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*APAC Heritage Month* This is What a Technologist Looks Like

Presented by Gretchen Scott, Cameo Towdiee
Originally aired on 

From huskies to security software, join us as we talk to Cameo Towdiee about her pathway into technology.

APAC Heritage Month

Transcript (Beta)

Hi there, I'm Gretchen and you're listening to This is What a Technologist Looks Like.

So this is a series of talks that is going over six weeks and we're hoping to show you what opportunities are available in the technology industry.

We really want to showcase what the people in the industry are actually like and they're probably not like the stereotypes you think.

And we also want to have a bit of an exploration into how they got there.

Not everyone has a computer science degree.

So from husky dogs to security engineering, today's guest has done it all.

I'd like to extend a very warm welcome to Cameo. Good morning Cameo. Hey Gretchen, how you doing?

Good, good. Thank you for getting up bright and early. Did you get to watch the lunar eclipse last night?

I did, I did. I kept peeking out my window to try and catch it when it was at the totality.

So when it was completely eclipsed and I got distracted watching TV and completely missed that part.

But I saw some of it.

I couldn't manage to take a good photo. I tried. You tried. Hey so Cameo, could you tell me a little bit about what you do right now?

You're at MYOB as accounting software.

Well actually tell me about MYOB and then what you do there.

Yeah, so MYOB provides accounting software like you said. So they have you know desktop versions, they have online versions, all that kind of stuff.

There's various types of accounting software, there's a lot of stuff.

And so what I do here is, I'm going to, god I forgot the name, application security.

I work in application security.

So essentially my role at MYOB is to try and help our developers do the best job they can to make secure products so MYOB doesn't get hacked in the first place.

So fingers crossed. Fingers crossed if I do my job right.

So you've got developers building out the product and you kind of make it so they can't make it vulnerable?

Does that make sense? Yeah, I mean ideally security is always a work in progress.

So that's kind of the end goal. But so what we do involves providing tooling that will you know do scans for code quality, code security.

We provide penetration testing for the products which is where we will actually go and actively try and hack them and then we can fix those problems that we find so other people can't exploit them.

There's a lot of consulting with teams so they'll be building out a new feature, they'll come to us, they'll be like hey what are the security concerns with this feature?

We're looking at implementing it this way, is there any problem with that?

So it's quite a mixed bag of what we do. So it's not eight hours in a hoodie in a dark corner writing code?

Not in the slightest.

Some days I don't look at code at all, some days I only look at other people's code, some days I spend all day trying to implement tooling for other teams to use.

So it's very varied. I love the variation. And when you started at MYOB, was that your first job?

Yeah, my first job in tech was, so I joined there through the graduate program as a prototype developer they call it.

And so through that program I had the opportunity to learn some good programming fundamentals before going through a couple of the different teams to get experience around different parts of the business and different areas of technology.

So I worked in a front-end team, I did a back-end team and then I ended up in security and it's kind of where I fell into.

So you went there as a grad and did you get to choose which teams you went into or was it a set program and you got kind of moved around the tables?

Moved through the board, yeah. No, the grads at MYOB get to choose what teams they're interested in.

So they tend to recommend that you do like a front-end team, a back-end team and some kind of ops team.

But if you do front-end and really like it, you can join another front-end team or you can just, you know, get a promotion into an associate role in a front-end team.

You don't need to go through the processes.

Ah, so they don't force you to do 20 different flavors of the same thing?

No, no. They encourage you to get experience because most of the people that come through the grad program haven't been in technology long or new to a career in technology.

So at that stage it's kind of hard to know what you'd be interested in and a lot of people don't realize what they're interested in until they're in it, right?

So I'm still working on that. I didn't realize, right? Yeah, I didn't realize I was so interested in security until I joined the team.

I was like, actually this is great.

I love this. That's awesome. So they really recommend that you go through, you know, go through the motions.

But if you really enjoy what you do, yeah, you just stay there.

A lot of opportunity. I like it. So let's wind back a couple of years, maybe even more.

When you were at school, maybe, were you at high school going, you know what, I'm going to write code for a living.

I like technology.

I definitely wasn't. I did a lot of, I did some sciency things at school.

