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Why on earth would someone choose a career in computer science?

June 30, 2020 By Skyla

As I have found out, there is rarely one singular thing that makes someone choose computer science as a career. And I learned no, you don’t have to be a child prodigy or math genius to become a computer scientist. You just need to enjoy learning and problem-solving. During one of Canada Learning Code’s Fireside chat for Teen Ambassadors, three brilliant women shared why they chose a career in computer science, the challenges they faced, and most importantly, how they overcame them. 

This Fireside Chat featured computer scientists Azin, Chang, and Madison, and was moderated by a few wonderful people at Canada Learning Code. The women interviewed are from different backgrounds and all work as computer scientists at the Canadian venture capitalist firm, Georgian Partners. 

The folks from Georgian Partners were interesting to talk to, as they are all enthusiastic about their careers. Seeing and listening to women who are so unique, yet so similar, was refreshing. They all have unique interests, passions, and talents–yet they specialize in the same science.  Azin, Chang, and Madison are art, math, and/or biology loving individuals! I was impressed by the remarkable diversity within the field of computer science. Each of these women took their own unprecedented paths to become the scientists that they are today.

Azin loved art and math as a kid, and she went into computer science; Chang mentioned that when she was a kid, math was the only thing she felt talented at which drove her to study computer science (more specifically, optimization); and Madison always wanted to be a doctor, but after high school, she decided to switch paths, choosing a career in computer science. 

For most of these women, their career paths were not always in computer science; they found computer programming after high school or switched their majors in university. Computer scientists can originate from different backgrounds, talents, and professions. This also taught me that high school is a good time to explore your interests and discover your passions before college, whether it’s computer science or advanced knitting!

As diverse as these three computer scientists are, I was reminded that this field is still predominantly made up of males. “Now, although there are still challenges, it is easier than ever for women to become computer scientists,” remarked Madison. One of the challenges is being a female-identified individual in a male-dominated field – it can be discouraging! That’s when I learned about imposter syndrome. 

The imposter syndrome is the nagging voice in your head saying “You are not good enough to be here”, or the frustrating feeling that you don’t deserve your accomplishments. I have experienced imposter syndrome many times in the past, I just never knew it was a real thing. I thought it was in my head. As she explained imposter syndrome, I instantly recognized the feeling; I had experienced it when I went to one of my first computer programming classes. It was an HTML course, and after an hour of explaining, I felt as if I understood the syntax of HTML. Be that as it may, I still doubted my knowledge of the topic because I assumed everyone around me knew more. And to contribute to the class? I felt like compared to my peers, I could never be adept. So I stayed quiet. I even started questioning my understanding of the topic.

Azin said that her imposter syndrome never went away, she just got better at dealing with it. Her advice on how to manage imposter syndrome is to trust yourself. You have to practice reminding yourself that you do deserve to be where you are, wherever that may be. The people around you likely are dealing with it too. Through this experience, I learned more about a few challenges that women face in this field, and walked away feeling inspired and hopeful that I too can pursue a career in computer science.

Skyla is a Canada Learning Code Teen Ambassador. Skyla enjoys experimenting with new programming languages and eating cereal. In her free time, she skis, draws, and builds circuits and robots with her RaspberryPi and Arduino. 

Thanks to the team members of Georgian Partners who joined us for an amazing fireside chat. Our Teen Ambassador Program is one of our newest program (piloted only last year). Visit our page here to learn more.

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