For Kirsty Penney, a telecommunications traineeship opened the door to a rewarding career connecting Australians with high speed mobile coverage.
Kirsty Penney is as surprised as anyone that her days are filled with maths, data and engineering. “Five or six years ago I would’ve told you there’s no reason to teach maths,” she laughs. “Now, I realise it’s pretty important.”
Kirsty began studying graphic design at TAFE SA, but at the completion of her diploma, she realised that design wasn’t for her. “Studying my hobby had killed it for me,” she says.
Despite knowing “absolutely nothing” about the telecommunications industry, Kirsty decided to take a leap and give it a go after being inspired by a friend who was working in the industry.
Connecting remote Australia
Over the next two years, she gained not only her Certificate III and IV in Telecommunications Engineering Technology, but also on-the-job training installing radio equipment, learning about new and emerging technologies, and working with tools she’d never heard of before.
At the end of her traineeship, she started as a Network Design Operative with Telstra. “If you’ve heard the term ‘black spot’ before, my job is to fix those,” she explains.
Last year, Kirsty spent eight weeks in the Northern Territory, sleeping in a swag, flying drones and climbing radio towers. Her aim was to design a network that would bring high speed mobile coverage to two remote Indigenous communities. “It’s a full day’s drive to get groceries, and their children are taught at home, so they need the internet; they need data,” says Kirsty.
Needless to say, she finds her career immensely rewarding. And she credits her traineeship for making it possible. “I didn’t have the specialist maths and I couldn’t afford to take four years off to do a degree,” she says.
“With the traineeship, I worked during the day and went home. While my friends at university were doing essays, I had none of that. And I was getting paid for the luxury of it.”
Kirsty’s STEM study and career path to becoming a Network Design Operative
- Diploma of Graphic Design, TAFE SA
- Certificate III and IV in Telecommunications Engineering Technology, Comtech
- Trainee Radio Designer, Programmed
- Network Design Operative, Telstra