Spotlight on Women in Tech: Dr Marthie Grobler
We’re talking to Dr Marthie Grobler from the CSIRO’s Data61’s Human Centric Security group on her career journey, why she pursued career in tech, and the advice she’d give to someone wanting to pursue a career in STEM.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at CSIRO’s Data61
I have been with CSIRO’s Data61 since 2017 and lead the Human Centric Security team in Software and Computational Systems. Our small team is based in Melbourne, and focuses on the intersection between cyber security and human behaviour, a very interesting and evolving field. I also just completed a 12-month learning and development role as Deputy Director for Software and Computational Systems.
What was your first job ever?
After finishing school, I took a gap year. I was employed by a small start-up welding company. In the mornings I would be a personal assistant, and in the afternoon I would nanny and look after the CEO’s three children.
My first STEM related job was after university, when I returned to my old high school as a computer science teacher, whilst I finished up my Masters degree in Information Security Governance part time. I taught the Years 8 to 10’s digital literacy, and the Year 11 and 12’s computer science programming.
What led you to choose a career in tech?
I had a very wide interest field at school and explored options such as pathology, journalism, visual arts, veterinary sciences and psychology. At that point in time I wasn’t actually much interested in computers, but my dad encouraged me to take just one year of computer science at school, just so I have the background (that was in the run up to the big Y2K hype, so a computer background was a novel idea at the time).
That one year become three years, and eventually turned into a career.
How did you end up at CSIRO’s Data61? What inspired you to join the organisation?
Before joining Data61 I worked at a research organisation in a similar position, just on a different continent. A former colleague rushed into my office one day with a link to a job ad and said, ‘Look! This is your job, in Australia!’ I applied for the job, and the rest is history. I was keen to join an organisation with a different view on the world and a drive to pursue unchartered science territory.
What do you love about working in tech?
There is never a dull moment and our work is ever changing. I love that tech is growing beyond its traditional boundaries and creating so many multi-disciplinary fields and potential jobs. There are so many interesting tech jobs that did not exist when I had to choose a career. I really enjoy being in this field and part of the generation that drives this digital revolution.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in tech that you wish you knew?
Pursue your interests alongside a STEM background and it will give you a well rounded career that you will enjoy. I always had a bit of an interest in psychology and visual arts.
By combining these interests with my background in computer science and digital forensics, we now have the Human Centric Security team, where we look at cyber security from a human (psychological and behavioural) perspective. This is definitely not the traditional career that I pictured when I was a little girl, but definitely an exciting and emerging STEM trajectory.
If you were a superhero, what would be your superpower and why?
How I wish to be able to read other people’s minds! It would make client (and kid) negotiations and team meetings so much easier.
If you were down to your last $10, how would you spend it?
I would probably buy hand sanitiser or cheese.