I did a lot of arty things like media and actual art. I was kind of a mixed bag of what I did at high school.

There was one point where I was getting assistance from, it was weird.

My math teacher would spend some lunch times trying to teach me Visual Basics so I could write stuff in Excel.

I'm sorry, that's how I learned to code.

Oh no. Yeah, it didn't last too long. I was like, yeah, this is kind of weird.

This is definitely not for me. It's not a gateway language at all.

It doesn't encourage you to come on board and join in. It sure doesn't. No, no.

So yeah, but in high school, programming or developing or anything technology related wasn't really on my radar as far as a career goes.

I volunteered a lot running music events in high school.

Of course you did. Of course, why not?

So out of high school, I moved into a music business course so I could get into the entertainment industry.

I could run big events and get giant bands from overseas to Australia and all that stuff.

That's debatable. I did that for a year and then got a dog.

I got a Siberian Husky, which I had always wanted.

But getting her was like, oh my god, what am I doing with this thing? She's a little houseborn.

What have I done to myself? So I very quickly pivoted into like an animal services career.

Just based on buying that dog. Yeah, yeah. Completely changed everything.

So you're at high school doing fun things. You go into learning how to run musical events.

You buy a dog and now you're looking after dogs?

What were you doing there? Yeah, yeah. So I got the dog and was like, right, I need to find out how to properly care for this thing.

Training is really interesting.

How do I get it to do what I want on a level that it understands? So I went and studied dog training and all that kind of stuff.

And I ended up, because of the Husky, working with 50 odd other Huskies running dog sled tours up at the snow.

No way. I didn't even know we did that here until I met you. A lot of people don't, yeah.

So it's run in a few locations in Australia. Obviously, this is a snowfield, so it's New South Wales and Victoria are the few places you can do it.

But yeah, I did that for five or six odd years.

Oh my gosh. And then did you buy a computer and decide to learn how to look after that?

Was that the next step? So going back a few years to the high school stage, I didn't ever consider technology as a career.

But in my spare time, I was like, hey, Neopets is cool. I'm going to make custom profiles in Neopets.

And then the end of high school came along and MySpace came along.

And I was like, well, I have this knowledge from Neopets. I can just make MySpace profiles.

So that whole time I was kind of just for fun, just because I like the visuals.

I was making these stupid websites and stupid profiles for things.

So I got to working with the Huskies and I was maybe a year or two in and I was like, this website is absolutely terrible.

How do you get customers from it?

Let me make a better one. I'm sure I can. So a lot of my movement into technology stemmed from just trying to make their website better, because it was absolutely horrible.

There are a lot of those websites out there in the world.

So many, so many. But after that, you went and moved into a boot camp.

Why was that your choice? Yeah. So when working with the Hustons, the flood dogs, I actually looked into doing a cert or doing a course in information technology, which is like the most basic, broadest of courses that you can do to technology in Australia.

Right. Yeah. So I started doing that and I learned a whole heap about networking, which I really didn't enjoy.

I learned a whole heap about like business cases, which I really didn't enjoy.

I learned a tiny bit of Java, which was all right.

And I was like, I'm not wasting another year on this to get another tiny bit of Java knowledge.

But there's surely there's got to be a better way to do this.

And then I found a boot camp, which the ads were all like, six months, you'll become a web developer.

I'm like, six months sounds better than another four years doing a university course to get a little bit of Java knowledge.

So, yeah, I moved into a boot camp and went from there. And they are quite different learning models that that university or the cert for through to a university degree qualification versus a boot camp.

What do you think the main differences there are?

Yeah, I think I think boot camps give you a lot of hands on practical experience and learning, which is a style that I really work well with.

So, if I'm trying to learn a new technology or a new topic or something, I do a lot better if I just get into it and do it wrong and then figure out how to do it right.

You get to play with it. Exactly. And break it. So, that learning model really worked well for me.

And I learned a lot more a lot quicker than I did at uni sitting there doing lectures, finding out about theory.

Theory is still very important, but yeah, it just suited my learning style a lot more.

And whenever I hear the word boot camp, it makes me think of the like American TV shows where they have people in military clothing carrying giant logs together and, you know, falling over in the mud.

