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Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

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Putting a face to the future of robotics – Nicci Rossouw, CEO of Exaptec

Nicci Rossouw and robot

Nicci Rossouw is CEO of Exaptec, the company she founded in 2015 that specialises in robotics automation solution design and delivery using a ‘Robotics as a Service’ model. Nicci is a specialist in client engagement as well as a thought leader in the application of robotics technology. She also hosts a podcast called Let’s Talk Robotics.

Nicci Rossouw - Exaptec
Nicci Rossouw








“With the COVID-19 epidemic, robots like the temi and the Beam have proved invaluable in keeping people in touch with each other.”

An unexpected journey

Prior to Exaptec, I was the business manager (as well as one of the original co-founders) for seven years at Tabar, an agile consultancy business that’s still running in Melbourne. Before that, I was in sales and marketing, and I also worked in project management, which has come in very handy.

Becoming the CEO of Exaptec was quite an unexpected journey. Part of my responsibilities at Tabar was to organise and host one-day conferences about “Workplace Happiness”. At one of these events, we were asked what sort of teleconferencing was available and that’s when my late husband Anton and I investigated and found the Double robot.

We bought one for the conference and it was a huge success, we bought another 15, which were sold very quickly. Anton announced to me on the 11th February 2015 that he had registered Exaptec and it was now my company. For someone with no technical background, it was a bit of a rude shock, to say the least.

Never a dull day…

My role at Exatpec is managing daily operations such as enquiries and getting orders out to customers. Of course, crucial is keeping an eye on cash flow and stock levels! I get invited to a lot of panels and talks, so there is a bit of preparation involved in that.

I do all the marketing myself so I never have a dull day, there is always work to do! We are lean organisation with three people, so typically it’s all hands on deck. We had a very successful internship program at Exaptec that resulted in five of our interns securing full time positions after a three-month internship with us. During these unusual times, my focus is on my own and my staff’s holistic wellbeing, Currently we are in a six-week lockdown in Melbourne.

Introducing ‘Robotics as a Service’

Part of Exaptec’s business capabilities is renting our robots (robotics as a service) for events such as weddings, conferences and seminars, to mention but a few! Accompanying my robots, I have had the pleasure of being invited to really nice events!

One that stands out was the 10th anniversary of a software company. Sanbot, one of our social robots, was invited to be part of the festivities! She is a very social little robot that loves to dance. It was actually quite interesting to see how quickly people bonded to her over a two-hour period. One of the guests got a little rough with her and people quickly stepped in to “protect” her!

How increased adoption of robotics help us during COVID-19

With the COVID-19 epidemic, robots like the temi and the Beam have proved invaluable in keeping people in touch with each other. A huge advantage is doctors being able to speak to patients without layers of PPE to assist with diagnosing, discussing conditions and offering comfort to patients.

There are a lot of hospitals now using temi to see patients and discuss symptoms without having to go in the room. Robots being able to assist in monitoring body temperature, being able to dispense hand sanitisers, as well as delivering food to patients have played a major part in keeping humans safe during the epidemic.

Nicci Rossouw and robotIn places such as hospitals and airports, robots are being used to sterilise huge areas at a fraction of the time it would take humans to do so. In Singapore, robots were used to convey information to citizens to keep their distance and to regularly wash their hands. Boring work for humans but robots can do this the whole day.

The rise and rise of robotics

I think the adoption rate of robots has increased hugely since COVID-19, and industries will continue to adopt and invest in robotic solutions. Living in Australia and not being able to source some crucial products during COVID has highlighted our dependence on countries which leaves us in a vulnerable position. We have been able to produce things like face masks at a very quick pace, showing that we are capable of keeping a lot of manufacture in Australia.

Ensuring girls aren’t put off pursuing STEM careers

Last month, the Australian Academy of Science published a report showing the COVID-19 pandemic would disproportionately affect women in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) disciplines. Women are less likely to enrol in science and maths degrees than men. In Australia, only 35% of STEM university degrees are awarded to women. This figure has been stable over the past five years.

There are several reports available on this topic and some suggest teachers play a pivotal role at school level. Choosing a career in the STEM field opens up a lot of career paths and the salaries are significantly higher than in the humanities field. I think that it is very important that career advisors and teachers are up to date with all the different career paths that can be pursued in the STEM field, the salaries, examples of companies where there are programmes to encourage women to work with benefits such as prolonged maternity leave if you start a family, flexible hours when returning back to work, some companies even have childminding centres at work.  Combined, all these benefits make it an attractive proposition for women to consider working in fields typically dominated by men.

Coming up next for Exaptec

Just before COVID, we onboarded a wonderful new robot QTrobot, that specialises in helping children with autism to learn. I’m very much looking forward to showing this fantastic robot at conferences and trade shows when they are permitted again. I also have a couple of other robots that I’m looking to add to the family in the next few months. I’m looking forward to a vaccine but also very excited and amazed at how quickly robots have been adopted in this time, where prior to that, there was a bit of resistance to using robots. That excites me for the future!

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