Marita Cheng is the recipient of the 2018 Tasmania Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership. She was also the 2012 Young Australian of the Year and is a technology entrepreneur and women in technology advocate.
Marita Cheng is the founder and CEO of aubot (formerly 2Mar Robotics), which makes a telepresence robot, Teleport, for kids with cancer in hospital to attend school, people with a disability to attend work and to monitor and socialise with elderly people. As well as telepresence robots, aubot does research and development in robotic arms, virtual reality and autonomous mapping and navigation.
Aubot has been recognised on a global scale through the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia in 2016, and through being called “the coolest girl at CES 2014” by VentureBeat magazine. Marita has presented about Teleport at the M.A.P. International CEO Conference in the Philippines in 2016, MIT Technology Review EmTech Singapore in
2015, and the 2014 World Entrepreneurship Forum in Lyon France.
While studying at Singularity University’s flagship 10-week program, the Graduate Studies Program, located at NASA Ames and on a full scholarship funded by Google, Marita cofounded Aipoly with Alberto Rizzoli. Profiled in TechCrunch within a week of the first prototype being made, Aipoly allows blind people to recognise objects using computer vision and has been downloaded 500,000 times in 23 languages since its launch at CES 2016.
Marita was named the 2012 Young Australian of the Year for demonstrating vision and leadership well beyond her years as the Founder and Executive Director of Robogals Global. Noticing the low number of girls in her engineering classes at the University of Melbourne, Marita rounded up her fellow engineering peers and they went to schools to teach girls robotics, as a way to encourage girls into engineering. While on academic exchange at Imperial College London, Marita expanded the group to London and through innovation and sheer will, Marita then expanded Robogals throughout Australia, the UK, the USA and Japan. The group runs robotics workshops, career talks and various other community activities to introduce young women to engineering.
Robogals has now taught 70,000 girls from 11 countries our robotics workshops across 32 chapters. Robogals has been internationally recognised though the Global Engineering Deans Council Diversity in Engineering Award (2014), Grace Hopper Celebration’s Anita Borg Change Agent Award (2011), and the International Youth Foundation’s YouthActionNet Fellowship (2011).
Marita regularly travels around Australia presenting her work including appearing on Q&A on ABC beside two Nobel Laureates and the Chief Scientist of Australia (TV audience 600,000), and alongside Ashton Kutcher at Lenovo’s #TechMyWay (online audience 35,000). As well, she has presented overseas at Foxconn’s H.Spectrum by Yonglin Healthcare Startup Conference in Taiwan (2016), the 37th Kumon Japan Instructors Conference in Japan (2016), the World Engineering Education Forum in Dubai (2014), and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts’ World Conference in Hong Kong (2014).
Marita was born in Cairns, Queensland, Australia. She grew up in housing commission with her brother and single-parent mother, who worked as a hotel room cleaner. She graduated from high school in 2006 in the top 0.2% of the nation, and that year was awarded Cairns Young Citizen of the Year for her volunteering and extra-curricula efforts, which included winning awards for mathematics, Japanese and piano. Marita speaks English, Cantonese and Japanese.
Marita has a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics) / Bachelor of Computer Science from the University of Melbourne. She serves on the boards of Robogals Global, the Foundation for Young Australians, and RMIT’s New Enterprise Investment Fund, where she helps decide on startup investments, the Victorian State Innovation
Expert Panel, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative’s Tech Advisory Board.
Michelle Finneran Dennedy is Vice President and Chief Privacy Officer at Cisco, where she works to raise awareness and create tools that promote privacy, quality, respect, trust, and asset-level possibilities for data. She is a unique visionary in the field of privacy and the IT industry, bringing together multifaceted approaches that provide sincere privacy protections and drive business value.
Throughout her career, Dennedy has led security and privacy initiatives, ranging from regulatory compliance, privacy engineering, advocacy and education efforts, and litigation at companies including Cisco, and previously McAfee/Intel Security, Oracle, and Sun Microsystems. She founded The iDennedy Project, which seeks to change how people think about information and data, and co-authored The Privacy Engineer’s Manifesto: Getting from Policy to Code to QA to Value. She hosts a podcast, Privacy Sigma Riders, which focuses on cybersecurity, trust, and data privacy issues.
Dennedy is a highly sought-after public speaker who sits on the boards of the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of Northern California. She has been honored with many industry awards including California’s Most Powerful and Influential Women, by the National Diversity Council; the IAPP Vanguard Award; Woman of Influence for Security and Privacy, from the Executive Women’s Forum (EWF) and CSO Magazine; Woman of the Year in Technology and Transformation, by the Stevie American Business Awards, and most recently, World Women Awards Silver Winner for Female Executive of the Year for her leadership in optimising Cisco’s privacy maturity.
Dennedy has a Doctorate of Law degree from Fordham University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Clinical, Counseling and Applied Psychology and Economics from The Ohio State University.
Tara is responsible for the overall strategic direction and leadership of the Cisco Australia and New Zealand Partner Organisation which also includes distribution and Cisco’s SMB business. She leads a dedicated team that drives Cisco strategy and growth initiatives with the channel and enabling through local, regional and global programs.
She has a twenty-year plus track record in the IT and Communications industry in the UK and Australia. A ten-year veteran of Cisco, Tara has cultivated her extensive sales and management experience through a number of leadership roles including Director of Services Sales, Director of Enterprise Sales, regional sales management, Service Provider account management and channel partner management.
Prior to joining Cisco, Tara was at Macquarie Telecom for 2.5 years and 9 years with Hewlett-Packard in the United Kingdom in a variety of sales and leadership roles.
Tara holds a BA (Hons) Marketing & Business and Post Graduate DipM in Marketing from the University of Huddersfield in the United Kingdom.
Tara has a keen focus on partners, customers, leadership & people. She is the Executive sponsor of Cisco Connected Women in Australia and is passionate about driving change in all areas of diversity.
Tara has a four year old son Samuel which keeps her extremely busy and is currently passionate about coffee, wine and getting a good nights sleep!