Amanda Yeo joins The GiST to share her story, what led her to co-create, produce and host tech podcast Queens of the Drone Age, and advice for budding STEMinists.
I worked hard and got pretty good grades in school, but I was more inclined toward English and drama than STEM subjects. In fact, I switched out of physics in Year 11 and dropped maths entirely! I then went on to do a double degree – a Bachelor of Communication (Writing and Cultural Studies) and a Bachelor of Law – not exactly what most people think about when they think about STEM.
I’m a co-creator and host of tech podcast Queens of the Drone Age, where I get to chat about STEM with three other brilliant women every week. I also work full time as Mashable’s Australian reporter and write across all our verticals: entertainment, culture, tech, science, and social good. But before I was a tech journalist I worked in human rights law, so my career path has been pretty unconventional.
I used to work in a law firm representing refugees applying for protection in Australia, but the nature of the work meant my job was rather unstable. There also weren’t many places doing that type of law, so I couldn’t see how I could feasibly continue in this field. With all this in mind, when I saw Kotaku, Lifehacker and Gizmodo Australia were looking for an early morning sub-editor, I decided to respond to the ad and see what happens. I didn’t know the industry or anyone in it, but I loved writing and all the geeky, techy topics the websites covered, so it seemed like a good fit.
I was there for several years before I quit to do freelancing, since I wanted to write more. After that I picked up a casual writing job at Junkee, staying for about a year then leaving to go full time at Mashable. And now I’ve launched the Queens of the Drone Age podcast with my friends and fellow nerds Rae Johnston, Tegan Jones, and Angharad Yeo.
I’ve been growing strawberries! I have a small collection of strawberry pots in my backyard with three different varieties in them. The birds always seem to nab the berries before they’re ripe enough to pluck, but my hope is that one day I’ll be able to grow enough to use in my French strawberry tart. (I also like baking.)
I’m pretty into fashion from the '40s and '50s as well, and like to trawl the internet looking for finds — I just can’t resist a good fit and flare dress. I usually prefer reproduction vintage though, since it’s much less expensive and typically in better condition.
Also: video games.
I hope I’m still writing, checking out cool new gadgets and learning about new technology. I’d love to go back to writing more fiction in addition to my articles, and maybe even write a book or contribute to a game. I also want to travel, though the pandemic has put that dream on hold for a little while. Ten years ago, I never thought I’d be where I am now, so I’m happy to just keep working hard, moving forward, grabbing opportunities, and finding out where it all leads me.
You know more than you think you do and you’re more capable than you believe. If it doesn’t feel that way it's only because others underestimate you. Other women aren’t your competition either — they are your allies. Help each other, support each other, and lift each other up. Success isn’t a zero-sum game. You’ll also find yourself making good friends along the way!
But I’m sure you’ve heard that before, so here’s a bit more advice: It’s okay to quit sometimes. It’s okay to say no. Do your best, but give yourself the freedom to stop and walk out if a situation calls for it. Don’t continue something that isn’t working just because you’ve already started, or force yourself to stay in a bad situation. Letting yourself walk out not only protects you from things that aren’t good for you, it also frees you to try new things without feeling obliged to commit to them. And if you keep trying new things, you’ll discover new passions and find what you love.
It’s also okay to fail. In fact, you will at times. You will make mistakes and stumble, because everyone does. It doesn’t mean you aren’t talented, hardworking and worthy of the opportunities given to you. It just means you’re human. It may be painful, but remind yourself that this isn’t a setback but a lesson. Learn from it, remember it, and keep growing.