• Skilling South Australia

Traineeship a turning point

NEW FRONTIERS: Kirsty Potter is kicking goals in the radio design team at Telstra. Picture Mike Burton/The Advertiser.

Courtesy of The Advertiser.

Pushing away barriers and taking a leap worked out for Kirsty Potter, who was not able to complete Year 12 with her peers, reports Martina Simos.

It was only three years ago that Kirsty Potter, 27, began a traineeship that landed her a job with Telstra. Now she is part of their radio network design team.

Potter was unable to graduate from high school because of a family situation that required her to become a carer for her mum and two siblings. She then worked in retail for several years, and tried studying at university before leaving after six months. She moved on to studying graphic design at TAFE SA but decided to abandon the idea of moving interstate in order to take up work


“While I was at Spotlight I tried to study at university but, because my high school education was lacking, I failed university pretty much in the first six months,’’ she says. “I didn’t know what to do after that and decided I wanted to do graphic design. At the end of that, I realised to work in graphic design I would have to move to Sydney or Melbourne.’’

Potter then had to think about career options and began a traineeship in January 2016, employed by Programmed with a placement at telecommunications company Telstra. In the first year she completed a Certificate III in Telecommunications Technology, followed by a Certificate IV in Telecommunications Engineering Technology.

After completing the training, Potter, named Trainee of the Year at the 2018 South Australian Training Awards, was offered a full-time position by Telstra as a network design operative in the radio design team SA/NT. “What we do is point-to-point microwave radio which is primarily used for mobile black spots,’’ she says. “So for the mobile-based station that we can’t get a fibre to, we use a radio solution. It means we get indigenous communities out in the Northern Territory mobile data and connection to the customer access network.’’

Potter says working in mobile data and connection has opened her eyes to the difficulties faced by remote communities in South Australia and the Northern Territory, especially if they are out of range.

“I didn’t realise how isolated some of the communities are out there,’’ she says. “I was lucky enough in the middle of this year to go out to the Northern Territory to meet business owners, community members and land owners.

“You realise just how isolated they are and, if they didn’t have access to the network, a lot of the children out there especially don’t have access to education.

“It’s not a simple task running up the grocery store to get groceries and, if you forget something, you’re very likely not to be in mobile coverage to call home and double check.’’

When she left school more than 10 years ago, Potter never imagined she would be in this role, studying and working in the telecommunications industry. Next year, she hopes to continue studying.

“I found that I‘d created a barrier within myself, because I hadn’t graduated high school that I wasn’t at that level of intelligence like all of my classmates at the time who did graduate,’’ she says. “I guess wanting to get over that barrier myself – that piece of paper really didn’t measure up to the level of intelligence I actually have.’’

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