Full steam ahead for Robogals CEO Nicole Brown

Bachelor of Science (Civil Systems) student Nicole Brown never imagined she would be overseeing an international organisation by the age of 21. Yet now she is Global CEO of Robogals, an organisation on a worldwide mission to change the gender imbalance in the engineering profession.

Headquartered at The University of Melbourne, Robogals was founded by Engineering graduate and former Young Australian of the Year, Marita Cheng. Nicole took on the Global CEO role in 2013. As CEO, Nicole oversees an international network of volunteers who visit schools and inspire girls to take on careers in engineering, science and technology.

Nicole said that the new role brought with it a steep learning curve.

“Taking over the role from Marita was quite a big step but I’ve loved every minute of it,” she said.

“I love the opportunity to promote women in engineering and the chance to empower girls to do something that is not traditionally advertised toward them.”

“I’m learning so much more then I thought I would in a million years, especially at this age. It is daunting, but I have a really good team around me; a team of university students who share the same passion I do and who are working together to make a difference.”

Nicole is currently presiding over a period of unprecedented growth for the organisation. She said the rate of growth had been unexpected, with a large number of contacts from universities around the world getting in touch with her in order to start new Robogals chapters.

“We’ve currently doubled our chapter base in the UK, which is really impressive.”

“We’re one step away from starting chapters in the Philippines and Cape Town in South Africa, as well as about seven other universities around the world.”

Nicole said that she loved the opportunity to meet students from around the world who were passionate about increasing the participation of women in the engineering field. She also said it was not only engineering students who were now joining Robogals.

“We currently have members who are Arts students that are studying to be teachers, we have artificial intelligence students in the UK and others in America that are studying to be astronauts.”

Nicole said that she came to engineering by accident, that throughout high school she was initially planning to study physiotherapy. However during an aptitude test she found she enjoyed working with shapes and orientation. Her careers counselor asked Nicole if she had considered engineering.

“From there I never looked back,” she said.

Nicole said that she was initially unsure of which area of engineering she wanted to specialise in, and that as such, she loved the opportunities offered by a Science degree at Melbourne.

“I thought I could do the Bachelor of Science at Melbourne because it gives me that opportunity to try different things. I was able to continue French for two years and to do a management subject.”

Nicole was also able to secure a Women in Engineering, ‘Dream Big’ cadetship at the Melbourne office of engineering firm Brown Consulting, which offered her real world experience in many different areas of engineering, from Civil, to Town Planning and Surveying.

Nicole soon discovered that Structural Engineering is her area of interest. She will soon embark on her Master of Engineering (Structural) at The Melbourne School of Engineering, all while continuing on as Robogals CEO alongside her work at Brown Consulting.

Nicole said that her Robogals experience has inspired her to pursue a managerial career in engineering, and to continue working with Robogals, and on women in engineering initiatives once her tenure as CEO is finished at the end of 2015.

“Robogals has been invaluable. I’ve learnt so much about things I had never imagined.”

“I’ve seen that all the countries we work in are at different stages in their understanding of opportunities for women in engineering.”

“In my opinion Australia is in one of the best situations. Many companies are now accepting the fact that there is a lot of potential for female engineers and we need to do something to increase awareness and opportunities for women.”

To find out more about Robogals, visit http://www.robogals.org/