Lisa creates new robotics products at Crown Equipment Ltd for the materials handling industry. Her background includes machine learning, sensor fusion and signal processing.
What do you do on an average work day? He aha tō mahi ia rā, ia rā?
I love my job because of the variety of tasks that I get to do, with no two days the same.
On any given day I might be working with researchers to understand current research progress and guide the direction of a project, on another working with designers to understand customer needs and translate them into engineering requirements.
Communication is also a big part of my job: from reporting back to senior executives on current product thinking and development progress, to working with customers during field tests and project installations to set expectations.
What did you study at school? And after high school? I ako koe i te aha i te kura? I aha koe whai muri i te kura tuarua?
In Year 13 I took Maths with Calculus, Maths with Statistics, Chemistry, Physics, Japanese, and Religious Studies (which was compulsory, since I went to a Catholic School). I had always been fascinated by maths and science.
I did my Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Systems Engineering at The University of Auckland. I went on to complete both my Master of Engineering and PhD at The University of Auckland.
Was your study directly related to what you do now? He ōrite tāu mahi i taua wā ki tāu mahi o ināianei?
My studies certainly helped me get into the industry, particularly since I started as an R&D (Research and Development) Engineer, working with cutting edge tech and inventing new algorithms. My postgraduate degrees helped me to build the skills for independent research.
As I have progressed in my career, other skills that I have learned along the way also became important. Ultimately, a career is itself a learning process - particularly in the technology sector - so learning how to study, as much as anything else, helped me to manage new product R&D projects.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now? He aha āu kupu hei āwhina i ngā rangatahi wahine e whakaaro ana ki tā rātou mahi mō te wā kei mua i te aroaro?
There are a lot of opportunities in how new technologies can help shape our society, and we are only getting started! The way we work has also changed.
If I told "high school Lisa" that I would be able to do what I do today as a job, I think it would blow her mind. Same with young women at school today: the jobs you will end up doing may not even exist yet!
I would advise staying curious, learning how to use and develop new skills and knowledge, and to be brave about trying and learning new things.
What are some of your career highlights so far? He aha ngā painga o te umanga e whāia ana e koe?
I think one of my best memories was back when I was working for a start-up, developing a driverless lift truck. The first time I rode on a truck driven using my own algorithm was both terrifying and exhilarating!
I also love talking to customers and hearing how products that I helped make have made an impact on their business, and even created positive culture changes in their workplace. It’s always a great feeling to see your work making someone else’s life easier or better.
Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand? He aha a STEM (pūtaiao, hangarau, pūkaha, pāngarau) e whai take ana ki Aotearoa?
I believe that Aotearoa could be a world leader in technological advances, with benefits to both our society and our economy.
We already have a culture of ingenuity as a product of our isolation, crafting up creative solutions to everyday problems. If we can make STEM skills as accessible as possible to every New Zealander, we can leverage our smaller population to develop a more representative STEM sector and build solutions that truly serve and uplift our society. In achieving this, a byproduct would be opportunities for the export of digital products and skills.
Being conversant with STEM principles is also a key element of being engaged with and informed about the modern world. The more our citizens are able to embrace STEM, the more sway we will hold in a digital future.
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM? He aha te take me whai wāhi ngā wāhine ki STEM?
In today’s world, STEM is playing a huge part in shaping the way we interact with each other, and in shaping our society. It is vital that these changes are representative - that we all get a stake and a voice in these next steps forward.
Historically, there have been misconceptions about gender roles in STEM, which have led to systemic imbalances and a frequently homogenous workforce, lacking the diversity we see in society and meaning that these vital voices - of both women and minority groups - are often under-represented.
There are many amazing women working in STEM fields, but a visible imbalance remains, particularly in the technology and engineering sectors.
The research is clear: a more diverse, representative workforce is the only way to combat and eventually change implicit biases against and for different groups. Further, having a more diverse workforce also ensures that new technologies and products are accessible and beneficial to all rather than to a privileged few, which has been the status quo when less diverse workforces hold sway.
It is vitally important to have more women working in STEM because STEM encompasses and will, in part, define our collective future.
Lisa is a Product Lead at Crown Equipment Ltd, creating new robotics products for the materials handling industry.
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.
View all profiles