options will give you the foundations required enter into the world of gaming, whether you want to upskill, or become a full-stack developer: If you have any questions, our experienced team is here to discuss your training options. Speak to a course advisor today and take the first steps in your game development journey.

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Skills and responsibilities of a game developer

In addition to writing code, a working day for a game developer often includes using application program interfaces (APIs) to develop their work across different software, analysing video game designer’s concepts and design specifications, as well as programming the artificial intelligence (AI) for non-player characters and the terrain of the game.

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Colour theory and colour palettes for designers

By Academy Xi

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Far from just making things ‘look pretty’, Graphic Designers draw on some complex theories to increase the impact of their work. Read on to find out how you can make a splash with your designs using colour theory.

What is colour theory?

It was the English mathematician and bonafide brainbox Isaac Newton who first developed colour theory. Using a prism, Newton split white light into a spectrum of colours and then wrapped the spectrum around itself to create the colour wheel.  Colour theory has developed into a set of rules which helps designers use colour to convey messages and elicit emotional responses. Picking colours for a particular brief, designers refer to the colour wheel and knowledge about optics, psychology, behavioural science and much more. What is colour theory

Why should you care about colour theory? 

Artists and designers have been using Newton’s wheel to create eye-catching visuals for hundreds of years. In a business setting, colour is one of the most significant variables that can determine what we buy, from the foods we eat, to the clothes we wear and the cars we drive.

The best marketing uses colour to appeal to our senses, helping us to develop an emotional connection with a brand and ‘feel’ our way toward a purchase. As a result, applying colour theory is a crucial step in building a successful business.   

What is the colour wheel?

The colour wheel is a visual representation of primary, secondary and tertiary colours, with the various hues arranged according to wavelength. Graphic Designers use the colour wheel to understand what the visual effects are likely to be when different colours are combined. 

When using colours on the the colour wheel (referred to as ‘hues’), designers will consider:

  • Shade – This is when black is added to a colour, resulting in a darker, more intense hue. Shaded colours tend to be moody
  • Tint – This is when white is added to a colour, creating a desaturated and lighter hue. Tinted colours normally have a calming effect 
  • Tone – This is when both black and white are added to a colour, creating a less saturated hue 

The importance of colour harmony

Colour harmony refers to the process of combining particular colours to create an aesthetically pleasing experience. These combinations create contrasts that are said to be ‘harmonious’. 

Following the rules of colour harmony can bring a sense of internal order and balance to an image. On the other hand, ignoring colour harmony can lead to visuals that are either chaotic or bland, both of which the human brain will reject.   

Additive vs subtractive colour

There are two methods for producing colour – additive and subtractive. The additive colour model is primarily used when colours are added to shades of light to create colours. The subtractive mode is used when white light, such as sunlight, reflects off an object. Confused? Let’s break it down.

  • The additive colour model (RGB) 

Additive colours begin as black and become white as more red, blue, or green is added. TVs, mobile phones, computer monitors, and other electronic screens display colours that are created with the additive model. Pixels start as black, but take on colours that are expressed as percentage values of red, green, and blue (hence ‘RGB’). 

  • The subtractive colour model (CMYK)

Subtractive colours begin as white, but as you add filters to the white light, such as ink, this white light takes on the appearance of colour. Photos, magazines and other printed materials use subtractive colour. CMYK refers to the four colours added to plates during subtractive printing: cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black).  

How to choose a colour scheme

How to choose a colour scheme

Selecting a colour scheme can make or break the popularity of a brand. To help you nail the process, here’s a simple four-step guide:

Step 1: Prioritise the user experience 

Colour can be used to establish a brand’s overall look and feel, influencing how users interact with your business and the emotions they experience as they do so. 

Ask yourself, what kind of experience are your users looking for? If you run a jewellery store and they’re after a luxurious experience, a deep purple colour scheme might work. If you run a spa and they’re after a peaceful, serene experience, a blue or green colour scheme might be more effective. 

Step 2: Set a mood for your colour scheme

It’s handy to think of your brand as having a personality so you can choose colours that will accentuate certain traits. These traits will set the mood for your brand. If you want to seem exciting and confident, a red colour scheme might be a good choice. If you want to seem calm and down-to-earth, a green colour scheme might do the trick. 

