Tia (Vietnamese, British) is a graphic designer who is organising the Tauranga STEM Festival, fuelled by her passion for inspiring young people in shared creative learning experiences.
What do you do on an average work day?
As a designer, I am lucky to work on many projects with different clients, which makes no day the same. It’s one of the best parts of my work. One day I could be working on a business card design, the next day I could be running a brand identity workshop or working on wireframes for a new website concept!
I'm also working on pulling together the Tauranga STEM Festival, which launches in October next year. So my day can be very varied and certainly keeps me busy.
As I have recently emigrated to New Zealand with my family, I have been really excited at making new connections and meeting new people, so the past year has been about meeting people and finding out about what they do and how I can fit into the community.
I’ve been lucky enough to have an office at Basestation, a coworking space in Tauranga, that has a wonderful community which I have been able to tap into almost immediately. I’ve also been fortunate to have the help and support from Venture Centre, a community and eco-system builder who’s goal is to “connect the people, places, tools, resources, knowledge and support needed for sustainable success.” This resonates with me as I am a firm believer that when we collaborate we can make great things happen.
It's through connections such as these that I've been able to get my idea for a New Zealand STEM festival off the ground and into reality.
What did you study at school? And after high school?
I have always been a creative person, so not surprisingly art was always my favourite subject at school.
I always thought I would be an interior designer, but I took a job working for a media agency in London and discovered website design using HTML and was immediately hooked. I loved the idea of being able to code something and have it display and output as colours, shapes, and layouts!
I immediately fell in love with digital art and knew that this was a wonderful way for me to combine my love of technology and yet still be creative.
Was your study directly related to what you do now?
I think my study of fine art certainly helped me with my understanding of the basics of colours, themes, and composition, techniques I use and apply to my work today.
I see what I do in tech as an extension of my artistic and creative background.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
I think if there is one message I would give to any young women, it would be to not let yourself be bound or limited.
Don’t think or feel that this one choice will dictate what you can eventually achieve in your future. Just look at my journey! You’ll be surprised by where the path leads you, but as long as you keep true to what you love and believe in, then there are no limits to what you can achieve.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
I have had some amazing projects where I have helped people set up their business, whether it's with a new logo and branding through to setting up their e-commerce websites. I love being involved in someone’s journey and to know that I have helped them achieved their goals is hugely rewarding. To some extent, my job is to make other people look like heroes - and it brings me great pleasure when they succeed.
Another highlight for me would have to be founding and co-organising the first STEM Festival in Peterborough in the UK back in 2015. I went to an Ada Lovelace Day Live show in London and was blown away by the amazing inspiration women who were on stage and currently working in STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths). I came away fired up and wanting to do my part to inspire and help girls realise their potential - and that’s how the STEM Festivals concepts came about.
I’m so excited to bring the STEM Festival to New Zealand in October 2019 and I can’t wait to work with the wonderful STEM based companies in Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty to showcase and inspire a new generation of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians!
Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?
New Zealand is known to be a nation of curious māhirahira people. It has a wonderful rich diverse cultural blend and influences. For me, STEM epitomises all of that. Whether you are a scientist, technologist, engineer or mathematician, you are ultimately a problem solver.
If New Zealand is going to lead the global stage on marine, geo, agri-tech or engineering advances, the future success will be reliant on us creating a new generation of collaborators and creative thinkers. We need to empower our tamariki to become creative and passionate learners so they can be the leaders of tomorrow.
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
Diversity is important in STEM. We need teams composed of all sorts of people, bringing different perspectives, to solve problems, innovate new ideas and face the challenges of the 21st century. Brilliant minds – of both women and men – must have a place at the table. We need to get more women involved in STEM fields to keep such advancements moving progressively. Additionally, it is a known fact that companies that invest in having more diverse teams are shown to be more profitable, according to the McKinsey Delivering through Diversity report.
On a personal level, I have a daughter and nieces and I want them to see that there are no limits to what they want to achieve. We can do this by presenting them with role models they can relate to, and by offering them the opportunity to experience and try new things - perhaps even things that might never have considered before.
By opening their minds to new things we can harness the potential that lives within all of us.
Tia is a Vietnamese-born Brit living in New Zealand. She is a graphic designer with a passion for inspiring young people in shared creative learning experiences. When she is not designing or eating cake, she’s organising STEM festivals. Tia can be found on Twitter: @whoatemmycrayons.
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.
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