Vanessa Hill has learned that going with the flow can take you to some awesome places. She started out as a psychology grad, but grew more interested in media as time wore on. Where’s the perfect medium between psychology and creativity? A YouTube channel called BrainCraft where Vanessa explains all things quirky science and psychology, of course.
We sat down with Vanessa to find out how she ended up in such a fun and cool career, and how you can get there too.
What kind of career did you imagine for yourself when you were a kid?
When I was in Year 6 we did this activity where we had to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. I drew a TV anchor, and then flipped the paper over and drew a marine biologist on the other side. I think what I’m doing now is the perfect modern mash-up of my 11-year-old ambition!
What was your study and work path to end up where you are now?
I completed a Bachelor of Science at UNSW, majoring in Psychology, and started working at CSIRO as an Education Officer. I was with CSIRO for 6 years, where I travelled around NSW and QLD teaching education programs. I grew more and more interested in media and completed a Masters of Science Communication at ANU part time while I was working. Then I had the opportunity to move into their Media team where I did a fair few interviews as a spokesperson and pitched a video series.
In my last six months there, I started BrainCraft on the side as a video project, and then pitched it to PBS as a web series. I moved over to the US to produce the show for them and it’s just wrapped up after four seasons/years. In that time I also hosted a show for the ABC and I’ve made two series with Screen Australia. I’m lucky enough to have been self-employed for almost 5 years and I’m now using crowd-funding to keep producing videos for my YouTube channel.
What kind of videos do you make on YouTube?
I use a mix stop-motion animation, drawings and live-action shots to communicate science in my BrainCraft videos.
This is BrainCraft, where Vanessa explains scientific concepts and psychological phenomena in ways that are super easy to digest. There’s new content uploaded all the time, like The Ancient Origins of Your Musical Brain, or Every Scientific Study on Arnold Schwarzenegger.
What’s the coolest project you’ve ever worked on?
I think it was too ambitious! I directed, wrote, produced and presented a documentary called Mutant Menu, on the science and ethics of gene-editing, for PBS, Google and Screen Australia. We shot it in four continents over two weeks, which is the worst travel schedule you could possibly imagine. I took on too many roles in the production and it really took a toll on me.
What did it teach you?
Not to take on too much work and avoid burning out.
What is your advice to students who want a creative STEM career?
You can find creativity everywhere in the workplace. It may seem really obvious in a job like mine, but engineers need to be incredibly creative to solve problems, scientists need to be creative to design innovative experiments. Creativity is necessary and all around us.
What advice do you have for women looking to get into STEM?
Find friends, make allies, build a support network to be your cheerleader and remind you that you are awesome, intelligence and can be confident. And support other women, too.
“You can find creativity everywhere in the workplace. It may seem really obvious in a job like mine, but engineers need to be incredibly creative to solve problems, scientists need to be creative to design innovative experiments. Creativity is necessary and all around us.”
Author: Eliza Brockwell
Eliza is the Digital Producer for Careers with STEM. Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.