1. Why this program? Why Imperial?
Studying at a girls school from the ages of 4 - 18 meant I wasn’t really exposed to the world of computer programming and it certainly wasn’t a degree choice of any past alumni. I therefore never even considered studying Computer Science as an undergraduate degree when I was looking at my prospective career choices. It was only during my study abroad year in Austin, Texas, when I started to realise a career in tech was definitely for me. The startup culture and tech hub excited me and I decided to take my first ever introductory programming course as an extra module. I loved the challenge of the course and I wanted to learn more.
After my return from Austin, I knew I wanted to study computer science and get a job at a tech startup. Whilst finishing my undergraduate degree, I came across this program at Imperial. Not only was it perfect for me, having no background in the field at all, but it was at one of the best science universities in the world. I applied, and I never looked back.
2. What did you do before the program?
Unsure of what career path I wanted to follow straight after high school, I decided to do a degree in something I was good at and passionate about in school. I studied a 4-year MSci in Chemistry at UCL, one year of which was spent at the University of Texas at Austin for the international year of the course. I then went straight onto studying this MSc at Imperial after graduating.
3. What coding experience did you have when you started?
Honestly, I hadn’t done much programming before starting this course. My first introduction was in Austin, with the Introduction to C++ module, but that all just seemed like very basic stuff in comparison to what I learnt on this course. It did help me understand the command line and to navigate around Linux, which was useful.
4. What did you like best about the program?
I love problem-solving and challenges and that’s what the programming, and computer science in general, is all about. It was a year of stress and going around in circles unable to solve a mystery problem, but once you finally come to the solution it’s the most rewarding feeling ever.
In particular, I enjoyed the practical group and individual projects. For the group project, we were fortunate enough to work with a startup which gave a real insight into how our skills could be applied to business. My individual project taught me how to plan and manage a project over a long period of time and be creative with my ideas.
Finally, I love the amazing friendships I have formed with smart and inspiring people. You spend pretty much every day with your course peers, and you go through all the downs and lows together. We all helped each other out along the way and we all loved doing social activities together in our free time. It makes it an enjoyable year and I wouldn’t have done it without them. You learn so much from everyone you meet and I can’t wait to see where they all end up in the future.
5. What did you find most challenging about the program?
The first semester of the program is quite intense since you go straight into C++ programming and complex assignments within the first 2 weeks. It can be quite scary at first, especially if you don’t get the hang of it straight away, but it comes with practice and there’s certainly a lot of that. I also found the January exams difficult, particularly doing a time programming assessment. At that stage, I didn’t feel like I had got the hang of it enough to write a perfectly functioning program in such a short amount of time!
6. What did you learn or do that you are most proud of?
I’m proud that in just a year, I went from a very basic knowledge of computers to knowing all the fundamental concepts of computing and all core skills I need to know to work in the industry. I’m proud to have made it into such a competitive and male-dominated industry.
7. What was your ideal next step as the program was completing and what are you doing now?
During the program, I hadn’t decided on a definite area in tech that I wanted to pursue. I just knew that I wanted a challenging job where I learn a lot every day and gain experiences in as many areas as possible.
2 weeks after the course ended, I got an opportunity to work in Sydney as a software engineer intern at HelloFresh AU. I’d always wanted to live and travel to Australia, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do exactly that, whilst still gaining experience. After 6 months, working holiday visa restrictions meant I had to move companies and I moved onto another start-up with a full-time engineering position. Over a year later I’m still here, and absolutely love my job and the lifestyle.
Working at a startup has been great, particularly because I was thrown in at the deep end straight out of university and learnt a lot on the job. It’s the best way to gain experience and you have so much control over the product and what you’re doing. I’ve also really enjoyed working in Sydney. Although the tech scene isn’t as fast-paced as say London, it’s been exciting to watch it grow and it’s opened a lot more doors for me.
8. Anything else you would like to tell people who are considering this program?
Ladies, we are still vastly underrepresented in the tech world but there are so many exciting and challenging career choices for us out there! I thoroughly enjoyed the program and I would recommend it to any of you willing to take on the challenge.