At the young age of 17, Vice-Admiral Tim Barrett joined the navy straight out of school for some excitement. Back then, 40 years ago, he never imagined he would advance through the ranks to become the Chief of the Royal Australian Navy.

“I’ve been in the navy for nearly 40 years, but I had a non-traditional path to this leadership role,” Tim explains. “I started my career at sea, but then moved into aviation as well. I’ve been flying for a good part of my career, and as a consequence of that I haven’t followed what might be considered a typical path.”

Tim has held a number of impressive command positions: as the Commanding Officer of the helicopter squadron, a naval aviation establishment, and the navy’s fleet air arm. And to diversify still further, he’s been the Commander of Border Protection Command, which is a government agency managing maritime security around the nation, and the Commander of the Australian Fleet.

“I have always enjoyed my work,” he says.

“I have never had a job that I haven’t found satisfaction in completing. And as a result of being at sea and also flying, I have had some extraordinary but also quite demanding and exciting roles.

I’ve had a career that’s given me all of those things that someone at 17 would hope for, in terms of travel, excitement, and even landing a helicopter on a ship at night. My career has provided me all of those highlights, and I haven’t had to chase them—they just come with the job, and to me that’s been extraordinarily satisfying.”