Why are you in this industry/occupation?
I never really know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I still don’t! But as I was deciding what to study at school and at University, I always knew that I wanted to try lots of different things, and keep my options open for the future. Studying mathematics and statistics has given me plenty of options. In my career, I’ve developed methods for analysing satellite images and using them to predict the future state of our natural resources, monitored the status of Australian fisheries and their impact on the environment, modelled the spread of herbicide resistance in weeds, developed methods for forecasting seasonal rainfall from up to ten months before it falls and produced tools to help farmers make better decisions about how they manage their crops. I’ve discovered that I have a life-long love for learning and I prefer to apply it to help us get the most out of our environmental resources in a way that’s sustainable over the long term.
What are the benefits?
I like solving problems and designing algorithms to extract knowledge and understanding from data. Studying mathematics and statistics has allowed me to play with that for a long time. But beyond the immediate pleasure I get from working out a solution to a difficult problem, I also get a great deal of satisfaction from knowing that my work is valuable – that it makes a difference. Working in government gives me the opportunity to do work that is needed, valued and used. And it doesn’t hurt that the work conditions in government are good. I receive a good income that allows me to live comfortably. I work regular – not over long -hours and I can take time off for recreational, personal or study purposes.
What are the drawbacks?
I really can’t think of any reason women shouldn’t pursue a career in mathematics, statistics or research! But working in government does have some drawbacks, primarily that the priority of research directions can change suddenly at the direction of our politicians. This can be frustrating, but does teach us to adapt and move with the punches.
Why do you encourage other women and girls to consider the industry/occupation?
It can be hard for girls who are technically-minded to work out what they want to do with their lives. As I said, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! But my education and experience have given me the tools that I need to be able to work in many different fields. Studying mathematics and statistics opens a world of options for you to explore, and provides the income you’ll need to live a fruitful and happy life outside of work too.