Anita is a technician at Dotterel Technologies, a start up in Auckland developing noise reduction and real-time audio transmitting technology for drones.
What do you do on an average work day?
I don’t really have an average day. From working on CAD (computer assisted design) to 3D printing and sound testing, flying drones and meeting new people, it’s an exciting work place.
What did you study at school? And after high school?
I come from a very small town, Kawerau in the Bay of Plenty. At high school I studied art, I remember desperately wanting to do everything, but because of the small school there were timetable clashes.
There was also the attitude of pushing students to be better at what they were already good at, and I was pushed into something I was good at, which is fine but I didn’t think that made sense - I wanted to be better at the things I wasn’t good at.
But it has turned out pretty good so far. After high school, I went to art school; completing a four-year undergrad and two-year post grad, ending up with a Masters in Fine Arts from Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design in January 2017.
In my second year of undergrad I started what has turned out to be a career working with start-up companies. I was introduced to Dr Peter Wigley who was one of the founders of what is now known as Bio Consortia. Peter told me how he believed in diversity in the workplace and I started out as a laboratory technician. From my absolute love for learning new things, I was there for almost four years.
It was also where I met the brothers who founded Dotterel. They asked if I would like to join their team and I jumped at the opportunity to learn new things and grow a larger knowledge base. Besides, drones and 3D printing are pretty cool areas to be involved in!
Was your study directly related to what you do now?
I have not followed a traditional pathway and I've been asked about the relevance of my study so often. People seem to think that those of us at art school just sit around painting, but that is not the case!
The skills I gained from doing a research degree have been incredibly valuable. The Masters degree fostered curiosity and critical thinking, it taught me how to communicate critically with others, have meaningful conversations and question everything and problem-solve.
It also taught me to be okay with not knowing everything, and how to figure out and translate a concept to an actual thing.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
Hey, I never thought I could be in the line of work I am in now - it would have been impossible to plan for it.
I know a lot of young people who are stressed because they don’t know what they want to do. While easier said than done, I say don’t worry, your dream job probably doesn’t exist yet!
The best thing you can do for yourself is do what excites you, enjoy learning new things, and always assume there is more to know and learn - because there is.
Also, as cheesy as it sounds, believe in yourself and do what is best for you and your future.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
Definitely showcasing Dotterel’s technology at a number of technology events. I love talking to people new to our technology and seeing their reaction to what we do. I really get the sense at these events that we are doing something unique.
While not related to my technical roles, in 2016 I won the Craigs Investment Partners Youth Award from the Molly Morpeth Canaday Art Awards for my piece called Drawing of the alphabet (shown right).
Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?
Engaging in STEM, particularly in education, is important as it allows you to think across different disciplines to find creative solutions - sometimes for problems that don’t exist yet.
I’m a firm believer in the importance in being wrong and failure, as they can be opportunities to learn about the subject at hand on a deeper level. To re-look at what one thought was the right thing to do, and find out why it wasn’t and what that can tell us about it. It teaches people how to learn, rather than how to remember. And I think STEM allows that kind of critical learning to happen, in both education and the workplace.
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
I think that it is important to have more people who have different approaches and strategies, so it isn’t just about having more women.
I think we are pushing for more women to be involved to overcome the issue of “oh women can do that too?” Because the point is that anyone is capable if you have the right ambition and eagerness to learn - regardless of gender, race or religion.
Anita Frost is a technician at Dotterel Technologies, a start up in Auckland developing noise reduction and audio enablement technology for drones. Follow Anita on Twitter: @MissFrost_Fro
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.
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