Back in year twelve, I never really thought to study engineering. I always wanted to be a Physiotherapist. I did a lot of gymnastics and netball growing up (not great for your ankles), and spent a lot of times around Physios. I even completed work experience at a Physio and loved it! It wasn’t until the middle of year twelve my parents asked whether I had thought about any other career. Honestly, I hadn’t.
I did a career aptitude test and throughout that test, I was preoccupied with having already made the decision to be a Physio. My top results were Doctor, Osteo, Physio. There was one section on the test that was all about shapes, orientations, orders and logic. I loved that section! I was explaining this to my careers counsellor and she said ‘You should be an engineer.’ That was two weeks before preferences were due. I changed all my preferences because of those shapes!
I’ve presented a few times on my journey and why I decided to be an engineer and it’s made me realise how many clues I’d missed. My grandfather was an engineer. My Dad was in aviation. I always wanted to do the maths and science subjects. I’d always liked to build things. Even with extracurricular activities I always went into the building side of things. When I look back, I questioned why I didn’t figure it out earlier. No one had ever said to me, ‘You should be an engineer.’
My first preference was the University of Melbourne, as it allowed me to study French as well as engineering. I completed a Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering (Structural). In my first year of University, Marita Cheng (Robogals founder) came into class to say ‘Who wants to come out for five days to Ballarat and teach girls about Robotics?’ I had no interest in robotics at the time, but I’m from out west, so I thought Ballarat was really close. I ended up leading the five days of programme. I enjoyed it so much I came on board to coordinate the regional workshops. Over the next twelve months I organised seven across Victoria to inspire young girls to consider engineering as a career.
Robogals creates communities at Universities which are an inclusive and positive environment for everyone. Robogals provides the opportunity for people to give back to the community and share their passion for engineering. They mainly run workshops in robotics, but they are branching out to different disciplines.
After twelve months in the Robogals Melbourne team, I was approached to become the CEO of the global group. I don’t think I knew what I was agreeing to, but one of my mottos is ‘Will I regret it if I say no?’ It was clear that I wasn’t going to regret it -decision made.
During my four years as CEO, I really figured out what it was I was interested in: business development and growth. I made a lot of mistakes along the journey, however it’s all about how you bounce back and grow. There were challenges – people with different opinions and leadership styles. Struggles with partnerships. Difficulties with financials. But these are inevitable in any business and the way we develop both ourselves and the organisation. During my time as CEO, we went from four countries and ten cities to ten countries and thirty two cities around the world. When I started we had reached 5000 girls. When I finished my time as CEO, we’d inspired almost 70,000 young women.
I’m currently working as a structural engineer at Calibre Consulting in Southbank. During year twelve, Calibre was offering a cadetship for young women wanting to study Engineering. The opportunity was to sign on with them for 7 years. At the age of 18 that was terrifying but it was financial support throughout my degree and work experience on school holidays. To have a job for two years after I graduated was great. I spent the last year of study, concentrating on my degree, rather than trying to find a job. That was a big weight off my shoulders. This program still exists and more information can be found here.
My advice to other young women is to have confidence in your own abilities. Taking opportunities. Don’t have any regrets, or look back and say ‘I wish I had done that.’ For women, graduating and going into the workforce, be comfortable that you don’t know everything. Don’t be shy about asking for help. A lot of women sit back. I experienced a lot of that in Robogals and at University. There was one particular project where I was working with 3 guys and where we were programming a robot, which I had no experience in. I spoke up and said ‘Why don’t we try that?’ And got shut down and ignored. I asked twice. Then sat back and let it happen. I look back and say ‘Why didn’t I do more about that?’ But I didn’t want to rock the boat. I didn’t feel confident. Chances are people are happy for you to help, because the more you know, the less they have to do.
My Mum has always been very supportive always saying ‘The world is your oyster.’ She told me that the world is in my hands, take it and make it your own. So that’s what I do. She’s a kindergarten teacher. When she went through high school, everyone told her she had the brain to be a lawyer or a doctor, but she was adamant that she wanted to be a teacher. No matter what people would, say, she just wanted to teach. The advice is simple: be true to you.
Could we imagine bringing you a more amazingly-bright spark for IWD?! Nicole has gone out there and seized the day on so many occasions in her not-so-very-many years, that it’s a lesson to all of us to positively have a go. Nicole is calm, collected, and wonderfully attuned to what she wants to get out of her career. And as you have just read, she has a fantastic acuity for introspection and self-reflection. We know this woman is going on to great things and we are so glad to have her as part of the GAZELLA tribe. Thank-you Nicole and besT of luck in 2018! J&D xx