When it comes to choosing your study path, a good teacher can be a huge influence. University of Canterbury (UC) engineering student Isabella ‘Izzy’ Joe was introduced to the possibilities of creativity in tech by her high school digital technologies teacher.
“Being completely obsessed with the outdoors, I wanted to spend the rest of my life sharing that with other people,” she says.
“As much as I still love the outdoors, I was fortunate enough to have the most amazing digital technologies teacher that turned my life upside down.
“She introduced me to a side of programming that wasn’t just a hacker sitting in a dark room bashing the terminal. I could incorporate my creativity and develop products that made a difference in people’s lives. From that point, I knew it was what I wanted to do.”
‟In 2018, UC’s College of Engineering signed on to become a Founding Partner of the Diversity Agenda – an industry-wide campaign that is working towards a goal of 20% more women engineers and architects by 2021.”
TO GET THERE: diversityagenda.org
Izzy is working on a project as part of her Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Software Engineering degree, developing a back-office web application for a container-unloading service company in Christchurch.
She’s also president of the Women in Tech Society (WiTSoc) on campus.
Tech accounts for 5% of the New Zealand workforce, employing more than 100,000 people.
It contributes more than NZ$16 billion (8%) to the national economy, yet just one in five ICT workers in NZ are women.
However, at UC, the number of women studying towards a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours has risen 9% in just six years.
WiTSoc provides mentorship, events, social groups and the chance to catch up for (free) coffee with women in STEM who are studying computer science (CS), engineering, data science and more.
Izzy is passionate about changing the perception of women as a minority in tech.
“I think a lot of other women can relate to the feeling of not belonging in this male-dominated field,” she says. “I want to let other women know you can be heard, you can do whatever you want, and there are other women out there like you!”
CS for all
Izzy’s teacher at Thames High School, Ali Chivers, was inspired by the CS4HS (Computer Science for High Schools) program.
Supported by Google, this program has been running out of the University of Canterbury since 2011, enabling teachers to spend several days looking at how to teach CS in an engaging way.
“We saw the need for teachers to have meaningful support with content of the new computer science and programming material in NCEA because it contained a lot of material that hadn’t been taught in NZ schools,” says UC Professor Tim Bell, who runs the program.
The event also included sending teachers to visit local software companies.
Many hadn’t seen the environment that computer science graduates work in, and some were surprised by the skills needed and the kind of people the industry is looking for.
“There are still a lot of misconceptions based on stereotypes rather than reality, including the kind of people who are needed by industry to work in this area, the role of coding, and the opportunities available,” says Tim.
“Getting to see what it is like first-hand helps the teachers to better recognise which of their own students would thrive in that environment.”
– Heather Catchpole
TO GET THERE: bit.ly/UniCanterbury
This article is brought to you in partnership with the University of Canterbury.
“I want to let other women know you can be heard, you can do whatever you want, and there are other women out there like you!”
Author: Heather Catchpole
Heather co-founded Careers with STEM publisher Refraction Media. She loves storytelling, Asian food & dogs and has reported on science stories from live volcanoes and fossil digs