A lifetime of being inspired by the adventures and achievements of explorers and scientists drew Holly McNabb to a career encompassing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

“Seafarers that circumnavigated the globe, French naturalists and geologists, polar explorers challenging themselves against isolation and the elements and astronauts discovering new lands, sciences and technology in their pursuits,” Ms McNabb said of those who sparked her interest. 

“This excitement, adventure and the curiosity to know how all these systems work encouraged me to become an explorer myself.”  

Ms McNabb is part of Defence Science and Technology Group’s Joint Operations Analysis Division which is embedded in the J8 branch at JOC.

The J8 branch conducts systematic operational analysis to inform planning and execution of operations, actions and activities, supporting decision making as well as shaping and influencing the delivery of future joint capability and effects.

Ms McNabb said her role within JOC was dynamic, fast-paced and one where she made a tangible difference. 

“Other areas of research I have worked in can be slower and much longer to see the fruits of your labour,” she said.  

“All the research and work conducted at JOC culminates together to identify the future joint operational risks and mitigations to reduce the exposure to harm and to protect our ADF enabling the war fighter to achieve their operations and return home.”

Ms McNabb works alongside Glen Rowlinson, an aerospace engineer also embedded from Defence Science and Technology group.

He became interested in STEM because of a combined love of mathematics and the space shuttle era. 

“Also watching sci-fi shows with talking cars and space ships where the engineer often saves the day,” Mr Rowlinson said. 

He is working on artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms and how they can be applied to learn and model highly complex systems.

Mr Rowlinson said an exciting aspect of working with STEM in JOC was the sense of reward. 

“I am thrilled when I can find novel ways to apply new technologies to improve how things are done,” he said. 

“STEM work is often about problem solving and getting the ‘right answer to the puzzle’ – it gives a nice feeling of achievement.

“A career in STEM provides challenge and variety and the possibility to build a talking car!”

Ms McNabb said while her career had been filled with a lot of sacrifices, the opportunity for adventure had been worth it. 

“With STEM it was a lot of hard work and study and giving up a lot of things to begin with,” she said. 

“However, the rewards of travelling the world working on mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, mines, ships and becoming an explorer has been more rewarding than I could ever have hoped for.

“I would love to see more women and Indigenous Australians encouraged, supported and enabled to have careers in STEM. We need to support, encourage and uplift each other for success.”