 Step 3: Refer to your colour wheel

Don’t just base your colour choices on a hunch. Refer back to the colour wheel and play around with different combinations until you have some options you’re happy with. Using colour theory to support your choices will allow you to be more intentional in creating a visual identity for your brand. 

Step 4: Draft multiple designs

This might seem like obvious advice, but don’t just settle on the first colour scheme you come up with. A Graphic Designer would produce multiple colour schemes, giving their client a series of options to pick from. Do the same for yourself.

What are the main types of colour palette?

When you’re picking your colour palette, it’s handy to know what some of the most tried-and-trusted options are: Pastel colour palette – Pastels are pale tones of colours made by mixing a significant amount of white into the original hue. Pastel colour palette Neutral colour palette – Neutral palettes often include beige, ivory, taupe, black, grey and shades of white. Though they seem to lack colour, neutral palettes often have undertones. Neutral colour palette Warm colour palette – Warm colour palettes are based on hues of red, orange and yellow. Warm colour palette Cool colour palette – Cool colour palettes are based on hues of blue, green and purple. Cool colour palette Monochromatic colour palette – Monochrome colours are all the varieties of a single hue, in different tints, shades and tones. Monochromatic colour palette Analogous colour palette – An analogous colour palette involves three hues, all of which are positioned next to each other on the colour wheel. Analogous colour palette Complementary colour palette – Complementary colours are positioned opposite one another on the colour wheel. These colours are said to be in direct harmony with each other. Complementary colour palette Triadic colour palette – A triadic colour palette focuses on one dominant colour, with the other two colours placed evenly apart on the colour wheel (marking a triangle) and serving as accents. Triadic colour palette

Best tools for choosing a colour palette and scheme

There’s plenty of innovative software designed to make picking your colour palette easy-as-pie, including:

Adobe Color

Adobe Colour theory Adobe Color is a browser-based application with an interface featuring a large colour wheel. Beside are multiple options that work in conjunction with the colour wheel. You use the wheel to choose a base colour and apply one of the options. Adobe Color then generates numerous colours that make up your palette.


Coolors is a colour palette generator Coolors is a colour palette generator. It can either suggest an entire palette randomly or based on your inputs, such as a logo or manually entered colours. Settings enable you to adjust colours by shade, hue, saturation etc. With over 3 million users worldwide, you can draw inspiration from other people’s palettes and keep tabs on trending colour themes.

How to become a Graphic Designer

Do you want to learn more about colour theory and all things Graphic Design? 

Whether you’re looking to upskill or launch a completely new career as a Graphic Designer, Academy Xi has the perfect course: 

  • Graphic Design: Elevate – For upskillers looking to boost their career prospects with in-demand creative capabilities 
  • Graphic Design: Elevate (Self-Paced) – For upskillers looking to boost their career prospects with in-demand creative capabilities, whilst enjoying the flexibility of self-paced learning
  • Graphic Design: Transform – For career changers, looking to transform their profession with a course offering access to a Career Support Program that helps 97% of graduates land their dream role 

Not sure which is the best course for you? Chat to one of our course advisors and we’ll help you break into one of Australia’s most creative industries.  

Academy Xi Blog

Market update: Penetration Tester demand and salary in Australia, 2022

By Academy Xi

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Cyber attacks are rapidly rising with a 125% increase in 2021, costing businesses an average of $4.35 million USD per breach. The demand for ‘ethical white hat hackers’ has never been higher, as corporations double down on getting their cyber defences sorted. Discover where ‘Pen Testers’ fit into the big picture.

Penetration Tester Demand 

It is anticipated that an additional 16,600 cyber security professionals will be needed nationally by 2026, including penetration testers.

Penetration Tester Salary

The average annual salary for Penetration Tester jobs in Australia ranges from $120,000 to $170,000.

Penetration Tester Skills

Industry-focused, practical training will ensure you’re equipped with the right skills and mindset.

The pandemic undoubtedly added rocket fuel to the levels of cyber crime, with ransomware and data theft being the forerunners. As a result, businesses are seeking cyber professionals in-house and as contractors en masse. 

