Teaching High School Girls about the Different Careers in Software Engineering

Yesterday I was invited to speak at St. Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls in Pretoria about Software Engineering and the different aspects of my every day job. I was really excited to share my story with them. When I was in High School we didn’t have this kind of opportunity. We had a Career Expo but not anything like this, our Career Expo involved a bunch of stands in the school hall with people handing out brochures. I remember walking around and being way too scared to talk to anyone, I collected a few brochures and still had no clue what I wanted to do with my life.

I can only imagine how my career might have been different if I had been given the opportunity that these girls received yesterday. There were over 45 people that gave presentations about different career paths and what we do on a day-to-day basis. A Neurosurgeon, Physiotherapist, Chocolatier, Lawyer, Oncologist, Museum Coordinator – the list was really impressive, some careers I haven’t heard of before. The brief was to talk about my day-to-day job and explain how I got to where I am today. I was also asked to speak about the difficulties for women in technology.

I spoke about the different roles there are in Software Engineering as well as the different aspects of Software Engineering. I included an inspiring video from the Google Women Techmakers association in my presentation.

My slides from the presentation can be found below. Unfortunately it was not recorded.

The girls asked some interesting questions at the end. Some of the questions included:

“What program is the best to learn in? My dad has downloaded Visual Studio but is it good place to start?”  My answer was that Visual Studio is fine to learn to code in, but it also depends what you want to try to code first. If you want to make an Android App, you might want to learn in Android Studio, it all depends what you are interested in making first.

“You mentioned that you are constantly learning every day to keep up to date. As a women in technology, if you had to take Maternity leave or take a long time off work, would you battle to get back into Software Development?” My answer was no, you wouldn’t battle to get back into Software Development. The demand for Software Engineers is really high, it is a scarce skill to have so being away from the industry for a while won’t harm your chances of getting a new job.

“Is Unity a good program to learn to code in?” In my opinion, Unity is a difficult program to start learning to code in. It is mainly designed for game programming and if you are just getting started you should consider something a bit easier at first.

“What programming language would you say is the best to learn to code with?” I would say Java is a good programming language to learn to code in. I learnt to code with C++ but I think looking back now Java is probably easier to learn. I have heard that Python is also a really good language to learn to code in.

“How and why did I choose to go into Programming?” When I was deciding what I wanted to study, I knew I was going to study at the University of Johannesburg. I had the booklet open and was looking through all the degrees that had Mathematics as a part of them. I had seen my sister programming as it was a part of her degree that she was studying. It fascinated me that she was instructing the computer to do things. I choose to study a BSc Information Technology because it sounded interesting. I really had no idea what I was signing up for as I hadn’t done programming at school.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and the hospitality of the school.