Is there a reason they're called that? Is there some kind of correlation between that, you know, chaos and trauma?

Yes. Chaos and trauma is probably accurate.

It was a very intensive period. It was a very busy six months.

It was, you know, me and 25 other people in a room all day, five days a week for six months, all trying to get through this thing together and learn this thing together.

So, there was, I guess there was a lot of camaraderie similar to what you'd find in a military boot camp.

Like, we're all trying to just get through the thing together.

Survival. Survival. Yeah. Which, again, maybe isn't ideal for some people's learning styles.

Some people might prefer to take it a bit slower and really grasp the stuff.

But knowing I'd come into the boot camp tomorrow and be learning completely new topics kind of really made me try and understand what I was learning today.

Because there's no falling behind. You can't. No. No. You don't get that chance.

Do you still talk to the people you went through the boot camp with? Yeah. Yeah.

Some of them I became really close friends with and I still talk to. Some I keep track of, you know, in LinkedIn we still talk and all that kind of stuff.

But yeah, I made some really strong friends through the boot camp.

Which is really nice.

I guess you help each other out in the future too, you know, when you're looking at different careers or you find someone you went through the course with has moved into a different area than you and you need some help.

I love that. Yeah. 100%.

Yeah. Yeah. It's really good because not everyone, you know, ends up in a web developer role.

Not everyone, not every web developer role is the same. Like, everyone's using different technologies.

So, although we all do, you know, a web boot camp together, everyone kind of branches off and finds their own areas that they're interested in.

Like, with security. That's fun. Hey, so you've got wild and varied experiences, right?

Like, that's not, if you went to your careers advice teacher in high school, I don't think they would have said, hey, here's a plan.

We're going to do some events, then we're going to get dogs and then we're going to do web development.

I don't think that's what they would have thrown out there.

Do you think any of those other roles were a waste of time or do they have some value with what you do now?

Not at all. I don't consider any of it a waste of time.

There's times where I do wish I got into technology a little earlier because, you know, I'd be where I am now, but I'd have a lot more knowledge and that'd be great.

But no, not a waste of time. All of it got me to where I am today. There's a lot of skills, even the neopets.

I still do a tiny, tiny bit of HTML work at the moment.

Yeah, it's a lot of, you'd be surprised coming into technology how many skills are transferable from other careers.

So everything, it feels like everything I've done so far is just helped me be better at my job now.

So, no, none of it, none of it feels like a waste of time.

That's cool. And I guess ties into my next question about getting your first job.

Was that hard? I mean, you weren't, you couldn't say, hey, I went to uni, did a comm sci degree, take me as a technologist in your grad program.

Was that difficult? I, it was an interesting process. I was fortunate enough to get into this grad program while I was still studying.

So I had a role.

Yeah, yeah. Very lucky. I had a role ready and waiting for me as soon as I finished the program.

So I was one of the lucky few. Yeah. Do you think part of that recruitment process, they valued your other skills and experiences?

100%. Yep. A lot of, since going through the program, grad program, I've had a, been very involved with the new intakes and new grads coming in and the process of, you know, screening for those grads and all that kind of stuff.

And definitely they, NYIB at least, very much takes into account the previous experiences, not just the technical experience.

And I know from the people that I the bootcamp with that ended up in other grad programs, it's, it's very much the same across the board here.

It's, some of it is technical based, but it's a lot of it is more, are you a good, you know, culture ed?

Do you have the right, what's the word? I've just lost my train of thought.

Willingness to learn. Willingness to learn. The right attitude. That's, thank you.

The right attitude. Yeah. So it's, no, it's not all about technical skill.

And I guess communication is going to be one of those big skills that's looked for just across the board.

Right. It's very, very important because regardless of what role you end up in, you're working with other people.

You need to know how to communicate with other people.

You and having solid soft skills is, is really important.

So gone are the days when it's one guy in the corner saving the world with his coding skills, right?

A hundred percent.

Yep. Yep. When things are on fire, it's not just one person in a basement.

It's, it's the whole team communicating with each other, talking to each other, trying to figure out problems, working together.

Oh my gosh. On that note, have you had a day when everything's on fire and falling apart?

