Choose your ‘X’ factor
Combine a computer science course with your passion and invent your dream job.
By Ben Skuse
Used by millions of people around the world, Google+, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Facebook and Vine are all made possible by inventive coding. In less than a decade, social media has transformed the way we interact. So what will computer science make possible in another 10 years? And how could you be part of it? By combining a computer science course with your unique ideas, anything is possible!
“The world is just starting to wake up to a technology revolution,” says Peter Argent, director of Coder Factory – a Sydney-based tech education business. “Young people need to think about pursuing careers that will still be around in 10 years.”
Pinterest lead engineer Tracy Chou agrees: “More and more people understand the vital role computer science plays, and are compelled to take part.”
A computer science course can lead to careers and experiences beyond your wildest dreams. Once you know the principles that underpin all software, you can improve lives in thousands of different ways.
Peter Morton, who’s originally from Melbourne and now works at Google HQ in California, is a software engineer working on self-driving cars. “It’s very exciting working on such an ambitious project that will have a big impact on the world,” he says.
Whatever your passion, a computer science course opens doors. All you have to add is your ‘X’ factor – your passion. If you’re a fast thinker, you might pit your brain against cyber criminals, with the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), a government intelligence agency whose mission is to protect our secrets, while revealing others’. Once you graduate with a CS degree, you can apply to the ASD to become an information security professional, finding new ways to respond to sophisticated cyber threats.
Or, you might have a passion for music, like percussionist Alon Ilsar and drummer and computer programmer Mark Havryliv. They’ve designed a ‘gestural electronic drum kit’ called AirSticks, where people can trigger and manipulate sounds and visuals in a 3D virtual space to create an amazing live electronic music show.
If your passion is helping people, you’ll be inspired by the researchers using everyday technology to solve complex health problems. The work of Ewa Goldys and her team at Macquarie University is a great example. They’ve built a smartphone app to perform a medical test that can diagnose serious diseases such as cystic fibrosis and rheumatoid arthritis. It does this using the light and camera on a regular smartphone.
“Coding enables you to move from being a consumer of technology to a creator,” says Ewa.
People who have completed a computer science course are in great demand by employers. Information and communications technology is one of Australia’s fastest growing industries, with 461,000 people employed in this sector in 2013.
According to industry research, this rapid growth is set to continue, with permanent IT roles growing 14% since 2014. Salaries start at around $60,000 and can leap to $350,000 for management positions.
A computer science course teaches you how to think logically, solve problems and work in a team. It offers powerful ways for you to express yourself and pursue your passion – skills that can take you anywhere.
“I’m extremely lucky to have had the chance to travel, living in different cities and meeting different people,” says Peter from Google HQ.
The range of CS careers spans far beyond traditional programming roles. You could use digital tech to help improve the performance of athletes, plan greener homes and cities, build robot helpers, or create tools that make it possible for doctors to remotely assist patients in developing countries. The possibilities are endless!
“Information and communications technology skills are flexible – you can use them across industries all over the world,” says Robyn Elliott, chief information officer at Fairfax Media. She’s also a coordinator of a volunteer community called Random Hacks of Kindness who are “hacking for humanity”.
“There’s a huge job satisfaction,” Robyn says. “It comes from creating a solution that impacts lots of people.”
“It’s exciting working on a project that will have a big impact on the world.”
Author: Ben Skuse
Ben Skuse is a UK-based former mathematician turned professional science writer, who has written for the Careers with STEM magazines for over 5 years. You can follow him on Twitter @BenSkuseSciComm.