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Anna Colina
May 5, 2021

What is your story?

“Originally, I grew up in China but eventually, my parents decided to relocate to Australia. I remember it all happened really quickly and I came to really enjoy the move and the immense opportunities it created for our family. Today, I am proud to call Australia my home and absolutely think of myself as an Australian in terms of my ethics, morals, values, and outlook towards life.

I taught myself programming with QBasic when I was about 12 or 13, right around the time I was starting to learn English. Early in my life, I was always driven by a natural curiosity and desire to understand complex systems such as the inner workings of the universe and the conditions for restoring ecological balance to areas of the Earth that have been degraded. I wanted to answer big questions about the universe and I still feel deeply inspired by this ongoing mission today in my professional career.

I studied a double Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering and Physics at the University of Sydney between 2004 and 2012. I had always planned to do a PhD afterwards, and at the time, I was very interested in going to Oxford, though I was aware it would be a challenging journey. Fortunately, one of my professors at the University of Sydney gave me some inspiration to apply to Oxford, I was accepted and would go on to start my coursework in 2012. Looking back, I am really grateful because I think that this single conversation helped to open many doors and opportunities

I joined a program to earn a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Healthcare Innovations and Biomedical Engineering. I funded myself through Oxford partially by working as a freelance iPhone app developer. I still do that and have developed a lot of programming experience. I enjoyed my PhD studies because they allowed me to put together different aspects of my previous education and professional experiences while preparing me for many exciting opportunities in my career.”

How did you first get involved with Dendra Systems?

“I first met Susan, the CEO and co-founder of Dendra Systems, while studying at Oxford during a Healthcare Innovations program, where we were working in the same lab facility. One day Susan approached me with this amazing opportunity to rethink how we could use technology to revolutionise the way we restore ecosystems and the idea of using UAVs to solve complex ecological problems.

During my first projects with Dendra Systems, I specialised in drone technology and payload systems. Eventually, I started developing MyDendra, our digital platform to provide ecosystem insights,  focusing more on data and software engineering as opposed to hardware engineering, and I became Dendra’s Chief Architect. This work has allowed me to develop my knowledge in many interesting new ways while working towards solving problems that lead to real-world changes and more positive outcomes for our planet.”

Why Dendra Systems?

“I enjoy working with very hard-working, talented, passionate and motivated teams. I really like Dendra’s culture, where we are all pulling our weight and working towards shared goals, each of us giving our very best. I like to do things that are interesting but also meaningful. Success for Dendra correlates with success for the environment, and that means something. I am drawn to the idea of making the world a better place in a purposeful way. It means a lot to work on projects that are truly working towards helping restore the balance of our natural world.

The work is super interesting, and the role that I do is very technical, challenging, and unique, making it deeply fulfilling. I feel that this role allows me to bring the best of my knowledge whilst constantly learning and developing new ideas and skills. The mission, culture, and values align perfectly with my ambitions.”

What does your day to day look like?

“I do a lot of development, conduct data analysis, work on the data processing pipeline and identify new opportunities to optimize our resources to match the unique local conditions and needs of the actual locations and projects our teams work on. We are developing methodologies to scale our success to match the needs of our target markets and customers.

Managerial tasks take up a good balance of my time, conducting different reviews and assessments of my team’s work and ensuring that we always execute and maintain high-quality standards across all our projects. I do a lot of onboarding, teaching, and educating our colleagues about making the most out of the proprietary resources, tools, and platforms that we utilize.

My work with Dendra Systems has been highly adaptable, and I really enjoy that. I am the type of professional that is motivated to work towards solving very challenging problems. I love that my work is so diverse and that I get involved with so many different factors of our success as an organization.”

Favourite part of your job?

“It is very satisfying to work towards solving complex challenges, working with data and programming to design and orchestrate the solutions we need to succeed.”

Valuable lessons learned throughout the journey?

“- Bet on yourself: be confident in your abilities to solve problems, even if it isn’t something you have done before.

– Plan for failure, aim for success: always aim to produce the best possible solution but also have plans on what to do if the solution falls short. This ensures resilience in the face of unexpected challenges, especially when interacting with the real world.

– Don’t lower your standards: the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. Strive for excellence at all times, especially when under pressure – it will pay dividends.”

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?

“There were many topics that I had no exposure to before, e.g. UAVs and GIS, that I had to quickly gain expertise on so I can solve the technical challenges that we encountered. For example, in the beginning, we were using open source tools for our GIS processing, but very quickly, we ran into limitations with regards to data size and had to create our own solutions.”

What did you want to be when you grew up?

“A Physicist. I think the universe is fascinating, and I am still drawn to topics like astronomy and astrophysics. Understanding how the universe works speaks very highly to my desire to understand and help improve our world and environment.”

What are your outside interests?

“Astrophotography, reading, table tennis, rock climbing, interactive gaming and visiting places with a lot of history and being able to stand in the same spot as our ancestors and reflect on the trajectory of human development over the centuries.”

Give me one word that describes you the best.

“Curious”

What is your superpower?

“If I could have any power, then I would like to be able to give everyone perfect health and balance. If we are talking about what I am good at, I have an extensive knowledge background and can apply and synthesize multidisciplinary solutions to new problems.”