This month Tammi Russ, Senior Proposal Coordinator from the Global Proposal Management team with Blackboard shares how we need to encourage women to find their passion whether it leads to a career in STEM or beyond. Additionally, she shares with us her excitement in seeing the rise of Virtual Reality technology in education and training.
Q: Was a career in the EdTech sector always in your plan?
I’m often surprised at where I have landed in my career. Having started my working life in the printing industry before graphic prepress was digitised, I’ve always taken the ‘continue to learn’ approach to professional development. I fell into tenders and proposals quite by accident, it was a total leap of faith when I applied for a bid coordinator role at an electrical automation company. They gave me the opportunity to grow professionally, and without them, I probably wouldn’t be working in this field. I have found throughout my career that good companies will help you achieve your goals, provided you are willing to put yourself out there.
Q: What motivates you?
As a parent of two young daughters, being a role model to them is hugely motivating. I think finding your purpose and enjoying what you do in both your career and personal life is the ultimate success.
Q: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be successful in your role at Blackboard and what do you enjoy most about your role?
- Impeccable time management
- Passion for problem solving
- Ability to work in a collaborative environment.
My role at a high level appears very systematic, which is something I personally love about working on tenders and proposals. I am in a unique position that I can also spend part of the time being creative and using my graphic design skills to enhance our outputs. Finding a balance between these two skillsets was challenging at first, but I am slowly making it into my own hybrid role.
Q: What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career to date?
Mobile technology has without doubt changed where we are as a society today but what I’m more excited to see is how Virtual Reality technology is currently being used in education and training. I recently read an article showcasing how TAFESA has developed a ‘Virtual Ship Engine Room’ to support the training of South Australia’s shipbuilding workforce and it will be incorporated into the institution’s Diploma of Engineering (Technical) course. On a personal note, I’ve used an Oculus Rift VR headset to tour the International Space Station, an experience I won’t forget. Immersing yourself in a real-world experience with scenarios and challenges is a technology that I am very excited to see develop further in the education industry.
Q: How can schools, professional organisations and companies work together to empower women entering STEM?
We need to support women in the path they find themselves most passionate about, even if this doesn’t include STEM. I believe organisations are on the right track, and the idea that STEM-related careers are mostly suited for male abilities is changing. What is needed is persistence and enthusiasm about the industry, and those characteristics are not defined by gender. If I were to pass on specific advice to women looking to pursue a career in STEM it would be first and foremost, do not let rejection from opportunities define your outcome. Learn from the situation and don’t be afraid to ask for advice and guidance. You would be amazed at the number of passionate women and men in the STEM fields that are willing to mentor and share how they overcame their own career challenges.
Q: What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve received?
Have humility and be willing to admit your mistakes. Nobody is perfect and when you make a bad decision, don’t be afraid to let those who learn from you know that you made a mistake but more importantly how you plan to correct it.
Q: Are there any family, colleagues, friends or people in the industry you particularly look up to or are inspired by?
My Dad has and always will be my greatest inspiration. He is the reason I pursued a career in graphic prepress initially. Growing up I wanted to be just like him, he is a mechanical engineer and a natural born problem solver. There are just some things that cannot be taught and form part of your character; it’s that combination of intuition and logic that makes my Dad such a good thinker and to me there isn’t a problem he cannot solve.
Q: Is there a book that you’ve found inspiring and would recommend for others read?
Years ago, I discovered the Very Short Introductions series of books from Oxford University Press and these are for anyone with a general curiosity about the development of just about anything! They are essentially pocket lectures on any subject you can imagine, a great way to dip a toe in without getting too invested. More recently I stumbled upon the Self Authoring Suite, a series of online writing programs that help you explore your past, present and future. From both a personal and professional growth perspective this series has been incredibly helpful, not only in better understanding myself but in mapping out my career. The process requires a lot of self-reflection, finding where your passions lie and identifying the tools you need to further develop these.