On March 20, Conestoga’s School of Applied Computer Science & Information Technology welcomed girls in Grades 7 and 8 to the college’s virtual Go CODE Girl event. Hosted annually in collaboration with the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering (ONWiE), the free event encourages girls to consider careers in engineering and information technology through hands-on workshops and guest speakers.
This year, workshops facilitated by student volunteers introduced participants to principles of coding and the power of applied computer science. Conestoga alumnae were also on hand to share stories of their work, projects and accomplishments, and provide insight into education and career possibilities.
Keynote speaker Samantha Campbell, a 2016 graduate of the college’s Software Engineering Technology program, shared her experience of discovering her passion and the non-traditional path that led to Conestoga and launched a successful career in technology. Campbell, who said she didn’t always want to be a software engineer, has worked for large, well-established companies, as well as several local startups. Her current focus as a frontend developer at Bungalow is creating accessible web applications.
“You can definitely come into a program without having a large background in the subject and succeed -- it was being passionate that kept driving me. It wasn’t about the grades; it was about being excited to learn and taking nothing and putting it together to be a working program,” said Campbell. “The trick and the secret to all of it is not to give up and to not stop, because even if you’re taking these little baby steps, if I look back now, I don’t even know the person at the beginning of this crazy journey because I’ve changed and grown so much.”
Participants also heard from a guest panel of female industry leaders who shared key moments from their education and career journeys, and the future of information technology. The panel included Laura Fadrique, a research coordinator at the University of Waterloo and 2018 graduate of Conestoga’s Software Engineering Technician program; Margaret Tavares, business development and operation manager at Vehikl and 2019 graduate of the Computer Programmer/Analyst program; and Laurie Lafleur, senior imaging consultant at Paragon Consulting Partners and a 2002 Computer Programmer/Analyst graduate.
“IT is a huge industry and there are countless pathways and opportunities,” said Lafleur. “There is a technical component or opportunity to pretty much any area in our everyday lives. If you love the arts, there are opportunities through graphic design. If you love gaming, there are ways to get in through that. Even if you’re interested in finance, there are technology opportunities. It’s really limitless.”
When looking to the future of the industry, the panel told participants that the field is rapidly growing with innovative solutions to address emerging needs in areas such as e-commerce, telecommunication, infrastructure and data generation. The increased reliance on remote learning and working over the last year due to the global pandemic has resulted in jobs and solutions that didn’t previously exist, and that trend will continue.
Formed in 2005, ONWiE works collaboratively to encourage the next generation of women to pursue careers in engineering and information technology. Go CODE Girl is offered at partner institutions across Canada to introduce girls to the wide range of career possibilities available in the fields of technology, computing and software engineering.
Conestoga’s School of Applied Computer Science & Information Technology offers a 21st-century education with leading-edge programs that prepare graduates for exciting careers in the innovative world of information and communications technology. With a strong connection to local industry, project-based and work-integrated learning enable students to solve real-world problems and engage in new technologies that empower a professional journey in a rapidly growing sector.