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By  Smriti Daniel 12 May 2023 4 min read

Key points

  • Children share their best guesses of what their mums do at work.
  • Flexible working hours, carer's leave and hybrid office arrangements contribute to finding work-life balance.
  • A supportive team environment, excellent ongoing training and learning opportunities are valued benefits.

Welcome to our little Mother’s Day experiment. We asked the children of mothers who work at CSIRO what they thought their mums did at work. Their answers weren’t always accurate, but they were often insightful. From fighting viruses and making potions, to landing rovers on Mars and hunting for orchids in the bush, our people have it covered.  

What do you think I do at work?

Dr Heidi Zimmer and Oscar

"You work on orchids. You do boring computer work, and sometimes you go looking for orchids in the bush." – Oscar, aged 4. 

What Heidi really does: 

Oscar is correct. I work at the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research on orchid taxonomy, with a strong focus on conservation outcomes. We do targeted field survey but there is a fair bit of ‘computer work’ including writing manuscripts, which I also really enjoy. I work with the incredible collection of orchid specimens at the Australian National Herbarium (ANH). It has the largest collection of Australasian orchid specimens in the world. 

Heidi specialises in orhid taxonomy.

Prof Michelle Colgrave and Isaac

"Discover new things, test things, study proteins and bring home ants and mealworms." – Isaac, aged 8.  

What Michelle really does:   

I’m the Deputy Director (Impact) for Agriculture and Food and Professor of Food and Agricultural Proteomics at Edith Cowan University. It’s a research management role, but my background is as a protein biochemist and former leader of the Future Protein Mission. I am focused on what comes next – what innovation is needed to support our agriculture and food industry from farm to fork?

Fiona Smallwood and Jayliah

"You work at a science place. You go to meetings and work on projects." –  Jayliah, aged 18.  

What Fiona really does:

I am the Project Support Officer for the Indigenous Science and Engagement Program (ISEP), based out of Townsville. I support programs including Indigenous Research Grants, James Cook University and CSIRO partnerships with Indigenous undergraduate students, and ISEP staff.  

Vedika Latchman-Singh and Swasya (and Johar)

"I think mummy helps study space and helps get all the rovers on the moon and Mars." – Swasya, aged 9.

 What Vedika really does:

I'm a Business Development Manager for Space and Astronomy, supporting projects developing technology for space. This includes finding collaborators who can support with launch for testing the performance of tech in space.

A drawing by Vedika's eldest son, Johar.

Pip Shea and Aron

"You design pictures." – Aron, aged 10. 

What Pip really does:

I work on Data61’s Responsible AI program as a user experience (UX) designer. I work with product managers, engineers, science teams, business development, and external partners to create digital products. This involves designing lots of pictures. 

Sarah Goldie and Jim

"You work in a laboratory in a box. You work with viruses and try to kill them. You go into the laboratory naked with your lunch. You have lots of showers." – Jim, aged 14. 

What Sarah really does:

I am a Biorisk Officer at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP). Our work includes preventing the spread of harmful pathogens. I work in a physical containment laboratory, designed to protect us from exposure to them. Entering and exiting the laboratory is quite a process: I remove my clothes, pass through an airlock and get dressed again. Sometimes, we have to wear fully encapsulated suits.

Sarah's research involves studying how to protect ourselves from dangerous pathogens.

On exit, I take a chemical shower while still wearing the suit, followed by a personal shower. I guess it’s logical that Jim’s interpretation of my job centres around ‘box in a box containment’ and the consequential showering required to come home each night!

Michelle sometimes works odd hours so she can pick up her kids and take them for game.

Lisa Famularo and Alessia

"From a very young age to this day, I always say: my mum makes potions all day." – Alessia, aged 16. 

What Lisa really does:

I’m part of the Materials Characterisation and Modelling program, within the Macromolecular Interactions team. My team and I provide characterisation of matter to assist with many challenges like producing lightweight durable metals, proteins for vaccine development, polymers for our Aussie polymer bank note, oxygen levels in metals used for essential building materials… the list goes on. 

How do we support you at work and at home?  

Our mums and mother figures had diverse experiences, priorities and challenges. So, we asked them how we could best support them. 

For Michelle, flexible working hours were key to nurturing her other passion – coaching rugby teams. Lisa appreciated hybrid working arrangements and the option to work remotely.  

In addition to this flexibility, Sarah loved how we provided a supportive team environment, excellent ongoing training and learning opportunities at work. And for Pip, it was about the support carers received through leave entitlements. We supported Vedika by furthering her space knowledge through sponsored courses.  

“The flexibility I have in my career allows me to bring the best of myself to work and to my family,” said Vedika.  

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