A CEO in STEM on Why to Consider a Career in It and What She Looks for When Hiring


Just after her 31st birthday, Catherine Velisha was told by her dad that he was ready to retire from the family business Velisha Farms. So, at the age of 31, she bought the company from him. Fast-forward to today, and she’s the CEO of Velisha Farms, a multi-million dollar horticulture business in Victoria, and a proud woman in STEM.

“It hasn’t been a walk in the park, though — it’s been tough,” she says. “I’ve encountered my fair share of critics and setbacks, but I like to think I’ve got some great insights to help women just like me pave their way to success.”

Catherine Velisha

So, if you, too, are interested in a career in STEM, read on, because ahead, Velisha shares what exactly STEM is, why now is the time to consider a career in it and practical ways to get into it.

What Exactly Is STEM?

“STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, with the main aim of STEM being to incorporate these three different disciplines into everyday life,” explains Velisha.

“For example, at Velisha Farms, STEM applies to our practice of horticulture – a form of vegetable farming that uses various different elements of technology like maths and science to create crop production and food growth.

“According to last year’s national report on women and girls in STEM, women still made up less than one-quarter of the students studying STEM in 2019 — which is still such a low figure.”

Reasons to Consider a Career in STEM

“One reason to consider a career in STEM is that, in doing so, you quite literally get to be one of the people designing the future. For example, Velisha Farms has partnered with a variety of universities, working with their STEM subject matter experts.

“A current project being undertaken is with Victoria Uni — creating more sustainable packaging solutions for fresh produce, by actually using produce waste as the main component. Simply put, STEM gives young women (and men) the opportunity to find their own niche and design the future they want to work and live in.

“Another reason to consider a career in STEM is the opportunity to forge your own brand! This can elevate your earning potential, an important factor – especially for women – who are looking to invest in themselves and secure financial independence at a younger age. We all know those with a background in tech, science and medicine are in high demand.

“As the CEO of a horticulture business, when I’m hiring, I’m really looking for innovative thinkers — those who will bring something new to the equation. If you’ve chosen a career in STEM, you meet influential minds and decision-makers, you become a problem solver.”

Ways to Get Into STEM

“There’s no hard and fast rule for getting into a career in STEM – it’s not a one size fits all approach. STEM encompasses such a broad number of courses and disciplines, so each area will require a different set of skills.

“For example, having a career in nursing is going to look very different to a career in horticulture and farming, but both are in the field of STEM. So, it always helps to be proactive and do your research.”

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