9 November 2017
I consider my experience studying computer science as one that reinforces the fact that women are very capable when it comes to studying computer science as a major. Perseverance is the word! Do it afraid if you have too. I didn’t just survive but had a remarkable outcome. If I can do it, you can too!
As an enthusiastic and goal-driven person, I embarked on a journey to England to study computer science at ARU Cambridge Campus. The first week of lectures/labs were one of the most intimidating of my life and some of the male students who appear to know what they are doing, were already ahead of the lab exercises and so I began to question myself ‘how on earth did I end up in this place?’. To start with, I noticed almost all my course mates for the September start were males and there were only about five females including myself. Being the only married woman, only black female; and mother of 3 school-aged children under my care while studying did not make my situation any easier. Initially I felt everyone else, especially our male counterparts, seemed not to have any problems following the lectures, which heightened my fear of failure. To worsen matters, I had heard comments previously about how females find it particularly difficult to cope with computer science and I recalled having been asked questions such as:
Hearing such remarks made me feel intimidated and I began to doubt my ability to succeed. And sure enough, it was tough! To the extent that at a point I contemplated changing my course!
I encountered a lot of obstacles. For instance, my coding skills fell short compared to most of the guys; challenge with my presentation skills due to limited experience. Teamwork was not any different as I always had to struggle to convince my fellow team mates especially the males that I can also be a leader by standing my ground and pushing for excellence. But as a very determined person, I decided to push through against all odds to overcome these obstacles, which eventually paved the way for my success. I saw how far I came when I completed my final project which was the greatest challenge for me but yet very satisfying feeling of achievement. And to crown it all, coming out with a first-class degree was an almost unbelievable outcome considering how I started. But then again, anything is possible with hard work, perseverance and a focus on your goal. My faith was instrumental too! Hence, I sure conquered!
I have to give a lot of the credit to the amazing lecturers and faculty staff for their great support and encouragement. They were all so passionate about their modules which in turn got me very engaged and enabled me to reach my full potential by gaining skills in areas that I had always thought difficult such as Software engineering, Networking, Digital security, Image processing, data structures, soft skills to name a few. There was always help available when I needed it.
I would like to motivate and encourage any aspiring female out there who is considering computer science studies and tell them not to hold back, as in my opinion, studying computer science is about determination and hard work. It has nothing to do with gender! If anything, I find women to be very well-suited to pursue a career in this field which requires being imaginative, paying attention to details, creative and good at multitasking. As females these are often our strengths.
Therefore, if like me you doubt your ability, please give it a try. It is fun and engaging! You will love it. You don’t have to be smart. Just be determined and work hard. You will succeed.
Top things that make or break a computer science student:
Finally, deliberately remind yourself that you are very capable and can succeed regardless!
By Linda, BEng (Hons) Computer Science student