Women in technology

4 Feb 2014

Fierce intelligence, profound passion and quiet confidence. These are the first impressions one gets of Associate Professor Marta Indulska from UQ’s Business School.

Associate Professor Indulska is the most recent recipient of the Australian Women in Technology (WiT) InfoTech Research Award for “outstanding contribution to Information Technology (IT)” through rigorous and industry relevant research.

As gratifying and satisfying the award is after years of study and research, it’s the fact that it is an award that comes as a result of being nominated by a colleague, and decided by a panel of IT experts, that touches Indulska the most.

It’s also the fact it celebrates women in technology and science.

“These awards are very important because they give women who work in the field of IT more visibility and recognition, hopefully also motivating others to enter the field,” she says.

“Unfortunately, women in IT are a minority so it’s important to show, particularly early career women and teenage girls, that they too can excel in fields of technology and that it is an exciting area to be in. Organisations such as Women In IT play a very important role in spreading this message and supporting women already in the IT field.”

“The award nights organised by WIT are also a wonderful way to meet like-minded people – they bring together a lot of women who work in technology, who otherwise would not have an opportunity to meet. So, they provide a lot of networking opportunities, which is great.”

Associate Professor Indulska knows what it is to be the odd one out when it comes to gender. Now 37 years old, she remembers her undergraduate days as a computer science student at UQ when she was one of a handful of women studying in a cohort of more than 100 students.

When she progressed to her Honours Program, she was on her own among her male peers.

It registered but never bothered her and she went on to enrol and complete a PhD in Information Technology at UQ. Her move to the Business School was, she says, a natural progression given her interests in application of technology for business.

“Each of the three degrees I have are in computer science and it wasn’t until I completed all of them more than 10 years ago that I moved to the Business School to look at issues such as adoption of technology, among others  –  a change of focus to the use of technology as opposed to developing technology,” she says.

“I was interested in what characteristics technology needs to have in order to be useful – what are the potential benefits to business and so on rather than the actual development of technology.”

She admits, with a laugh, that science and technology could well be ingrained in her DNA.

Her mother is a Professor at UQ’s School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering and her father is an engineer.

Born in Poland, her family immigrated to Australia when Associate Professor Indulska was 13 years old and they spent their first couple of years in Canberra before moving to Brisbane.

She says moving to Australia from Poland in the late 1980s was a big change.

“Poland at that time was coming out of the Communist era so the difference between the two countries was indescribable,’’ she says.

“I still remember quite vividly a lot of the characteristics, such as empty shops and overnight queues for petrol, for example.”

She is currently working on several large projects, once of which focuses on improving methods that businesses use to document their practices.

“Business is essentially a collection of processes – you have a process for procurement, human resource related processes, and so on,” she says.

“If you want to improve your processes or design useful systems that support the work that you do, then you first need to understand what you are doing – what your processes look like.

“My research on process modelling looks at how organisations can capture, completely and unambiguously, how they carry out work, with a view to improve.”

It’s complex research so down time is all important.                                                        

“I love animals. I spend a lot of time training my dog, Gizmo – although it doesn’t always show,” she says.

“In my spare time I honestly enjoy reading about technology so there’s a fair bit of entanglement between my work and what I do in my spare time.”

There’s also photography and, scarily, hot yoga.

A professor with a penchant for gadgets, pictures, poses and puppies. Is the world really ready?

For more information about Women In Technology, visit www.wit.org.au/