Natalie Rode volunteered as an In2science STEM mentor in a Year 8 Science class at Rowville Secondary College in 2016, while studying a Bachelor of Engineering (Biomedical) (Honours) at Swinburne University of Technology. Now an alumna working for global medical technology firm Draeger, Natalie caught up with In2science to share with us how In2science mentoring helped to shape her graduate career and where she aspires to head next.
Thinking back to her uni days and asked to reflect on why she chose to volunteer with In2science, Natalie replied that “It gave me an avenue to give back to the science community by inspiring the youth of today to pursue a career in STEM.” She says she was particularly motivated to make the prospect of a STEM pathway a bit more realistic for those students that might have found it daunting and who wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to ask open questions about it.”
Natalie felt there were many highlights in her time as an In2science mentor, including presenting to her class of student mentees on on her final year project about the bionic eye (with the aid of a VR headset – a novel technology at the time!). Natalie had been interning at the Bionics Institute and loved seeing the level of interest in her project from the class. Other highlights included having meaningful conversations with students about what they wanted to do in the future and what kinds of careers they saw for themselves. She noted, “Many students presumed a career in STEM was remarkably difficult, nerdy or beyond their abilities. It slowly dawned on them that a STEM career is highly variable and can take on many forms, one of which would undoubtedly be perfect for them. Not to mention interesting and enjoyable!”
Natalie’s eagerness to make a positive impact in the community through In2science is also reflected in the reasons she loved studying biomedical engineering, noting that it gave her the ability to integrate and develop technology in the healthcare space to help improve patient outcomes. Through a series of practical exercises and volunteer opportunities at Swinburne she was able to see the positive difference she could make through a career in the biomedical engineering sector.
As a graduate, Natalie started out as a product development engineer at Khelix, a startup in Sydney, which she found very rewarding, “It gave me an insight into the world of development in the healthcare sphere for which I am eternally grateful.” Natalie currently works for Draeger as the Service Manager for NSW. A typical day at work for Natalie is highly variable, involving interactions with people of different professions across multiple hospitals. Her role consists of supporting customers, managing resources, and prioritising projects across NSW and ACT. This includes repair, preventative maintenance and installation work across a variety of medical portfolios, hospital departments and hospitals themselves. Natalie looks forward to new opportunities and challenges in 2019, which will see her move back to her hometown of Melbourne. “I’d like my career to take me to a position where I can help inspire and develop people to be the best they can be. Naturally the healthcare industry is where I’d like to make a big impact, helping to support and improve quality life. However I am open to wherever my career takes me, because it’s not about the destination, but rather the journey.”
Natalie observed that the In2science program helped her to further develop her soft skill set. In particular, explaining complex scientific ideas or theories in an easy and concise manner for young science students to understand honed her communication skills. These weekly interactions gave her the opportunity to practise making a complex idea fun and engaging to learn and understand.
Natalie’s advice to current and future In2science mentors on preparing for a career post-graduation? “Be happy to learn and teach”. Thanks for the update Natalie and we wish you all the best with your future pursuits.
Read more about the impact of In2science volunteering on mentors’ careers.