Meet Emma, Senior Manager Crop Protection
Date: 16 Oct 2020
Emma Colson, where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up on a sheep and cattle property in South Wangaratta in Victoria (a five-minute drive from Glenrowan – Ned Kelly’s last stand). After school I headed to the big smoke where I undertook an agricultural science degree at the University of Melbourne. Then I moved north to the University of Sydney to do a PhD and postdoc. Continuing north, I arrived in Toowoomba in the late ’90s to start work as a plant pathologist and have been here ever since.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I knew I always wanted to work in agriculture. A close family friend, Richard (Dick) Cotton, told me an ag science degree could open up a wide world of career possibilities. He was the founder of the Murdoch Institute and Human Variome Project and had started in ag science before moving into human genetics.
Current description of job with GRDC?
My title is Senior Manager Crop Protection. I oversee the national crop protection portfolio of investments within GRDC with a great team of discipline managers and regional crop protection managers.
What has been your career path/journey to this role?
You could almost say I’ve been working towards this role my whole career. Starting with a degree in ag science, followed by a PhD and a postdoc in plant pathology. My first job after all that study was as a winter cereal plant pathologist with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries (DPI). I then spent 13 years overseeing Queensland’s broadacre crop protection research, development and extension (RD&E) unit with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) before joining GRDC in Dec 2018.
What was the worst job you’ve ever done, why was it terrible, and more importantly what did you learn from the experience?
I worked as a kitchenhand for many years while doing my undergrad degree. One night I was carrying about a dozen soup cups stacked up and they slipped and went flying, the result was deathly silence from the dining room, leftover soup all over me and cut fingers as I hurriedly tried to clean up. At the time I was mortified, but I think the learning I took away from it was not to try to juggle too many things at once because it can end badly!
What do you see as the key/s to being successful in your current position with GRDC?
- Being part of a great team
- Attention to detail
- Good communication
Who do you admire in the grains industry and why?
Growers – they are resilient, innovative and work so hard to support themselves, their families and Australia.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Follow your passion. If you’re doing what you love every day, then it doesn’t feel like work!
What advice would you give a graduate/student who is keen to join the grains industry?
I highly recommend a career in the grains industry. Find yourself a good mentor who has been in the industry for a while and get them to guide you and introduce you to their grains industry network.
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