July 28 2022

Fearless Futures in Tech for the Girls at Somerville House

The inaugural Somerville House Fearless Futures spectacular took place on Thursday 28 July 2022. The celebration was born when Mrs Cynthia Nolan, a self-confessed STEMinist, joined the iconic school as an Education Consultant specialising in STEM. Cynthia realised that the heart of STEM is literally the two letters TE (Technology and Engineering), and these two letters need greater exposure in the school’s community. Unlike the much more established Science and Maths subjects, Technology and Engineering truly connect Science and Maths together into the all-pervasive skill set that is used across all industries.

The key objective of the event was to break down the stereotypes of technology and engineering, importantly making sure that there is a much greater diversity balance in the industry, which is currently only 31% female representation. Technology is responsible for $167 Billion of the Australian economy. It is our third largest industry, with Mining and Finance being first and second, both of which would not be so successful without technology, innovation and tech workers! Diversity is important as it ensures solutions are created with everyone in mind, creating a much more inclusive community.

Students and parents are conditioned to explore careers in traditionally secure industries such as Medicine, Law, Accounting and Finance, but may not truly appreciate how much computational thinking and problem solving is now expected in these industries. These needs are increasing year on year and formed the foundation for Cynthia’s vision of the Fearless Futures evening.

When launching the presentation section of the event, Somerville House Principal Mrs Kim Kiepe quoted the World Economic Forum (2020), referring to the Fourth Industrial Revolution driving an explosion of careers in new fields including artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, renewable energy and quantum computing. The report notes that the top industry sector in 2020 will be technology and computational thinking, with the most in-demand job being data analyst. The report also states that the caregiving sector will also be in high demand, particularly for medical technicians, physical therapists and workplace ergonomics specialists.

Based on this, Cynthia approached Somerville House neighbours Mater Hospital and Chief Digital Officer Alaistair Sharmann enthusiastically agreed to support the event. Alistair invited two of his team members, Jayne Barclay (Director Clinical Systems and Informatics) and Mike Beckmann (Chief Digital Health Officer) to share their take on how the future of medicine and the role technology will play in the future. The girls were fascinated by the insights shared, including how robotic surgeries and AI assisted diagnostics is prevalent in the world of medicine but it has only just scratched the surface.

Other speakers at the event shared their interesting and varied careers, with two ‘old girls’ linking their careers back to their studies at Somerville House.

Sharee Bartlett (Partner) and Rene Plamenac (Innovation Lead) represented BDO, industry partner with Somerville House through the ICT Gateway to Industry Schools project, both at an exhibitors’ table and with an engaging multi-media presentation. Sharee and Rene have different backgrounds and career paths, but both work in tech and innovation at BDO. We thank BDO, Rene and Sharee for their commitment to promoting careers in the tech industry, especially for females.

Other speakers included:

·        Jess Bell-Allen (via video from Canada), TDM Growth Partners (Investment Team and Somerville House alumni)

·        Hannah Fas, HopgoodGanim Lawyers (Senior Associate, Intellectual Property and Technology and Somerville House alumni)

·        Negin Beaton UQ (Development and Communications Coordinator, Women in Engineering)

Fearless Futures was an amazing success. The 200 guests had a 50:50 split of parents and students ranging from the ages of 10 to 16. The event also has information stands hosted by guest speakers, with additional stands from the robotic community. Included in the exhibitors was the Somerville House Co-curricular team which achieved second place in the Robocup competition held in Bangkok, showcasing their AI Machine learning Cookie life size robot that could identify and take the ingredients required to make cookies.

ICT GISP partners Micromelon facilitated a robotics workshop for a group of excited Year 6 students prior to the main networking and presentation sessions. The students practised their skills on the Micromelon Robot Simulator and Code Editor, provided free to all ICT GISP school students so they can develop their robotics and programming industry skills on their very own computer.

The Department of Employment, Small Business and Training funds this Gateway to Industry Schools project.