NYSF 2001 Alumna Kat Jackson (formerly Kathryn Campbell) tells us about her journey from a small rural town in Central Victoria to working on motorway projects in Auckland, New Zealand.
Nobody in my family had ever been awarded a degree, and few graduates from my high school went to university. My parents were very supportive of me undertaking tertiary qualifications. It was always going to mean leaving home, as we lived rurally in central Victoria. I had a tough time at high school. Not academically, but I struggled to fit in and had no idea what I was going to do when it was over. Most of those that did further education, studied teaching or nursing – and I knew those were not the careers I wanted.
Spending two weeks living in Canberra at NYSF 2001 made me excited for my future, and gave me a goal to focus on through Year 12. At NYSF, I met “my people” and realised that STEM wasn’t just for other special smart people, it was for me!
I went on to study Civil Engineering at Monash University. During breaks and part-time during the years, I worked in engineering roles for various organisations. One favourite role was as an Education Officer for Melbourne Water – using science communication skills to explain wastewater treatment to everyone from 5 year olds to foreign industry experts.
After finishing my Honours degree, I was employed as a graduate engineer by FRH (now Fulton Hogan). Skill shortages in New Zealand meant that they paid me to move to Auckland to work on an exciting and innovative motorway project in 2008.
I have since worked on several large construction and operations projects, and am now employed by Downer. My science communication skills have set me apart in my career. For the last 5 years I have worked as a Quality Manager on large motorway projects in Auckland. Recently, I have devised several in-house construction training courses (focusing mainly on quality assurance) – these have been successful for people ranging from managers to labourers.
The lessons I took from NYSF weren’t all directly science-related. I learned how to confidently speak to greatly admired leaders and peers. I also learned how to engage effectively with people when we didn’t have much in common. Most importantly, I realised that even the best amongst us are always striving to be better still.