I am a high-school dropout. There are lots of ways to have a career in STEM.
I did the equivalent of one week of Year 11, and then left high school. I had a job, moved out of home and a couple of years later became a teenage mum.
When my baby was 13 months old, I enrolled at university and began a degree in optimisation modelling. Studying for a degree while parenting and working part time was hard, but well worth it. I worked in many different industries in many roles. Then, a few years ago, I completed a coding bootcamp that gave me a Diploma of IT.
My programming study moved me further into the tech industry than my original university degree and helped me meet an amazing group of people.
I’ve just started a new business called The Human Collective, where we are building a community of women in technology. We will run training courses and fun events that support, amplify and encourage each other to have phenomenal careers.
Before this I was an executive at a technology company that sold a software product. My role was Chief Operating Officer. In that role I was responsible for planning and managing the day-to-day operations, setting up procedures, managing quality and risks, assessing how strategies impacted risk and generally making sure everything happened.
I have had a wild and varied career. Every time there has been an interesting opportunity with good people – one that fits in with the rest of my life – I’ve taken it. That has led me to being able to run the largest agricultural trade show in the Southern Hemisphere, work on the New Zealand leg of the World Rally Championships, work at a plastic surgery startup, teach hundreds of people how to code and build out a tech startup that got bought by a huge tech company.
I desperately miss doing martial arts, which was one of my favourite non-work activities.
That is no longer possible, so I’ve spent more time picking up old hobbies – in particular sewing. There are great fabrics, especially linens, around at the moment. I’ve got three different projects on the go: a pair of pants, a linen dress and a completely ridiculous ball gown with fibre-optic cable lights. (The ball gown will hopefully light up in different colours depending on the speed I move but I’m not sure I’ve got the code quite right yet.)
I went from high school dropout and teenage mother to tech executive – so I think that anything can be possible.
Along the way I have learned to fail really well, fall hard and get back up again. To be honest, I think I’m more scared of being successful than I am of failing.
Even though I’m terrified of being successful, over the next five years I want to build up my new business, The Human Collective, to be the ‘go-to’ place for women to come together to support, empower and amplify one another in the tech industry.
Surround yourself with good people. Build up a support crew of people that will stand by you and encourage you, people who will lovingly let you know when you’re wrong, people who look nothing like you and people who have different life experiences to you.