What happens? There's been some interesting times.

It hasn't been too bad. It hasn't been too bad for my team.

What, what I do as an application security engineer, my customers are really just the other teams at MYOB.

So if I have any problems with any of my products, I'm really just affecting the other teams, right?

Whereas we have other security teams.

Yeah, I try. We have other security teams at MYOB that deal with actual incidents.

So, you know, maybe someone's trying to hack us and everything's on fire for them because they have to try and stop it before they get to any valuable information.

So there's certainly times where other teams are on fire, but I'm very gratefully shielded from a lot of that.

Sounds a little bit exciting though, and...

It can be spicy. It can be spicy. And it ties into what you said earlier around, there's all these different teams and technology, and you can find the one that suits you the most, right?

That works with your personality. Yeah, yeah, definitely.

And I was just going to say there's like, so we have, I don't know, maybe 50 odd development teams at MYOB.

And personality is a really important thing, right?

Because a lot of them do the same thing. They're, you know, React devs or they're .NET devs.

And so the work is essentially the same, but the teams are very different, and the culture in the teams is very different.

So you might end up in one team where you really enjoy the work, but you maybe just don't vibe with the culture that well.

And maybe they, maybe you're, you know, more of an introvert that's super tiring going into the office every day.

So maybe you prefer a team that works more remote, but doing the same work.

So it varies even between areas of technology.

Yeah. And that's just in the same company. It's, I feel like. Yeah.

Mad. Hey, so what's your favorite thing about working in technology? Coming from the background that I have, a lot of what I really enjoy is still the customer service stuff.

I really enjoy talking to our teams and, you know, having them come to us and be like, hey, we've got this, we've got this problem with one of these tools.

We're trying to implement it. I'm just not quite sure what's going wrong.

And being able to fix that for them and have them go, hey, thanks for your help.

That was great. Everything works now. It's just really satisfying, like being able to help people, being able to, you know, interact with people and see that what you're doing is affecting people.

That's really cool. That's amazing.

And it's, I think it's always good to come back to that point that technology is unreal, right?

It is so powerful and it's in everything we do, but it's actually just a tool to make other things better.

And what I heard you say is that you're making other people's lives better with the technology you're building, which is personally, I think how it should be, how it should be used.

Yeah. Hey, so do you think, I'm a little bit opinionated on this one, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I'm a little bit opinionated on many, many things. I was going to say, it's not like you, Gretchen.

Is there a particular skillset that you think lends itself to a career in technology?

No, no. I think there's a particular mindset that lends itself well to technology, but no, not for skillset.

Everything can be learned if you have the right attitude for it, or if you have the right inclinations for it.

Do you have to be good at maths?

No, just ask me.

No, you don't need to be good at maths. You don't need to be, you know, very right-brained, scientifically -minded.

You don't need to be any of that. There's so many different roles in technology that aren't a developer that sits there for eight hours a day making code.

There's so many technology-adjacent roles as well that are really well-suited to very creative people.

Technology itself is really suited to creative people because, you know, you're front-end work.

You're seeing things on a screen and you're making it look right, and you're trying to get the user interactions right, and all of that kind of stuff.

Yeah, I don't think there's any skills that can't be learned for technology-based roles.

So what mindset would someone need?

Persistence is a big one.

I think, like, an enjoyment of problem-solving. Some people just get real satisfaction from, you know, getting a puzzle and being like, all right, I've just got to figure out the just right, just right answer for this.

Things like that.

Yeah, it's, I mean, like I said, the roles are so varied. What suits one is not going to suit another.

So there's so many opportunities that most mindsets will find a role somewhere in technology.

So there's an element of being able to stick with something that's a bit tricky and carry on and carry on.

And then those little rewards you get at the end when the puzzle piece finally fits, right?

That's it.

That's it. You've got to celebrate those little moments because sometimes they're few and far between.

And then you jump back in to find the next puzzle piece and torment yourself some more.

Exactly. You mentioned kind of coding adjacent roles.

What's an example of one of those or two of those? Yeah, yeah.

So you have, say, the leadership roles, so the team managers and all that kind of stuff.

