College News

STEM Success

Judith Finan and Kelly CoxSt Mary’s College Principal Judith Finan with alumnae Kelly Cox.

Problem solving and planes may not seem to go hand in hand when choosing a career path. St Mary’s College Ipswich graduate Kelly Cox, though, combined these passions to find her ideal job.

“I’ve always had an interest in maths and would happily spend hours on different logic and problem solving puzzles,” she said “I also spent a lot of time as a kid with my dad watching planes flying around the Amberley RAAF base. Boeing was a place where I could join those two interests in an exciting career in aviation.”

At Boeing, Kelly has had the opportunity to work on many different projects, from unmanned aircraft through to aviation biofuels. She enjoys the variety of her job, and the challenge of solving new problems.

A recent career highlight was the opportunity to live and work for in the USA for 18 months. “I was the project leader working on the certification of a new unmanned aircraft. This was a world leading activity with many unknowns and challenges,” she said.

Beyond the technical aspects of her job, Kelly enjoys building team culture and creating an environment where everyone feels welcome. “In my first role as a team leader, I set out to build the team I had always wanted to work in – one with a supportive, cohesive and quirky culture, plus diversity in gender and technical skills,” she said. “I believe I managed to achieve this, and I felt proud to see how the team became a beacon that others wanted to be part of.”

Now, Kelly’s role at Boeing has brought her back to St Mary’s. The College is part of the Aerospace Gateway to Industry Schools project, and regularly meets with partners including Boeing to advance its STEM opportunities for students.

“I have interests in both STEM and creative arts, and as a student at St Mary’s I enjoyed the opportunity to learn and express myself in both of these areas,” Kelly said. “I studied heavily in mathematics and physics, and was also involved in music based interests such as the choir and musicals. Having this balance was really important to me and having those varied outlets for self-expression is something I really enjoyed.”

“Life at school can have its challenges and while unappreciated at the time, working through these challenges and uncertainties built a resilience in me that prepared me for the real world,” she said. “St Mary’s taught me to hold true to myself and my values, and to see and value the diversity in others that when unlocked becomes the basis for world changing teams.”

“I want to keep searching for new problems to solve and make a difference at some level. At the moment that looks like working on challenging aviation problems, and building and leading teams whose culture is one I can be proud of,” she said.

For young women looking to purse a career in aviation, Kelly says to go for it!

“There are many career options in aviation – from technical to flying, airports to offices – all of them exciting and rewarding. Sometimes it takes a little while to find out what it is that you enjoy and what ignites that passion, and that is ok,” she said. “The aviation industry is changing and gender diversity improving. There are still challenges to be overcome, but I would still suggest that working in aviation and helping shape our future is a great career path.”

Read more about St Mary’s College involvement in the Aerospace Gateway to Industry Schools project here.