Some of Bonnie Shaw's happiest childhood memories were soldering circuit boards and building mechanicial lego machines with her father – a Process Engineer who worked on NASA satellites before becoming a high school maths/physics/computer teacher.
These activities fostered a great curiosity and excitement about emerging technologies – something Bonnie has held onto throughout her career. We asked her a series of questions about keeping current in the digital era, and to share a little more about what she's been up to since graduating from QUT over 20 years ago.
What is the one digital skill that you cannot do without?
Critical thinking – Everything that we interact with in a digital environment has been designed with intent. It’s so important to be able to consider how those environments have been orchestrated and for what purpose. We need the skills to critically assess their influence on us, and choose how we participate, not just blindly or unconsciously reacting to stimulus.
How does someone get ‘digitally fit’ for the future?
It’s so important to cultivate an adaptive mindset – the technologies that we use are constantly evolving. If we’re to actively choose how we want to shape and interact with them we must stay flexible and open to new ways of doing things, while consciously considering what is and isn’t working, and what we need to change. We are at the very start of a long journey of adapting and integrating digital technologies into our lives, and our interactions will continue to evolve rapidly into the future.
What is the one misconception people have about digital innovation?
The biggest misconception that I see regularly is the belief that digital innovation is just about the tools and the tech. It’s obviously an important part, but equally important is how humans interact with the technology – how they shape and are shaped by it. What are the skills they need to use it effectively?
What, in your opinion, is the ‘next big thing’ in digital?
As the cofounder of a tech startup that supports the built environment sector with a big data, we’re seeing a huge shift in how city and state governments, architects and engineers, asset and place managers approach design and policy making with this new layer of evidence to support decision making. The opportunity for more efficient processes, more sustainable practices, and more community focused outcomes is enormous.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love working with our clients to help them build the skills to leverage data for evidence-based design and place-based decision making. We’re currently onboarding a lot of new clients into our Place Intelligence GeoData Studio. The result of several years of very hard work, the GeoData Studio is a secure tool where clients can access interactive data maps and statistics for almost anywhere in the world with a single click. This data hasn’t been readily accessible before, so it’s exciting to reveal the hidden patterns of places for the first time. I really enjoy the moment when our clients start to interpret the data and get super excited about all the ways they can apply it in their work.
What has been challenging/rewarding about your career?
I have charted a pretty unique career path – switching from a design career into digital, and from private sector into government, non-profits, and startups. Paired with teaching, side gigs and collaborations – there was definitely no road map.
What advice would you share with current students and alumni?
You don’t build muscle by watching someone else lift weights. People and organizations learn by doing. You need to build the muscles by doing the work, not just reading or talking about it.