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Robert Mayall, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

Robert initially wanted to be an engineer because he loved building Lego and thought that professional engineers would get to do that on a larger scale. At school Robert loved all of the science subjects as he wanted to understand more about what made everything work. He has now managed to combine his skills and passions building his own career as a founder of a start-up, a dynamic environment in which he thrives.

Age: 28

Job title: Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

Company employed by: FREDsense Technologies

When you were a child, what did you dream you’d be when you grew up?
I initially wanted to be an engineer because I loved building Lego and I thought that professional engineers would get to do that on a larger scale.

What is the biggest impact your work will or could have in the future?
At FREDsense we're creating a platform to interface biology with electronics, with water quality sensors as our first product line. Our sensors allow cities to closely monitor their water for contamination, but our technology is starting to be applied much broader than that. We're excited to enable a new field in the engineering of biology and the integration with traditional engineering disciplines!

What excites you most about STEM?
Being able to combine different technologies and approaches to create something new that can solve a real-world problem.

What do you love about your job? What would you change?
As a founder of a start-up, my job changes all the time. I love that I am in such a dynamic environment where I can clearly see the impact of my work, both within the company and through discussions with our customers and partners.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?
I get the most satisfaction from my job when I see something that I designed go through all of the testing phases and get into the hands of our first clients. There's something magical about watching someone take your innovation and use it to solve problems.

What does a typical day at work involve?
There are no typical days in a start-up company. There have been weeks where I will spend the first part talking to customers, the next building products, and the third writing reports. It's a wild ride and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

What’s the most unexpected thing about your job?
The most unexpected part of my work was learning to manage people.

Did you have any role models when you were younger? What inspired you to do the job you’re doing now?
I was really inspired by my dad, who is a civil engineer. I remember one day he brought home some blueprints for a project he was working on and he showed me how to measure distances with basic trigonometry. I was blown away with the fact that he could build something based on drawings, and I definitely tried to replicate it with my Lego projects after that.

Any influential toys during childhood?

Your favourite subjects at school?
I loved all of my science subjects, as I wanted to understand more about what made everything work.

Qualifications (school/college/university):
Bachelor of Health Sciences (2013), PhD in Chemistry (2019).

Your reason for choosing this career?
In my Bachelor's program I got involved with a research project where we built a team of scientists and engineers to tackle a real-world problem (environmental contamination). I was immediately hooked on working with interdisciplinary teams, as the combination of our skills allowed us to make something far greater than what any of us could have done on our own.

Tell me about your career path to date?
After my Bachelor's degree, myself and my co-founders realised that we didn't want the work that we had started during school to stop, so we decided to start our own business to commercialise the technology. Within a year we realised that we didn't know enough to do it on our own, so I went back to school while working part-time on the company. After earning my PhD in 2019 I joined the company full-time and couldn't be happier!

If you could have any job what would it be? How does it differ from what you’re doing?
Nothing! I love the fast-paced nature of start-ups.

Your advice to a young person considering a career in STEM?
Don't let somebody else's definition of what a scientist or engineer should be define what you do. You can take the skills that you have and build your own path with them.