He’s a thought-leader, go-getter and community can-doer from Heyfield. Thomas Crosbie has made the effort to help his neighbours. Now, as the youngest alumni of the Gippsland Community Leadership Program (GCLP), Thomas shares his experiences on being active in community projects, owning a small business and how you can do it all too.
Thomas is a name that you frequently hear floating around in Gippsland. At just 22 years old, he has successfully leveraged his tech knowledge to start his own business. He’s the man behind ByteMan Solutions, the neighbourly IT guy that races to your rescue when you ring for computer support in a panic. He’s also great at sharing his mastery to educate others without the faff and complex jargon.
Our IT hero was recognised for his ‘can-do’ community attitude by being rewarded with one of the first GLCP Alumni Youth Scholarships (partially funded by the sale of ‘Proud Gippslandian’ t-shirts). He has also won the Wellington Young Shire Citizen of the Year award and is also the youngest director on the Heyfield Community Bank’s board.
He has done all this while growing his business and regularly assisting at the Heyfield Community Resource Centre. His active presence in community life is undoubtedly impressive, but his involvement is seemingly a no-brainer for Thomas, as it is a way to make positive action happen: “Step foot into the neighbourhood and open your eyes to what the community is all about. There is a massive network of people, and someone’s always going to know something that’s happening”.
For Thomas, his career began as a year 10 student and one ad on a Buy, Swap, Sell group on Facebook: Thomas would come to your home and address your computer concerns. From there, he volunteered at Learn Local in Heyfield, an outlet for the Adult Centre of Education, where Thomas gave his time to teach people soft IT skills.
Through Learn Local, Thomas met mentor and great friend, Anthony Mayer. He was employed with Anthony to assist with virtual reality activations around Australia, who found Thomas to be, “one of the most conscientious people [he has] worked with”.
Access to Anthony’s mentoring continued through his business Online Is Easy, which focuses on teaching people business software skills. It was here that Thomas learned the business skills and gained the confidence to launch ByteMan Solutions. The pair still continue to work closely together as complimentary service partners, and attendees to Gippsland’s Binary Shift conference often get to see them both in full flight.
Anthony shares that Thomas’s “local community pride gives [him] faith in our region’s future. [Thomas] is an exceptionally ethical, kind and community-driven person and is a boon for Heyfield and the Gippsland community for the implementation of global innovation, digital literacy and ethical business practices”.
GCLP encouraged Thomas to branch out beyond his IT repertoire. The 30-strong group in the 2018 GCLP program decided to collaborate with Destination Gippsland on a tourism-focused project, asking locals
“How would you want your town promoted?”
Based in Stratford, the GCLP team Thomas was a member of, Strat-forward, spent time on the ground in the town and collected video content filming these responses.
“Our GCLP project finished with a short video about the town of Stratford. This put me in a position where I had to quickly gain some video editing skills, which I have vastly improved on since, and am now using for our community bank videos. The project has also provided some strong connections in Stratford, which I’m able to use within my own business”, says Thomas. The outcome of the project is still under wraps (but is set to be released soon!).
Thomas continues to defy any negative attitudes directed at our youth, and notes there is a shift towards young people being more community- and environment-focused.
“The main part is understanding what our youth are doing out there. It’s not all negative. There are a lot of good things happening in the background.”
He points out amazing local initiatives that continue to inspire, encourage and support Gippsland’s young people. “FReeZA and Propella provide a platform for young people to perform in the arts. There are events all through the year and a great community involved. The problem is that we don’t showcase it [enough]”.
Broadening Horizons helps give secondary school students hands-on experience in local industries with a recognised workforce shortage. Run by Berry Street, the project works across high schools in Gippsland to engage kids in problem-solving local issues.
As a speaker on behalf of this initiative, Thomas witnessed the shift in how these hands-on challenges inspired kids to tackle local challenges. “They love getting out, being on-site and doing all these projects’’, he exclaims.
Unsurprisingly given his long passion for technology, Thomas wants Gippsland to keep up with the tech industry’s fast-paced innovation and growth. “I’ve had a lot of consumer-based work, working on personal computers and smartphones. But also [assisting] businesses with their IT use and digital strategy. As soon as they realise the benefits. their faces just light up.”
Unfortunately, as a country, we’re notoriously lagging behind as we try to keep up with the fast-paced nature of the industry.
“I believe that our next generation needs an infrastructure that is stable and affordable. When we look at our current systems, such as the NBN and mobile coverage, we’ve got a system that can work extremely well, but other times it can be as reliable as a tin [can] on a string. Data access can be quite expensive too with Australia’s tech tax taking its toll on the younger generations.”
“It’s great to have people like Thomas helping to educate people in Gippsland about technology and to make full use of the possibilities of technology to improve productivity in their businesses. [We’re grateful for] Thomas’s help and advice in setting up IT systems at Herd Coworking to ensure that they’re state of the art, and we look forward to having him work out of the space more often in the future!”
While speaking of innovation, Thomas would also love the revival of Gippy Rideshare, a platform that aimed to fill a gap in the offerings of traditional rideshare providers such as Uber, potentially saving fuel and costs for regional drivers. The trial in 2014 never went forward, but still holds value for someone willing to get the program revving again. Any takers?
If you see the ByteMan Solutions car, feel free to shoot Thomas a “Hello!” and we know he will gladly give you one right back. If you’re after inspiration as to how you can assist our community, you can call him for that too, as Thomas is quietly leading Gippsland’s innovation one workshop at a time.
When next faced with an IT debacle, you can contact Thomas at his website, www.facebook.com/bytemansolutions.
For more information about the Gippsland Community Leadership Program: www.gclp.asn.au.
Did you enjoy this article?
Click here to subscribe to Gippslandia.