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Nicole Brown: "A shared sense of passion!"

Nicole Brown: "A shared sense of passion!"

"Learning and sharing the hows"

Nicole Brown always felt supported by peers and organisations. But winning the Queen’s Young Leaders Award was recognition from outside her immediate circle. Here, she tells Leading Change how the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme has widened her network.

For Nicole – Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of international non-profit, Robogals – winning the Queen’s Young Leaders Award was recognition that she “was making an impact”.

Robogals is a student-run organisation that promotes female participation in engineering, science and technology. The Queen’s Young Leaders Programme helped Nicole develop skills she could apply to managing it. But more importantly, it connected her to other young leaders around the world.

“That for me was the most important part of it – being able to connect with people with similar interests, with different interests, but to really understand why they do what they do. And learning and sharing the hows!”

Commonwealth connections

Connecting with other young leaders around the Commonwealth has expanded Robogals’ operations.

Fellow Queen’s Young Leader, Vane Aminga is a Mechanical and Industrial Engineer from Kenya. She connected Nicole to the University of Nairobi where there are now discussions about opening a new Robogals chapter is now being established.

“Reaching out to a new country like Kenya would not have happened without the Queen’s Young Leaders putting us in contact,” says Nicole.

Alyson Petsche, another highly commended runner-up, is a Mechanical Engineering student from Canada.

“She connected us to the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students,” says Nicole, “So we were able to establish some connections there, which was great.”

A large group of people all wearing Robogals t-shirts

Robogals North America Executives, January 2016

Being part of a network of Queen’s Young Leaders helped Nicole understand the connections between the countries. “It gives you a shared sense of passion,” she explains. “It’s sharing common goals, sharing common visions. The world is such a small place!”

Sharing learning

The Leading Change course reinforced what Nicole already felt she knew instinctively about leadership.

“I hadn’t questioned why I am that way or how my style came to be that way. So it was quite a good challenge personally to take a step back and analyse why I do the things that I do.”

The course modules gave her a framework to start implementing changes at Robogals. She was also keen to share what she learnt from the course with her team, so she replicated some of the activities.

“It’s great to be able to have a framework,” she says, “Because a lot of the time you know that you want to do this, and you know what you want the outcome to be, but you don’t really know how to get there. So the activities were really useful in bridging that gap.”

A young woman in a class full of girls showing them mechanics

Developing engineering skills in teenage girls

Nicole’s drive to share the learning didn’t end with the course however. This year she has been peer mentoring 2016’s Queen’s Young Leaders.

“It’s amazing what they’re doing,” she says of 2016’s Queen’s Young Leaders, “and some of them are in very high intensity situations that I can’t even imagine.”

As a peer mentor, Nicole wants to show the next group of leaders how to put into practice what she’s learnt as CEO of Robogals and to encourage them to share between themselves.

That passion for young leaders to share their insights, networks and learning, keeps coming up in conversation with Nicole. To help the network of Queen’s Young Leaders develop into the future, she has taken on the role of Records Officer on the Legacy Panel.

“The Legacy Panel is an opportunity, I think, to further the engagement because it is a large programme, there are a lot of people involved.”

Future plans

Nicole finishes her Masters in November and will graduate in December 2016. She feels this is the right time for her step down as CEO of Robogals.

There is a need in organisations such as Robogals to bring new perspectives and thoughts to the programme, to keep the programme regenerating to ensure its sustainability.”

In February 2017, Nicole will start work with Calibre Consulting in Melbourne as a graduate structural engineer. This is a company she knows well, as she has been working part-time with them for six years while studying. She was originally recruited through their Dream Big Program which encourages women to become engineers.

“I’m looking forward to hopefully working with the company HR team to further promote Dream Big,” she says. “It provided me with work experience and financial support over my entire degree.”

The main goal however, is to reach a time when engineers stop classifying themselves by gender. “We’ll just all be engineers,” she says.

But Nicole accepts that even when that happens, it’s likely there will be other gender-related issues in the work place.

“There’s always going to be challenges,” she says, “but as long as we’ve got young people that are passionate and have a vision, we’ve definitely got hope for change.”