Compass Ambassador, Jess Melbourne-Thomas

Who are you?
I’m Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas and I work as a research scientist at the Australian Antarctic Division and the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre.
Which region are you representing?
Southern Tasmania – and in particular the Hobart marine and Antarctic research community.
Tell us a little about yourself. What is an 'interesting' fact or talent that you have?

I’m a Tassie girl, and I trained here as a marine biologist before working overseas in the UK, Indonesia, the Philippines and Mexico. I’m very happy to be pursuing a career back in my beautiful home state.
A few facts that may (or may not!) be of interest:

  • I’m a member of a community choir
  • I’m a SCUBA instructor
  • I was a Rhodes Scholar for Tasmania in 2003
  • I’m a fan of single malt whisky

What inspired you to become a Compass Ambassador?
I was so inspired by the Compass vision, and the power of the group of women that I graduated with. I want to continue to contribute to that wonderful momentum.
What do you do to support other women in your region?
Other women in my field – and more broadly – support me as much as I support them. I think a lot of this support just happens through having open conversations, and of course taking the time to talk and to listen. Mentoring is also important – both from women and from men. I am lucky to have some amazing mentors and role models for leadership, and I strive to be a mentor for other women at earlier stages of their careers.
In your opinion, what do the women in your region need right now?
We need opportunities for conversation – about the things we want, the things we require and the things we aspire to. And I think we need a common language for having these conversations.
What groups are you involved with?
Hobart is a pretty happening place in terms of groups and forums for women in marine and Antarctic science to meet up and to share stories, experiences and advice. CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research has a really active Womens’ Forum; the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies host a network of Women in Marine Science; and some colleagues and I recently initiated an international network of Women in Polar Science (WiPS) – we had 300 responses from around the world in just a few days!
What would be your advice to someone who is thinking of registering for the Compass program?
Go for it. And practice articulating what you want to get out of the program – for me, this was much harder than I expected. But it was a really valuable thing to try to do (and it might change as you go along!).
What were your top three moments during the program, and what did you learn?
I’m not sure the course was about moments for me. It was about growth, confidence, sharing and thinking. All of these processes happened throughout the course, and are continuing to happen.
In terms of learning outcomes, I learnt that my voice does matter. And I thoroughly enjoyed being supported, encouraged and challenged by my Compass cohort, my Triad, and the amazing Compass Team.
What is a quality you admire in other women?
Passion for what they do. I admire this in men too. But I think women have a particular gift for articulating their passions and inspiring others.
I also admire women who don’t over-think things… but I haven’t met many of them!
Describe your most powerful leadership moment as a woman...
I don’t have one of these yet – but I’m loving the journey.
What do you want to achieve in the next 12 months?
Learn to ride a motorbike.

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