They're not necessarily technical people. They will understand technical concepts as far as this is our product, these are the problems that we're facing with it.

But they don't need to be, you know, hands on in the code, or they don't need to know how it's deployed, or they don't need to know how AWS works.

We have business analysts who get our, you know, the business requirements from stakeholders.

So for a new feature, they might be like, right, we want to, you know, include this new feature.

So the business analyst's role is to go off and be like, all right, so what would that new feature look like?

How might we implement it?

What kind of things would need to be done? What kind of testing would need to be done on it?

Are there designs? Do designs need to be done by someone? And then you kind of come up with all of that stuff.

There's product managers who do a similar role.

There's a lot. There's a lot. Yeah. Everything under the sun, it sounds like.

Everything. And then you get some roles that are like a combination of all three, and it's just people trying to do their best, because that's what they've got.

You know, developers that are trying to do those roles as well, because there's, you know, the team leader left or something.

And so they're picking up all the slack.

So it's never really cut and dry. It doesn't sound dull either. Nope. So if I came to you as 16-year-old me and said, I think I want to work in tech.

How do I do it?

And should I? What would you say to me? Should I is definitely yes. I think tech is a pretty stable career choice.

It's not going anywhere anytime soon, except for up.

It's probably the best career choice I've made.

I would highly recommend anyone who thinks any of it sounds slightly interesting to see if it's, you know, something that they might want to follow.

As far as how you do that, there's a lot of free online courses that you can look into to get a taste of the different areas of technology of business.

That's a good place to start before you start, you know, spending money on boot camps or university or all of that kind of stuff.

There's a wealth of resources online that you can look at for free and see if it's something you're interested in.

I would add to that one. Sometimes they're not updated and current.

So if something breaks and you can't get past, that's not you. If it wasn't updated, don't feel bad.

The great point, you're right.

You can explore and go online and kind of self -educate a whole heap.

And would you recommend joining any kind of community groups or meetups or anything along the way?

Yeah. So a big part of what helped me through the boot camp was all of the communities and meetups that we joined along the way.

There's quite active community groups in Melbourne for programming for the various languages and the various demands.

And they're great just to be able to talk to other people that are doing the same thing you're doing or that are doing what you want to do and pick their brains.

They're all super friendly.

And you get to hear some really, really interesting talks along the way. So you get to learn things that you might not have otherwise considered.

That is true. Great point.

I've got one final question for the morning, Camille. What do you think are the biggest myths around technology?

That's interesting.

Yeah. Okay. It's a mean one, right? It is. We touched on it a little bit, but programming technology, it's not someone sitting in a dark room with a hoodie on, hacking away, trying to do things for eight hours a day.

One of the surprising things about technology when I got into it was that, you know, you go to uni or you go to a boot camp and you learn all these hard skills.

You learn how to program.

And then you get into a job and they're like, all right, so now we're going to go have a one hour meeting about how we might think about doing this one feature.

And there's this weird balance between being, you know, on the tools, coding, and all of the other stuff that comes with it.

So it's not just sitting there eight hours a day making things as much as sometimes we might wish it is.

It's a lot of interacting.

Yeah. It's a lot of interacting with other people, working with other people.

A lot of it's, you know, googling why this error has come up suddenly when it was working yesterday.

Yeah. It's not, I think that's the biggest myth, is that it's just dudes in a basement somewhere.

It's not just dudes in a basement anywhere. Not anymore. And that's the other thing is that going through high school, it was always like, oh, there's the nerdy boys over there doing the computer things.

And you never saw, you know, women with them.

No. Even going through the boot camp that I did, it was very heavily skewed towards males.

But then you get into, you know, a team, get into a world.

And while there's still, you know, there's still a bit of wiggle room there, there's still some improvement.

It's not, technology is not a thing that men do.

It is a thing that everyone does. Oh my gosh, I love that. So it sounds like you're saying the biggest myth is actually the stereotypes we've built up.

That's a very succinct way of putting it.

In practicing. Hey, thank you everyone for listening today.

And Kemio, thanks for getting up. Next, we're talking to Bianca from Atlassian.

It'll be great.

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This is What a Technologist Looks Like
What does a technologist actually look like? And, what is it they actually do?
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