From Science and Commerce to Tech: Meet Three Women in STEM at Appian Australia
Anna Harrison, Grace Naughton, and Jennifer Lu studied different programs within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at the University of Sydney.
Today, they work together at Appian Australia helping solve customers’ technical challenges. To celebrate International Girls in Information and Communications Technology Day, they shared what drew them to a career in tech at Appian, what they’ve learned, and tips for growing in a technical career path.
Their main advice for girls interested in pursuing a career in STEM — challenge what’s already out there, be open to all opportunities, and surround yourself with supportive women who inspire you.
Meet Anna Harrison
- Consultant, Customer Success
- Education: Bachelor of Biomedical Engineering and Commerce (Finance major) at the University of Sydney
Meet Grace Naughton
- Solutions Consultant
- Education: Bachelor of Advanced Science (Chemistry major) in Financial Mathematics & Statistics at the University of Sydney
Meet Jennifer Lu
- Senior Consultant, Customer Success
- Education: Bachelor of Science (Computer Science and Psychology major) at the University of Sydney
This year's theme for International Girls in ICT Day is “Digital Skills for Life.” What do you think is an important digital skill for every young woman to learn?
Anna: I would say programming, web, and app development. At the heart of all technologies is the ability to code and understand multiple languages (e.g. Python, Java, SQL). Along with this, coding enhances your ability to solve difficult problems whilst using critical thinking. Although coding can seem complicated at first, with consistent practice you will see fast progress, improve your problem-solving skills and feel creative while doing so.
Grace: In today's world, where a significant amount of communication occurs online, developing the digital skill of confident and effective virtual communication is crucial. Being able to advocate for yourself, confidently address peers, teachers, or customers, and ask for support will help accelerate your growth. This skill transcends any particular field or area in STEM, and provides so much value personally and professionally.
Jennifer: A really important skill for everyone is creative problem-solving. It addresses the crux of a lot of our day to day tasks, and it’s only something that you get better at with time and easily translatable to any industry. In conjunction with that, digital communication skills are really valuable, regardless of what industry you work in.
How has working at Appian helped you develop your digital skills?
Anna: Coming from a non-technical background, Appian has introduced me to understanding how technology is created. Appian has taught me to always think about scalability and performance and how you can implement technology so that it can be used for years, always benefiting our customers. The culture of Appian is extremely supportive and being surrounded by so many ambitious and intelligent people creates a motivating environment.
Grace: Appian has provided me immense opportunities for continuous learning and development. I didn't come from a technical background, so I've developed skills and understanding in so many new areas of technology, like automation, integrations, coding languages, other software products, and so, so many acronyms. I've learned a huge amount about our Appian product and the technical landscape in which we play, and I've developed invaluable consulting skills to understand how technology can accelerate businesses across a range of different industries.
Jennifer: Working at Appian has provided so many opportunities to work with a very talented group of individuals who are all invested in working together as a team and building each other up. Learning from colleagues not just in Customer Success, but other departments too, has been a fantastic opportunity to better understand the interplay of different systems with one another and the impact that technology can have on our everyday lives.
What inspired you to pursue an education and career in the STEM industry?
Anna: I’ve always enjoyed problem-solving and learning how new technologies can benefit you and other people. As it’s constantly changing and evolving, there is always something new to learn and you are never bored or doing the same work every day. I was always interested in not only technology, but also biotech, science, and finance. Technology allows you to work in, and learn about, multiple industries at the same time.
Grace: The opportunities provided by an education in STEM are endless. I've had a passion for STEM since primary school — the way in which these subjects explain the world never ceases to amaze me. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do or what career I wanted to build (in fact, I'm still not sure!), but I knew that continuing education in science would open up doors I didn't even know existed. The hard and soft skills learned last a lifetime and can be applied to so many areas outside of the direct field of study.
Jennifer: As someone who has a lot of questions that live rent-free in my head, the scientific method has always really appealed to me, and it felt natural to gravitate towards an industry driven by this. In an ever-increasingly digital world, working in tech really allows you to explore so many different pathways.
What is your advice to any young woman considering an education or career in the STEM industry?
Anna: Always be confident in your abilities. Everyone brings their own unique skill set, knowledge, and ideas to the workplace. Being surrounded by other successful women in STEM provides guidance and inspiration.
Grace: Do it! Any education in STEM will build a strong foundation to serve as a stepping stone, no matter which direction you end up (even outside of STEM!). You don't need to commit to a certain career, or even have a solid idea of what you want your job to look like. Start somewhere you enjoy, and say yes to the opportunities as they pop up. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone, advocate for yourself and be proud of your achievements!
Jennifer: There are a lot of preconceived notions as to what an education or career in STEM looks like. I'd encourage any young woman to challenge what's already out there, and be open to opportunities that come their way. Make opportunities for yourself and always be willing to learn!
Who’s a woman in STEM who especially inspires you?
Anna: I always looked up to Damyanti Gupta as she was one of the first female engineers admitted to a college in India and then went to work at an automobile company. When applying for a job within this industry when there were minimal females, she was consistently turned down. But was confident in her interest in the engineering field and her own ability, to become one of the most successful women in engineering.
Grace: Chiara Neeto is a Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Sydney, and was one of my first lecturers (and probably one of the few female lecturers I had throughout university). I was immediately impressed with her ability to communicate her passion for chemistry, and her genuine interest in the learning and development of her students. I loved how she encouraged us to embrace challenges and uncertainty, knowing that there was always an exciting outcome or learning opportunity on the other side.
Jennifer: Marie Curie, the physicist, chemist, and Nobel Prize winner whose impressive achievements speak for themselves! I remember first reading about her life when I was in primary school. What really stuck with me was her journey to a career of such success in spite of all the challenges she faced both in her personal and professional life. This drove home how fierce and determined her passion for discovery was, and it really inspired me to want to approach my endeavors with that same energy.
Be surrounded by supportive women at Appian.
We hope Anna, Grace, and Jennifer’s stories leave you with a glimpse into what it’s like to work at Appian surrounded by a strong community of women in tech.
AppianWomen is our Affinity Group that supports women through mentorship, professional development opportunities, and community building. Part of that work is celebrating the unique career journeys of women across teams and continents.
One of the many ways Appian connects women globally is through the AppianWomen mentorship program. Learn how Christine Danzi built the mentorship program and its impact of facilitating over 170 mentorship matches with members participating from around the world.