IT Education opening doors

  • mobile competition

It’s a male dominated industry with a reputation as the domain of the geek, but that isn’t stopping two young women from pursuing careers in computing.

Libby Jennings and Alicia Craig aren’t exactly sure where their studies will take them, but they know they will be using IT and technology when they get there. They say working in a team, helping people and creativity are career goals and IT is where to achieve them.

And the two young Unitec computing students want more young women to follow in their footsteps.

Libby, 17, and Alicia, 18, are both in the first year of a Bachelor of Computing, having won scholarships in the Mobile Programming for Girls app development competition run by Unitec’s Department of Computing last year.

The competition is aimed at increasing the number of girls and women entering the IT and computing sectors and will be held again in August, this time with support from IBM.

This year the two-day competition is open to girls in years 11-13, and will involve designing, developing and programming a mobile application using App Inventor, a simple programming tool that most find they can learn in a couple of hours.

The top three will win three year’s tuition fees, $8650 course costs and a laptop.

Alicia, originally of Palmerston North, says girls thinking about an IT pathway should take the leap and enter the competition, even just for the experience.

“I love computer science and I entered because I wanted the connections with industry people, because that’s what gets you into the industry. Creating a network is really important and it’s happening now,” she says.

“Take that leap of faith, all it takes is one email that could lead you to Google. If you don’t take a chance it definitely won’t happen and the worst that can happen is someone will say no.”

For Libby the degree will help her achieve her career goals. She wants to work with teams and on projects that help people and says computing offers that opportunity.

“I would like to work with people, where I’m communicating with a lot of people and have a good team. I’m not too sure, but I think I want to be a programmer or a systems analyst working.

“I’d like to work with both customers and programmers. I like with the apps that you could change the world - that’s the dream - and you can help people but it doesn’t have to be limited to making apps, it could be software development. I still don’t know exactly what I want to do but I’m getting there.”

Unitec senior computing lecturer Mahsa Mohaghegh is passionate about improving the gender balance in computing and runs several initiatives towards that goal, including the Auckland branch of SheSharp which aims to link women already in the field. She says there are many misconceptions about what a career in computing can be.

“Computer science can lead you in all sorts of directions and there are huge opportunities for girls.”