5 Minutes With... Dr Kirsten Wahlstrom MACS CP

28th July 2020


  • Dr Kirsten Wahlstrom is teaching and research academic at UniSA and has been an ACS member since April 2015.
  • She shares her perspective of being a woman working in tech and the exciting projects she's been working on.

1. What do you enjoy most about working in the tech industry? 

As an academic, I love the challenge of keeping up with new research findings every day. I’ve been an avid reader and writer since I was very young, so I genuinely thrive as an academic.  

One of the things I most appreciate about the tech industry at present is that it’s genuinely coming of age. This is reflected in things like ICT employers valuing interpersonal skills as much or more than technical skills and in the profession’s gaze on AI and ethics and on data bias. 

I also love meeting people and I’m genuinely privileged to play my small part in educating some extremely bright IT students at UniSA. 

2. What is the key piece of advice you’d give to your younger self? 

I would tell myself to have confidence. As a woman in IT, I am often the marginalised voice in meetings. True story: I once made a suggestion in a meeting and everyone disagreed; to my surprise, a moment later the same suggestion was made by a man and everyone agreed! This kind of marginalisation can be silencing, and young women need the confidence to call it out when it happens so that their ideas are heard. So, I would like to go back in time and give Younger Me a huge confidence boost! 

 3. Tech changes fast. How do you keep your tech skills up-to-date? 

This is not such a big problem for an academics. We’re frequently invited to teach new topics and this keeps up up-to-date. Attendance at academic conferences also keeps my focus on emerging technologies. And there’s a level of competency that, once you’ve reached it, you can be confident that your experience and knowledge will translate to a new technology without too steep a learning curve. 

 4. How has ACS membership supported your career journey in tech? 

 The ACS has provided me with some really exciting opportunities, including conversations with ICT professionals working in various fields. I’m the Vice-Chair of the ACS’s Ethics Committee and by virtue of that role, I’m seconded to the Profession Advisory Board. These commitments make it easy for me to build professional relationships and to see all the different aspects of the ACS and the value it contributes to the ICT sector. The professional relationships I’ve made through the ACS have also enabled me to expand my research contributions (at present I chair the organising committee of the 2020 conference of the Australian Institute of Computer Ethics). 

5. Why did you decide to become ACS certified? 

Haha! In my case it was very long overdue and I’m so glad I finally crossed it off my list! I’m really glad I took this step at last because it makes my commitment to the profession more visible to others. My next task will be applying to become a fellow of the ACS - I’m just a few points short but I hope to cross this off my list sometime over the next year or two. 

 6. What are you working on at the moment? 

 At present the most exciting part of my work is chairing the organising committee for the 2020 conference of the Australian Institute of Computer Ethics. I published my first ever paper in this conference and I’m delighted to be organising it for 2020, even though it will have to be online. We’re accepting short papers in a broad range of topics areas, so if anyone wants to quickly put a paper together, we are willing to read and consider it.

Anyone who’s interested should reach out to me via my UniSA email address: Kirsten.wahlstrom@unisa.edu.au. I’ll be delighted to answer any questions. 


"5 Minutes With..." is a series of articles showcasing exceptional ACS Members and their amazing, innovative, and game changing stories. Representing over 45,000 tech professionals across Australia, our Members work across industry, government, research, and education organisations and each edition highlights the role they are playing in making Australia a world leader in technology talent, fostering innovation, and creating new forms of value.