NYSF was the first time I was pushed out of my comfort zone. Similarly, science has taught me to be curious and to always challenge the status quo. Continue to challenge yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone. Only then can you grow to reach your full potential.
At 15 years of age, I was one of the youngest NYSFers in 2004. I enjoyed maths and science at school, and was excited to participate in the NYSF program. But I was nervous, as it was the first time I was going to be amongst a complete group of strangers, and for two weeks! NYSF gave me a safe space to step outside my comfort zone, and my NYSF peers gave me the confidence to be myself. In 2005, I enrolled to study a double degree in arts and science at the University of Melbourne.
Fast forward to 2009. I had graduated with a majors in Pathology, Psychology and Chinese. At a job fair, I learnt that the Australian government were looking for future policy makers with broad backgrounds like mine. And so, I joined the Department of Education in Canberra as a graduate.
In Canberra, I worked on developing and implementing various education policies. This included Australia’s first education policy which rewarded state and territories for improved education performance; and the Gonski funding arrangements which sought to make Australian education more equitable. Whilst working in Canberra, I concurrently completed my Master of Social Research at ANU.
One of my proudest moments as a science graduate was when my department nominated me to work directly with the Chief Scientist to develop policy recommendations to the Prime Minister on how to improve STEM participation in schools.
In 2014, I decided I once again wanted to get out of my comfort zone and moved to Shanghai, a city with the same population as Australia. For the last five years, I have worked at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) as the Public Diplomacy Manager for the Australian Consulate General in Shanghai. In this role, I have had the opportunity to engage with some incredible Australians and Australian organisations in China.
As a female STEM graduate, I set up public diplomacy initiatives to advocate for diversity and inclusion through women in STEM. In 2017, I worked with Professor Emma Johnston AO, Dean of Science at UNSW for International Women’s Day. In 2019, I helped bring one of my role models, Lily Serna, to Shanghai for the Ladies Who Tech Convention.
Outside of work, I continue to advocate for gender equality through my role on the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai’s Women in Business committee. I am passionate about cross-cultural dialogue, and volunteer as the Shanghai Director and National Executive member of the Australia-China Young Professionals Initiative (ACYPI). I also value the importance of mental health, and volunteer with Lifeline.
The same open-mindedness I had whilst studying science I have applied to my life – I am open to new experiences and trying new things. This has taken me to over 40 cities in China, 20 countries around the world, become a Zumba instructor, start a food blog, be a backup dancer to an underground DJ performance, model for a cocktail commercial and most recently learn how to bake sourdough.
Next month, I will move to Sydney to be the Head of Business Development for investment management firm Belz Family and Associates. Another step outside of my comfort zone, another challenge.
For me, NYSF was the first time I was pushed out of my comfort zone, and I thank it for that. Similarly, science has taught me to be curious and to always challenge the status quo. Continue to challenge yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone. Only then can you grow to reach your full potential.