Women in Innovation: Kate Burke

"The only way to make something of true value is to imbue it with personality, give it integrity and always keep one eye on crazy possibility."

We interview women in our community about innovation and what drives them to make a difference in their industries. This week we spoke to Kate Burke, Head of Research and Design at 12thLevel.

What are you working on?

I head up the Research and Design team at 12thLevel, an Australian tech company with offices in Canberra and Melbourne. We solve complicated problems for our clients by getting across their user needs and co-designing software (and other solutions) with them. At the moment we do a lot of work with Defencean interesting change for me, having come out of the startup sector (with a background in science communication and social research) and having worked on a range of apps and service design projects.

Why is innovation important to you?

For me, innovation is about making things easier and more enjoyable for everyone involved. Time and effort are so valuable. If I can help lift the load for clients, for users, for my colleagues, I’ll do it without question.

It’s also about creativitygetting into the space where you can see a wider range of possibilities, scoping them and finding the solutions that are really going to work. It needs to be playful, fun and explorative.

I also have a career as a musician and have done a lot of performing, composing and music production. I try to bring a similarly creative attitude to Research and DesignI reckon the only way to make something of true value is to imbue it with personality, give it integrity and always keep one eye on crazy possibility.

What drives you to make a difference?

Two things. Firstly, I love seeing how people come alive in a collaborative creative space. We don’t play enough generally, and definitely not enough in our work lives. Showing people that playing with ideas is actually an important part of design, a total buzz, and it can really help liven up the workplace. Plus, I love getting to do this in the most unlikely circumstances!

Also, to be honest, I can’t stand inefficiency. Most of it is simply not ok. It’s always worth asking whether there’s a better way.

Do you have any advice for getting more women into the innovation ecosystem?

It’s a fabulous idea! There are so many fabulous women making a difference in innovation and business. You don’t have to look far to find truly excellent women doing truly amazing thingsfind them, learn from them and go from there. The Canberra Innovation Network is a great example of an innovation hub that places women front and centre.

I’m stoked to say that the Research and Design team at 12thLevel is almost entirely made up of women, and it’s a brilliant environment to work in. If you’re wanting to carve out a career in innovation, come and talk to us!

What are you proud of right now?

We have recently worked with The Global Foundation, an organisation that runs national and international dialogues on issues such as global investment, climate change, social justice and international relations. My team and I facilitated and analysed a Canberra Roundtable, hosted by the Governor-General and attended by leaders from Australia’s business and public sectors, and faith and First nations communities. The dialogue centred around Australia’s national strategy.

A major focus was how we can innovate toward a sustainable economy, while coping with climate change and the ongoing effects of the pandemic. It was a brilliant opportunity to apply our skills in Research and Design to help support visionary innovation at a national level.


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