Being a leader and being a scientist or engineer are one and the same thing.
It sounds like an overstatement, but the NYSF was one of the truly formative experiences of my life. The two weeks in Canberra during 1998’s Session A were a critical step. Most of my best and lasting relationships stem from my time at NYSF, the people I met through it, or the confidence I gained as a result of meeting a load of truly like-minded people.
Most importantly, I learned that being a nerd was a good thing. Some might think of science as a pursuit of the anti-social, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Being a leader and being a scientist or engineer are one and the same thing.
The NYSF also taught me to think and aim big; this only being reinforced during the intervening 16 years by the achievements of my fellow NYSF attendees.
Offered a scholarship, I studied Computer Engineering at University of New South Wales (UNSW). While the engineering course was fantastic, it was the extra-curricular that allowed for the real education. The university bar was one of the best classrooms — we taught ourselves how to think via argument and debate.
Doing a PhD was another fantastic education. I studied power management and operating systems, and it took far longer than it should have. Being a nerd is good but it can be distracting when you’re interested in so much. In how many professions can you find people who are really excited about what they’re doing? I’ll bet that the people who study science and engineering rank high on that scale.
One of the biggest thinking, extra curricular activities I got into at University was the UNSW Solar Racing Team. I learned to build cars — which drove 3000 km across the desert — with a diverse team with real deadlines. Ten years, six races and three solar cars later, it culminated with my picture in the Guinness Book of Records (2012). I’m now a member of the technical faculty of the World Solar Challenge.
So where did I end up? Over the last five years, since finishing my PhD, I’ve been involved in a race of a different kind: optimising financial systems around the world. I started, and now run, a business, which designs and manufactures the network hardware carrying hundreds of millions of dollars in trades each day. We are the best in the world at what we do, and we do it from Australia.
Not bad for two weeks at the beginning of year twelve!