Career chameleon

Kristin Alford

Getting straight from point A to point B is not Kristin Alford’s style. She’s forged a hugely successful career as a Futurist that has seen her hosting TedX Adelaide, and developing a new research-focused museum that renounces all tradition – just to name a few successful ventures. Kristin’s career is proof that one size does not fit all, and careers of the future are as dynamic as they are grounded in STEM skills.

We picked her brain to find out what makes her tick, and how we might learn from her prosperous career.

A dynamic career

“My career started as an engineer in the mining industry. Since then I have also worked in human resources, strategy, product development, event management, marketing, science communications, technology commercialisation and as a futurist.

My first career change was to get closer to the strategic objectives of large organisations, but other changes have come about through finding an opportunity and developing in a role, or being encouraged by excellent mentors, or by being curious about where something might lead and following a hunch! The important thing to me is being able to learn new things and work with interesting people.”

Stretch your boundaries

“My PhD project was the development of field work, and involved travelling across the north of Australia – to the Pilbara, Kunnanurra, Groote Eylandt – as well as stays in Perth and London. I developed a corrosion sensor that solved an industry problem and got to see the most amazing places and meet interesting people. Good projects stretch boundaries.”

How to decide (or not quite decide…) on a career

“I wanted to be an organiser [when I was young] – someone who sorts things into manageable compartments, creates schedules, writes lists. I always found patterns in chaos. At high school I was good at maths and science, but not with the sight of blood, so engineering seemed like a good path to take. Plus it promised adventure. [My current] job with MOD. also promises adventure.”

MOD., the museum that’s not quite a museum

MOD. is a public space for people to engage and learn about the world like many museums, but there are some differences! Firstly we don’t have a collection and don’t plan to acquire artefacts. Instead we build our exhibitions by working with artists, researchers, designers and technologist to create experiences that explore research. Our exhibitions aren’t based within a specific discipline, place or time period but draw together multiple threads to approach our major theme in different ways.”

Take the road less travelled

“I wouldn’t follow my footsteps! There are probably much more logical ways of finding work you love. But I would say find something you value – for me it’s learning and leading – and then find that with every step you take.”

Kristin’s pathway to becoming a Futurist

>> Bachelor of Engineering (Hons), University of Queensland
>> PhD, University of Queensland
>> Masters of Management (Strategic Foresight), Swinburne University

kristin alford future engineering careers

“Find something you value – for me it’s learning and leading – and then find that with every step you take.”

One Comment

When I read you saying “I wouldn’t follow in my footsteps” I recalled Eddie Perfect said something like….. “When you are going through the forest you can’t see anything you just go… Ok I’ll try this….. When you come out the other side you look back and go. Oh look. There’s the path and it seems obvious. But it’s not.” He was talking about Tim Minchin but I think it may apply to your story too.

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