Shane back on track after 10-year detour 

CHANGE: One-time software engineer and now PhD candidate Shane Penny works on his giant clam research.

Shane Penny’s second career has taken him from software engineering to researching giant clams in remote regions of the Northern Territory.

After studying and working in another field for 10 years, Shane made the decision to return to university to do what he was really interested in.

“I studied mathematical and computer science straight out of school,” he said.

“I really wanted to study zoology but had a lot of friends who were unemployed biologists, so continued down the computer science stream that I knew had a job and money at the end of it.”

Shane ran a successful software engineering company for five years before he decided that working in an office cubical for up to 16 hours a day was not how he wanted to spend his life.

“It came down to quality of life,” he said. “I was getting big pay packets, but wasn’t really happy,” he said. “I really wanted to work outdoors and go back and study what I really enjoyed.”

Shane is now half way through his PhD with Charles Darwin University (CDU).

“It was when I completed my Bachelor of Marine Biology at Flinders University in 2004 that I made the final mental and physical break from my previous career,” he said.

“Changing careers is challenging because you start on the back foot, but once I secured a job in Darwin, I was quickly exposed to a range of projects that led to an opportunity to study a PhD on giant clams with CDU.”

Shane said that while the transition has not been easy, looking back it has all been worthwhile.

“My new career ticks all the boxes,” he said. “The work is interesting and more meaningful to me.

“One of the highlights of working and studying in the Territory has been the opportunity to travel to East Timor and remote Indigenous communities. By educating people on the need to conserve marine resources and training them to assist with monitoring coral reefs you feel like you are making a real difference.

“Research on giant clams has been neglected in the NT, with only a dozen museum records for the NT and as yet undocumented traditional knowledge. What really got me interested was when we discovered the clams are disappearing from some reefs in the NT,” Shane said.