I once considered attending a local specialized high school called Canterbury. It’s an arts school, and I wanted to attend for creative writing. After all, I had won a writing contest or two in my day, so I thought I was pretty good at it.
Unfortunately, the bus ride was far too long from my rural home, so I never went. Fortunately, I never let go of my creative side, which also included a love for drama, music, and now photography.
I think I was a bit of an anomaly for my time. Even in the eighties, I had a computer in my own bedroom. My dad brought them home from work when others were done with them. He never really considered giving them to my brother just because he was a boy; after all, I was older, and he didn’t seem interested anyway. I didn’t learn to program like a lot of my friends, though. Instead I learned how to be creative digitally.
In grade six, I started a newsletter for my classmates. It was about video games. A friend provided some most excellent illustrations, and I wrote and laid everything out on the computer and got my dad to print it at work. This tradition continued when I was a Girl Guide, where the other girls gave me photos from camp to include in the newsletters. In high school, I learned a little bit about graphic design and joined the yearbook club.
I was always good at science and math. But I was also good at pretty much everything else I tried. So what would I do in university? I wanted to know how all my graphics and publishing software worked. I wanted to know what was going on “behind the screen,” so to speak. So I decided to try computer science so I could find out.
I had no idea if I would like programming, but I figured that if I liked math there was a pretty good chance I’d enjoy it. I also figured I was too busy doing fun courses in high school (like drama and music) to try it out ahead of time. So I took a chance and started totally fresh in university, knowing that I’d be able to switch degrees if I didn’t like it.
I’m so glad I did give computer science a try, because here I am doing my PhD and loving it! And wouldn’t you know it? I’m still writing. Not just academically, either – I keep a blog about computer science that I try to make accessible to everyone. I’d love it if you checked it out. It’s called The Female Perspective of Computer Science.
And know that if you have a creative side, you definitely shouldn’t count out a career in computing. It might just be the best chance you take.
Gail is a PhD student in computer science at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, and researches augmented reality and educational games. She is an executive member of Carleton’s Women in Science and Engineering and is passionate about computer science education. She has a second degree black belt in Taekwondo and is an avid photographer. You can find out more about her on her portfolio website and blog.
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