Recent research commissioned by CyberCX and conducted by independent think tank, Per Capita, reveals there will be a staggering lack of qualified cybersecurity professionals over the next four years, to the tune of 30,000 unfilled positions nationwide.

If a future in penetration testing has been calling you – now is the time to act.

What do Pen Testers do?

what do pen testers do Australia

Penetration Testers, often referred to as ‘Pen Testers,’ are responsible for running pre-planned and authorised simulations of cyber attacks, carried out on IT infrastructures to evaluate current levels of security. 

Running such a simulation can reveal any system vulnerabilities which need addressing to bolster the framework and make it more resilient against hackers.

This proactive approach to cyber security can involve using a range of hacking tools and techniques, with the pen tester acting in the role of hacker in an attempt to find any system holes that a real cyber-crime could exploit. 

Pen Testers need to document their entire process to develop a penetration test report, which can be shared with relevant stakeholders to highlight the current state of security and where different levels of action or monitoring are required. 

Daily responsibilities will vary depending on the industry and organisation, but some common tasks include:

  • Researching different attack strategies and tools
  • Reviewing code for potential vulnerability 
  • Automating testing approaches to increase efficiency
  • Ongoing documentation of any compliance threats
  • Development of pen testing methods
  • Conducting ongoing testing after security improvements 
  • Generating reports of findings 

Are penetration testers in demand in Australia?

It is anticipated that an additional 16,600 cyber security professionals will be needed nationally by 2026, including Penetration Testers.

The table below demonstrates the cyber security workforce need and shortfall forecast for Australia by 2026.

Penetration tester salary in Australia

As with many occupations there are a range of factors that can impact earning capacity such as experience, location, training and qualifications.

The average annual salary for Penetration Tester jobs in Australia ranges from $120,000 to $170,000, with Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne based roles being the highest paid.

Be mindful that we are talking in-house positions and there are likely many that can be performed remotely, from wherever you’re located.

Junior pen tester salary

Depending on the industry and organisation, some entry level Pen Tester salaries can start at around the $90,000 mark.

Senior pen tester salary

Those with more industry experience can command salaries of $175,000 and up as Penetration Testers. 

Can penetration testers work as a freelancer?

Yes. Freelancing can provide freedom and flexibility, but it isn’t recommended as a starting point for your pen testing career. By taking on in-house positions within cyber security, you will gain a breadth of experience, meet a range of people within the industry and ultimately ‘cut your teeth’ with the pros. Venturing into freelance before establishing a solid foundation can prove to be a lot more challenging, as you will likely not have the industry contacts, which can be helpful when securing your initial clients. 

What skills do you need to be a penetration tester?

penetration tester skills Australia academy xi

First and foremost, a willingness to be continually learning is an important attribute for anyone wishing to delve into the world of penetration testing, or cyber security in general. 

The playing field is forever changing, requiring constant research and investigation. Specifically, key skills include knowledge and a working understanding of:

  • Coding
  • Programming languages (Python, Ruby, Java, Perl, BASH)
  • IT security technologies
  • Threat modelling 
  • Penetration testing management platforms
  • Computer networks and capabilities
  • Components of different networks
  • Security assessment tools
  • Remote access technologies
  • Vulnerabilities and exploits beyond tool suites

In addition to the above skills, it’s also important to have excellent communication skills, both written and verbal, so you can present your findings effectively and with impact to all relevant stakeholders. 

Similar specialisations and career paths

  • Information security analyst
  • Security software developer
  • Security architect
  • Security engineer

How to become a penetration tester Australia

Pen tester demand and salary australia

Ensuring you have industry-ready skills is definitely required to break into penetration testing. While it is not uncommon for pen testers to have tertiary qualifications, such as a Bachelor of IT or computer science, it’s actually hands-on industry experience that will be appealing to most employers.

By fast-tracking your training with industry-built, practical and outcomes-focused courses, you will graduate job-ready in a fraction of the time it would take you to complete a degree, getting you out into the working world at pace.

Our Cyber Security Engineering: Transform course will ensure you are equipped with the skills needed to enter the world of penetration testing with confidence. The course can be completed part-time in 10 months, with practical learning, expert mentoring and 1:1 career coaching.

If you have any questions, our experienced team is here to discuss your training options. Speak to a course advisor and take the first steps in your penetration testing journey.

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