IWD 2023 interview: Peta Cox, ACS

By on 6 March, 2023

Peta Cox

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day 2023 this week by highlighting some of the remarkable women who are helping to make Australia’s geospatial sector a world-leader.

In this interview we speak with Peta Cox, National Training and Development Manager for the Association of Consulting Surveyors National.

Please tell us about your current role and responsibilities.

My position was created to develop and deliver nationally recognised vocational qualifications across Australia to meet the skills shortage demands and fill gaps in education where TAFE could not provide delivery. I am responsible for the resource creation, management, industry consultation and delivery of Certificate IV in Surveying and Spatial Information Services and the Diploma of Surveying. This is through the Surveyors Academy, which works in partnership with RPS Energy RTO. We deliver a work-based program with holistic teacher-led theory training one day per week. All practical experience is collected on the job under a supervising surveyor.

How did you get into this field? What attracted you to it?

I fell into surveying a few years after completing a year of university and then having a baby. I wanted a career that wasn’t based behind a desk. I applied and got into landscaping and surveying at TAFE. Surveying was going to take two years full time, while landscaping was four years part time. I was a single parent, so I chose surveying.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

As a surveyor, I love the variety of every job, the places it takes you and being able to problem solve, plus the flexibility of working outdoors but also applying my creative side to the drafting and management side of the profession. Every day is different.

As a teacher/facilitator, I love imparting information and knowledge to the people who are learning and seeing them applying it to their daily tasks. I love seeing that ‘lightbulb’ moment, when everything falls into place and the student can see how the theory meets the practical. I love being there to support their journey and watch them grow and learn to become surveyors in their own right. And building relationships that last — I still have contact with a lot of my former students who own their own businesses, run surveying sections or are now registered. I’m so proud of them. To be someone they feel they can ask guidance from after 10 years is pretty special.

Are there any personal qualities or attributes that are helpful to have in this field?

It can vary depending on the area you wish to work in. A love for the outdoors, interest in maths and science, a love for technology and computer games, an interest in geography and history, love for the water (hydrographic surveying could be for you). We have so many niche areas; it’s not just a one-fit career. The possibilities are endless and they can take you across the world — you don’t have to just be good at maths anymore.

What makes you most proud about your role and achievements?

I am proud of many parts of my career, but I would have to say that I have had a great career spanning 28 years so far, where I have nurtured my family (three boys), experienced so many different types of surveying, been a part of the educational side of teaching and now being in a position to mentor others. Plus making history by starting the first-ever surveying program to deliver vocational qualifications outside of TAFE in a work-based capacity to suit the ever-changing needs of our industry and profession across Australia. I recently won an award for ‘Exceptional Educator’ with Empowered Women in Trades (EWIT), a not-for-profit group that supports, encourages and provides assistance to females wishing to enter non-traditional or male-dominated fields of work.

As a woman, have you had many struggles during your career? Conversely, have you had a lot of support?

I’ve been in the industry for a long time. I have been lucky to surround myself with supportive males throughout my career. That doesn’t mean my path has been easy. But I can say that I have been able to hold my own on a job site when necessary. There have been times throughout my career where I haven’t been taken seriously or looked over for positions due to being female. The ‘boys club’ was strong for a very long time in both industry and education. Throughout my career, I have only worked alongside a handful of women. Support is better now than when I was young.

We need to get more women into the geospatial sector. Do you have any ideas?

Females bring a different perspective to our profession. Diversity among teams is what makes a company better. The power of social media is a great thing — I encourage all females to use it, show the world what you are doing, what you are working on and the great things you can achieve in our profession. Use your strengths, find what you are best at and implement that into a way of encouraging young females into our profession. There are so many avenues you can take. We must get into schools. ACS has a taskforce called Surveying Careers — they are doing great things to get surveying out into schools.

What would you say to young women who are considering a career in geospatial?

Surveying is a great career; the geospatial sector is moving forwards in leaps and bounds. It can take you places you never thought you could go. You will learn so many great things, play with awesome technology and meet amazing people. Don’t think it’s just about bashing in pegs or cutting lines through the bush, although you can do that if you like.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

My door is always open. I am happy to speak to anyone who would like to know more about surveying and our geospatial world. I would love to see more females in our industry and profession, but I am happy to speak to anyone who is interested in a career in surveying, and I will help guide them in the direction that suits them. If you want to hear some stories on surveying, you can listen to my podcast, Defining Boundaries, where surveyors tell the stories of their careers in surveying and the reasons they got into it in the first place.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to give something a go; don’t be afraid to get outside of your comfort zone — don’t be afraid to take the leap, as this is where you may fly!

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