This month Jacqueline Bates, Client Experience Manager for Australia New Zealand, Global Client Experience Organisation with Blackboard shares with us the importance of being connected and surrounding yourself with women who are already succeeding in STEM.
Q: What first sparked your interest in technology and led you along your chosen career path?
I have always had a love of learning. My passion for technology started when I was just twelve years old, working for my Mum to help install terminals for the plastics production factory where she was a manager. Throughout my childhood Mum was always on the cutting edge of technology, even studying learning design at one stage during her career. My Dad instilled in me a sense that you can do anything you put your mind to and believed in me. It was my Mum who showed me exactly how to do that through the way she tackled her career, our farm and family. The potential of the ‘new’ has always appealed to me. Understanding why a technology is needed or how an existing one can be improved has stayed with me as I’ve progressed in my career.
Q: What motivates you?
Being an innovator is in my nature and a large motivator for how I operate. I’ve always liked having a toolkit made up of technologies and knowledge that I can draw on or continually adapt for where I am in my career and in life. Never one to shy away from change or to re-think the way something is done in the workplace, I look for gadgets that have a purpose, ones that will deliver the best experience or outcome and have longevity. Having said that it’s not always about the physical technology, over the years I’ve built up experience and gained qualifications in change management, project management and design thinking, so that toolkit can also encompass skills that will help me in working better with people and developing innovative solutions.
Q: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be successful in your role at Blackboard?
Building a community and being connected to others.
Continuous learning – important to ‘update’ where we as individuals see the need as much where an organisation sees the need.
Surrounding myself with women and supporting other women to be successful in the STEM space – I’m not looking for women to dominate the world but there needs to be a fair mix of gender and cultures in working environments. It’s refreshing within Blackboard to hear so many different accents and points of view in a conversation!
Q: How can schools, professional organisations and companies work together to empower women pursuing a career in STEM?
Championing women who work in the STEM fields and by telling their stories. I believe that all of us have a role to connect these women to each other, women intuitively seem to work well together particularly when surrounded by a strong support network. At Blackboard we have an incredibly talented team and valuable opportunity to position these women as thought leaders within the EdTech space and to share their inspiring stories. I believe we can also look beyond Blackboard and tap into the journeys of our clients’, acknowledging when someone is doing something unique or of value within STEM. As individuals and organisations, we have a responsibility to nurture our new workforce and a fantastic resource in those women who are already paving the way in STEM.
Q: What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career to date and what would you like to see in the next ten years?
Our lives have been forever changed with the invention of the Internet and mobile technology. The idea of having a device purely our own, personalised through the Internet that allows us to conduct business, run our everyday lives and connect with others is a concept that will continue to evolve. Turning to the future, in my mind it’s not about technology per se, it’s the ‘why’ behind the technologies being developed. I’d like to see how we can take advantage of combining some of these future technologies which is not that dissimilar to the journey that universities and other teaching organisations have been through this year. The EdTech sector needs to look at what’s needed and then the solutions that are offered, it’s about putting it all together and growing it to craft functional, flexible learning spaces. In ten years’ time, I’d like to see genuine learning spaces, leveraging what we need to improve the student experience – physical spaces or technologies.
Q: Are there any family, colleagues, friends or people in the industry you particularly look up to or are inspired by?
My first teacher whilst growing up on Christmas Island contributed to the foundation of who I am today. Mrs Edith Leembruggen was of Dutch heritage and landed in Australia by way of a Japanese concentration camp in Malaya during WWII. She went on to teach children who were deaf and during a ‘break’ was transferred to Christmas Island and our little school. Reading was introduced to us phonetically and Ms Leembruggen used tools such as sandpaper for drawing letters and the flame of a candle to perfect our pronunciation of words. Looking back this really was quite a different approach to that which was being applied in mainstream schools in those days. The thinking and the care that Ms Leembruggen had for education certainly set my view and encouraged my passion for life-long learning, she provided support and nurtured my inquiring mind during those early years of school. She had been through so much in her life and what would have ruined some was quite the opposite for Ms Leembruggen, she demonstrated that you should never give up on people or learning, a great lesson for us all.
Q: Is there a book, movie or TV show that you’ve found inspiring and would recommend?
I love stories whether they are in written form or on the screen, particularly ones that are linked to history and my own ancestry which lies in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. I managed to achieve a bucket list item by getting to be an extra on the crime series Shetland. I’m often drawn to TV shows such as The Last Kingdom or Witchers with strong doses of history and fantasy. My inner geek also enjoys the sci-fi fantasy genre like Firefly.