My Smart Community
Bringing STEM into Smart Communities

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Zoe is an experienced civil engineer who holds a Master of Data Science. She is also a Churchill Fellow and keynote speaker with a passion for Smart Communities, that is using different ways of thinking, technology and data as enablers to make the places we work, live, and play more accessible, liveable, and sustainable for all. 

Zoe hosts the Smart Community Podcast and runs her own consultant called My Smart Community. My Smart Community offers consulting in the digital space to take the overwhelm of technology application to support all levels of government and industry. Zoe does this by offering strategic advisory on dealing with disruption, leveraging infrastructure spend and major projects, smart technology in regional communities and facilitating genuine collaboration.

BENEFIT – A description of the benefit of your work to Queensland (max 500 words)

Zoe efforts to benefit QLD were recently recognised, as Zoe won the QLD Division Young Engineer of the Year Award 2021. The combination of Zoe’s engineering background and her ability to engage and explain complex topics in a friendly and informative way, allows her to offer future-thinking, useful and realistic strategic advice which benefits all QLD’ers.

Zoe believes that we need to do things differently; to put people at the front, centre and heart of our community-building engineering decisions. Zoe’s work is not only about spreading the word and inspiring people to use Smart Community thinking but also involves the practical, pragmatic side by offering engineering consulting services through her own boutique consulting company. She is currently working with Arup in QLD in “Shaping a Better World” by bringing in Smart Community concepts such as advanced technology, collaboration techniques, dealing with disruption and future thinking to clients in QLD and internationally.

Over the last three years, Zoe was on the board of Directors for the Australian Smart Communities Association, which is a not-for-profit working to ensure that best practice in smart communities is understood and adopted by all levels of Government, which involves building the collective knowledge of digital and technology application. Zoe ensured a QLD lens was brought to the conversation and assisted QLD based councils as they worked through their approaches and adoption of technology.

Through Zoe’s recently completed Master of Data Science, Zoe created a project with Moreton Bay Regional Council here in QLD. She chose to do an industry research project so as to not only continue to learn and research but also provide real tangible benefit to the QLD community. Zoe built a 'virtual road condition assessment' tool which utilises defect data collected automatically by a local QLD start-up’s smart technology that uses computer vision and machine learning. This project uses this data to support MBRC in automating this time/resource intensive processes to prioritise their capital works spend for roads, which is a key issue for all councils in QLD, Australia and around the world. This benefits the local community by helping the Council spend the public’s fund more effectively and efficiently.

ROLE MODEL – Why do you think you are a good role model for women and girls aspiring to work in STEM? (max 500 words)

Zoe embodies the smart community approach and lives out aloud so that others can be inspired to also live their best lives and create positive impact in the world. She follows conversations with action and continues to find new opportunities to continue to bring about positive change, all the while learning, growing and helping others along the way. Helping people at scale drives her to succeed. Zoe wants to use her technical and strategic skills to bring womens voices and experiences into the design of technology and the use of data in our communities. This was recognised in 2020, when Zoe was awarded the Rising Star Award by Women in Technology.

As mentioned, in 2021 Zoe was awarded Young Engineer of the Year for QLD and to be recognised by Engineers Australia shows that the industry is changing. Zoe’s key message is that engineering should be about new ways of thinking and adopting technology and data as enablers to make our communities more accessible, liveable and sustainable for all.

Zoe actively encourages engineers to embrace their creativity, their whole selves and their quirkiness, and advocates for difference and diversity in the sector. Zoe uses this messaging in all the work she does to encourage more women and people from all different backgrounds to come join the STEM profession. Zoe believes that STEM is not only offers a viable, interesting career but also that STEM is vital to help change the world for the better.

Zoe was also awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship, which allowed her to travel the world in 2019. The Churchill fellowship is a prestigious award that allows those selected to undertake ground-truthing research around the world in their chosen field. Zoe chose 'Smart Mobility', that is the application of digital technology and new ways of thinking to improve the transport network and make it easier for everyone to move around our communities. One of Zoe’s unexpected take-aways from the fellowship was that it was not safe for women to be travelling alone in most countries as they were not traditionally included in the design process of both the infrastructure and technology. This inspired her to start the Master of Data Science so that she could input into the design and application of technology and use of data, in our cities and transport networks.

The fellowship was a catalyst for Zoe to create a bigger platform for change and she uses her fellowship to inspire others to reach for the things they want to do and helps others to apply for this award and many others. 

ENGAGEMENT – Describe any STEM promotion or engagement activities that you have undertaken, including both scientific and non-scientific audiences, particularly with women and girls (maximum 500 words)

Zoe started her podcast, to make the smart city conversation more accessible and get more people involved in it. Zoe believes that people must be at the centre of the conversation with technology and data as enablers to improve people’s quality of life. Zoe’s podcast as just reached 150,000 downloads and she actively engages with her guests and audience around the world.

Speaking at conferences is part of Zoe’s business, however she regularly volunteers to speak at events where she thinks she can make an impact, some recent events (in-person and virtual) include: speaker for Infrastructure and Disruptive Technology Event (Toowoomba), panelist for Smart Cities in Vietnam, panelist for Urban Futures in NZ , keynote speaker for the Royal Academy of Engineers UK's Smart Communities Symposium, facilitator for the Smart Cities Summit and presenters for Smart Places Masterclass.

Zoe also volunteers at STEM events and recently Zoe attended QUT’s Engineering your Future Day, where she joined the two panels and answered questions from students from years 4-9 about sustainable cities and dreaming big. Zoe aims to change the narrative around engineering so that when young people think about wanting to change the world, they think “what type of engineer do I want to be?”

Zoe has been a mentor with Engineers Australia, Hack4Future and have a number of informal mentees who are women in non-traditional roles such as engineering around the world. People often reach out to her for advice about all things smart communities (and podcasting) and I make time to have conversations with them, particularly when they are younger women seeking career advice. Zoe sets time aside in my calendar each week and has a link when people can book in.