Making peace with success

Bronwyn Venus

As a research and grants executive with a multi-million dollar track record, Bronwyn Venus knows a lot about bulls. The agricultural scientist has seen her fair share of cattle pens. But the tough conditions of the outback are nothing compared with the personal challenge she has faced coming to terms with her own success.

It was her involvement with WiT and the recognition of her peers that finally gave Bronwyn the confidence to acknowledge and build on her rapidly-growing list of achievements. It was a watershed moment when she was highly commended in the 2020 WiT Awards.

“It took me a long time to acknowledge I was good at something,” she said. “I have gained so much from being involved with WiT.”

Now established as the Head of Partnerships and Grants at Sugar Research Australia, Bronwyn recognises the significant contribution she is making to agricultural industries and is setting some high goals to achieve as part of her own advocacy efforts.

As a WiT Board member (2022-present), working to strengthen external relationships, she says her passion is to bring more rural, remote and regional women into STEM.

Speaking from personal experience, she knows not everyone gets a good start in life. Bronwyn had a tough start, juggling high school and helping to support the family with a job at the local country servo at the age of 13. Circumstances forced her to leave school before her grade 12 exams.

Determined to complete her education, she applied for a job as a bottle washer at CSIRO and worked her way through the laboratory ranks, studying after hours.

She made two trips to Bangladesh as an aid volunteer digging latrines, while building her career from laboratory management and animal science field research to industry academic liaison at the executive level.

“It’s important to me that women know that they are not locked into one career, and they can be anything they want to be,” she said.

“I want them to find their tribe and know that it’s not necessarily where they expect it to be. They will have many tribes in their life. They are not defined by the start they got in life.”

At the University of Queensland, Bronwyn won the 2015 Professional Staff Achievement Award, the 2018 Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) Leadership Award and the inaugural
2019 Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Award for Excellence.

At QAAFI, she built her portfolio to more than $300 million in grants, success Bronwyn attributes partly to just knowing how to listen to people.

“Scientists can be very good at identifying problems that they think need solving, but not very good at asking what the problems are that need to be solved,” she says. “I don’t tell – I ask. I say what are your pain points and how can I help you?”

Bronwyn’s interview is one of the inspiring stories featured on the Real Women, Unreal Stories: celebrating 25 years of Women in Technology podcast episode. Listen online on Soundcloud.