As Strategic Innovation Lead at Aruma, Angela Meyer is on the forefront of two critical societal evolutions: transformative technological enablement for people with disabilities and increased leadership from women in technology.
Angela's organization, Aruma, is one of Australia's largest disability service providers. As part of a strategic vision to meet the needs of future customers, Aruma has committed to a portfolio of technological innovation projects designed to “challenge the very notion of what it means to have a disability,” she says.
Angela’s organization is piloting IPsoft’s Amelia to examine the role a cognitive agent can play in augmenting support staff capabilities. Angela observes that industries like healthcare, aged care, and disability services are challenged by a constant shortage of qualified staff who can provide individualized one-on-one support for patients and customers. Amelia serves Aruma and its customers by automating repetitive administrative tasks, allowing staff to provide more consistent, active support.
“Our mandate is really to be exploring spaces of critical strategic importance to the work of our organization, and we know that technology will play an important and growing role in the disability sector in the future,” Angela explains.
Angela has a master’s degree in Information Design and is a practitioner of human-centered design, which she has used to serve a variety of consulting and specialist roles in the design space for more than 20 years.
“As a designer, my main focus is always around the kind of human experience we are creating, and more broadly, how are we humanizing systems and practices to bring about the best outcomes for people?” she says.
Although Angela does not classify herself as a technologist, she said it became apparent early on that it would be difficult to be a leader in any industry without some technological fluency. She says she has seen a similar progression for support workers who’ve made the transition from paper and pen to working with Amelia.
“As we've done the experimentation with AI applications like Amelia, we've seen support workers who, at the beginning of the project, told us that they were not tech savvy. But now we have the same people engaging with the technology and feeling a sense of mastery. They are working with the technology in a way that they never thought they would be able to and that's really cool,” she says.
Women in STEM Fields
Angela believes that her experience, as well as those of support workers who have mastered AI tools, can provide an important roadmap for women looking to move into the STEM sector.
“Don’t feel like studying engineering and math is the only way to qualify for a STEM career,” she advises. “There are lots of STEM careers that utilize a range of hard and soft skills. Successful STEM teams require fully-rounded humans who can write, think, be creative and lead others well.”
She does acknowledge that women still experience many barriers in STEM careers. Women face challenges men don’t encounter that require perseverance, “but hopefully, being the only woman in a room full of men will soon be a thing of the past,” she says. “You shouldn’t underestimate the resilience that is required to work against entrenched cultural biases.”
It can seem like technology is a male domain, but technology doesn’t have a gender. It is, and should be, fully human. It should be designed and built by, and for, everyone.
Her advice to young women just starting out in STEM fields: “Find other women who inspire you and be deliberate about building your female professional network. Pay attention to the gender balance in your own network, and don’t be afraid to ask more senior women for help or mentoring.”