“B” could have been a hairdresser. She would, she believes, have been very happy in that role. She had no intention of staying at school beyond Year 11 until awarded a scholarship. Her older brother, at university on a teaching scholarship, insisted she take up the scholarship and go to Year 12 and attempt university. She wanted to leave school, but got a scholarship for Year 12 that committed her to teaching.
So she went to Flinders University and the newly-opened Sturt Teachers’ College to study Science. She was interested in Biology, so enrolled in that, along with Physics and Education subjects for an integrated B.Ed.
Things were tough at home at the time and her life not very structured, so after 3 years, having done enough study to meet the requirements of Catholic Education, she left her studies and applied for a job teaching Years 8-10 Maths and Science at a Catholic Girls’ School under the Dominican order. She has no regrets about this choice. It was, she believes, right for her. She taught herself Year 11 and 12 Maths on the job by following the syllabus. She stayed with the school for about 5 years, leaving when she had a child.
The school was very good to her. Her pregnancy was a difficult one, due to a diagnosed heart problem. She had wardrobes of baby clothes from the Dominican community. She spent the last seven months of the pregnancy in hospital and was visited most days by staff and teams of students. Some of her students were visiting her when she went into labour. Six months after the birth she had open heart surgery.
Once recovered from surgery she won a position teaching Maths and Science and being Year 9 class teacher at MLC, Methodist Ladies College (Annesley College), part time until her daughter went to school, then full time. She was there for 15-16 years. Outside of her work at MLC she taught swimming in the summer vacation with the Learn-to-Swim program.
Annesley College wanted to build Computing into their curriculum. The Deputy asked if B would get qualifications and supported her through a Diploma in Computing Science from UniSA. Through the course, she heard about IBM computer grants to schools and convinced the school to apply. As a result the school became involved in the IBM Schools program, had two rooms of computers and a vibrant computing program. She developed and introduced a large number of programs and courses to illustrate computing across the curriculum.
From this success, B moved to a senior role at Cabra and again established two rooms of computers, computing across the curriculum, and SSABSA SAS Computer Studies programs. She loved Cabra and its school community. The experience gained from the roles at MLC and Cabra lead to positions with SSABSA’s SAS moderating and curriculum development committees. This background and knowledge gradually resulted in resigning from Cabra and achieving full time work by combining lecturing in the UniSA course, SSABSA SAS computing curriculum development, and Chief Moderator in the two computing subjects. After three years she resigned these combined roles in the interest of moving from the education sector to industry.
With an art dealer she visited Japan for the International Art Expo to bring Aboriginal Art to world attention. While there it became clear there was a lack of skill sets in developing technology such as open client-server system applications. Japan was on the cusp of open system computer development and the ending of proprietary operating systems (like NEC). It was her work in Computing Science, IBM schools program, networking computer rooms and examining where technology was heading (to Windows and desktop apps) that lead to an accumulation of knowledge, interest and expertise in computer networks, systems and security. While in Japan she was approached by a money market services company to build a computer trading system that linked Tokyo, Hong Kong, New York, and Belmont, as a real time trading platform. The firm traded continuous information and financial services (like Reuters, Bloomberg, Knight Rider). B successfully undertook the work and from there worked for companies in Japan, USA, Europe, Asia, India and Australia. Over time she began to build her own detailed data models across many industry sectors.
Eventually she built her own company which specialises in application development for data development to measure sustainability, energy efficiency analytics and validation and verification of the carbon economy (trading). She has been less financially successful than she would have been had she opted to continue to work for one of the large computer companies, but she has enjoyed being innovative, leading developments and following ideas.
In B’s words “All this came from a Deputy Principal saying to me, ‘Do you want to do this course?”. She has no regrets about taking up teaching. When she left school, she didn’t have any sense of what careers might be available. There was a big world out there, beyond her experience. Technology gave her access to that world. It was, in her terms ‘a slow learn and a slow burn’. Between school, marriage and a child she had no space in early years. She was shaped around the technology.
The schools she taught in gave her the motivation and opportunity to create. She was shaped by the curriculum needs of the students. She used spaces under stairwells, learned computer programs and laser technologies in order to meet the needs of the school and its students. She had to understand the machines in order to explain them to the students – and to teachers to introduce computing across the curriculum. Annesley, in particular, allowed that to happen. Her own learning was driven by student need.
As she moved into entrepreneurial programs, B used her educational language and concepts. She could always communicate sense in educational terms, but not always in business terms, which were often narrowly focused. Teaching was a very positive experience for her. She abandoned a recent PhD after 2 years as a result of continuing health problems. Had she been an academic much of her entrepreneurial work could have been done within academia.
She has, however, never regretted moving out of education into business. She sees her life as giving her the opportunity and capacity to learn as she went along – all her opportunities came from that and has built her life around that learning.