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Balance in life always adds up
Picture this: at school, your favourite classes are science and maths. You relish the opportunity to solve complex chemical equations and show your intellectual prowess in calculus and statistical analysis.
Everyone calls you a nerd, questions your ‘boring’ subject choices, and tells you your options will be to work in a lab, become an engineer or teach maths to high school kids.
This has long been the reality for many STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students across Australia. But according to CFA’s Cassie Pennicuik, who recently became an ambassador for the CHOOSEMATHS Program, these common perceptions of maths and science enthusiasts are slowly starting to shift.
“A passion for maths and science doesn’t mean you are destined to work in a lab for the rest of your life,” Cassie laughs.
“What younger people, particularly young women, need to know is that maths and science can give you the foundation to succeed in so many different fields.”
This Saturday (11 February) is International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a UN initiative which promotes the full and equal participation of women and girls in education, training, employment and decision-making in the sciences.
As the Program Manager for CFA’s Fire and Emergency Management (F&EM) Project Office, Cassie Pennicuik currently provides project management support and advice to some of CFA’s most high profile projects, including: Class B Foam, Technical Rescue, Safer Together, Emergency Medical Response (EMR), and Planned Burning.
She also recently became the Program Manager for CFA’s Growth Programs, which will oversee the remainder of Project 2016 and the 350FF Initiative.
Cassie believes International Day of Women and Girls in Science is an important reminder for women and girls right across the country to persevere with their studies in maths and science and see where it leads them.
“My science background has really helped me in understanding the more technical elements of the work carried out by CFA,” Cassie says.
“It’s been especially helpful when working on such a diverse range of projects in Fire & Emergency Management.”
Cassie has always had a passion for both people and learning.
After completing her Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne, Cassie managed a charity call centre team while undertaking her Masters in Project Management and Business Administration at night school.
Cassie then travelled through Africa and Asia for a year, before accepting a marketing manager role at a renewable energy company.
“I really enjoyed the corporate world,” she says.
“For me personally, however, I always knew I wanted to work with people and achieve outcomes that would benefit the community – and CFA certainly meets these criteria.”
Cassie credits her success to her ability to maintain a healthy work life balance, and believes this is the most important message for young people today.
In her spare time, Cassie tutors primary school children in maths and literacy, plays soccer, and recently ran her first marathon. She is also involved in community musical theatre productions, which is where she first heard about the CHOOSEMATHS Program.
“Maths and music are inherently linked, and I love the way musical theatre keeps my mind active in such a different space to my professional field,” says Cassie.
“The project manager in me also loves to see so many working parts come together when putting on a show.”
During a recent production, Cassie met the person who referred her on to CHOOSEMATHS.
CHOOSEMATHS is a partnership between the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) and the BHP Billiton Foundation, and works with students, parents and teachers to turn around community attitudes and encourage participation in mathematics and statistics, especially for girls and young women.
As an ambassador for the five-year program, Cassie will attend events and speak at schools right across Australia.
“CHOOSEMATHS is all about trying to change the face of maths and science in Australia,” she says.
“Among the ambassadors is a CSIRO research assistant, a geneticist, an engineer from Boeing and a maths teacher - of course!
“Ultimately it just goes to show, if you study science and maths, the opportunities are endless.”
The CHOOSEMATHS national careers awareness campaign will launch in March 2017.
The initiative aims to highlight the many exciting and interesting career pathways that are available to those who study maths. It will also demonstrate the changing nature of mathematics careers, and how the use of big data and technological advances are creating exciting and innovative jobs for the future.
For more information, visit choosemaths.org.au.