I love to make things. Whether that is creating a robot, developing an app, knitting a jumper, writing a story, planting a garden bed, or my two wonderful daughters. Nothing makes me happier than delighting people with something I've made
The first computer we had was monochrome and text only and the only way to really have fun with it was to program it. Robots are fascinating as they respond to, and act in, our world. It makes the whole thing much less abstract. I studied computing at Uni and focused on artificial intelligence.
For my PhD I programmed a dog robot to play with objects and try and learn the meaning of words. People played with it in a playpen and it built an artificial intelligence model of what it learned. It was pretty cute.
After working in Europe for a couple of years I decided to go back to uni to try and work in research. I've always wanted to work on the cutting edge making things that no one ever has before, but I found academia too afraid to take risks and too focused in individual career progression rather than making cool stuff. I'm now back working in a private company and the research we work on is so relevant and valuable that I can't really tell you about it! It’s very exciting helping our little Tassie software company become something really big and really special. At the end of last year our drawing app Procreate was named Apple’s best selling iPad app of 2018!
I am lucky in that I am usually tackling a very broad problem, and following it from start to finish. So I am often tweaking my code to make sure it is as effortless for the user as possible, as fast as possible, as well as making sure it solves the original problem. It is usually just me in my office with the music up loud, but once there is something to play with that's when the collaborations get interesting.
Early computer programmers were almost entirely women, but they were pushed out after World War II. The focus for years has been on trying to interest young girls in programming. I'm more interested in making it a positive environment for the women already in the industry. I've never really paid much attention to the kinds of men who try and gate keep. They're mostly just afraid their own mediocrity will be exposed.
Very often I'm the only woman in the room and often it's a confidential situation so it’s a small, secured, windowless room, and the smell isn't great. As I get older I expect I'm going to be even more of an outlier, but it is important to me to fight that fight so the next women don't have to. This year a colleague and I are going to launch a women in Technology group for supporting and lifting each other up.
My Robot Theatre Performer project supported by Arts Tasmania and Terrapin puppet Theatre was a great opportunity to bring together my skills in performance writing with my robot programming. I really enjoyed working with puppeteers, puppet makers, actors, and my husband who built the animatronics.
Software engineering is actually really fun. You don't need anyone's permission and doesn't matter how old your computer is - you can just make something cool out of thin air. Right now.
Photos By Oliver Berlin
This project was assisted by Bellendena Small Grants and City Of Hobart.