What's your background?
I grew up in a farming area in South East Queensland and attended school in town. I moved to Adelaide and completed year 11-12 in a big city high-school which was a bit of a shock. I joined the Navy when I was 19 and did my Bachelor of Arts at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) before heading out to sea to drive ships. Driving ships took me all over like South East Asia and the South-West Pacific.
I transferred to Intelligence and worked in rooms with no windows and on ships at sea in the Middle East and the Australian region. I was lucky to be able to do my Masters back at ADFA when my eldest child was 6 months olds.
I moved 18 times in 21 years until I finally bought my own home in Canberra. At the same time, I had my second baby at the age of 43 and had a moment where I decided that I didn’t want to be a nomad any more. So I left the Navy in May 2019 and joined Leidos Australia.
What's your job about?
Leidos Australia are an IT company that are building ‘Google TV’ for Defence users on a Defence IT system. I am their ‘pet intelligence officer’ because I have experience doing the job of an Intelligence officer and our software is aimed to make their lives easier. So how does someone with an Arts degree get a job with an IT company? I say that it’s my job to be the translator. I speak military and so I translate military-speak to the IT team, I’m learning IT so I can speak it to the project team.
Essentially I am a liaison between the software team in Melbourne and the customer in Canberra. I have also coordinated working groups (more talking!) where we have shown our work in progress to military people in uniform and the software team take their feedback and incorporate it. It helps that I am the sort of person who likes to talk to people and that’s pretty much my entire job.
Did you always know you wanted to work in this field?
I never imagined working for an IT company as I’m not technical at all. I am great with words – speaking them, reading them, researching and writing. I even did sales for a while because it’s all about words and talking. My job now is the happy combination of my military experience, my sales experience, my love of talking and telling stories to get my point across. I am loving learning all about the way software works and connects and all the hidden ‘under the hood’ mysteries and I am using my natural skills in explaining that technical information in a simple way.
What is most rewarding about your job?
I love the lightbulb moment that people get when I am explaining something. Whether I am demonstrating our software in its development stages and people say 'wow that’s amazing! I can’t wait until it’s finished!' or I am explaining some nuance of the way the military works – just what is an OODALOOP and why is it important to our software?
What were some of the challenges you faced in getting to where you are now?
Being a chatty, bubbly person in the military meant I attracted attention, and not all of it was positive. It’s called being a heat-seeker! It’s great in my current job though! The tough side though is being ‘piggy in the middle'. When things get tense, when we are up against a deadline or something isn’t working, I am in the middle. It is great that I am a sensitive person when it comes to managing relationships, but when everyone is tense – it’s important not to take it personally. I cannot have an ego and can never say “I was right!” to the customer, even when I was!
3 pieces of advice you would give women who want to work in your industry?
Don’t change yourself to fit your job, change your job to fit yourself. If you feel like you to have to make yourself be smaller to fit in at work – then that workplace isn’t for you. My best bosses were the ones who recognised my unique abilities, gave me direction and let me go. I then aspired to be an empowering boss like them. Doing something that isn’t work-related adds another element to who you are, so try something different and random. My sales experience has helped me do software demonstrations and taught me how to explain things.