Tech Career Talks for High School Girls

On Wednesday, August 31, UBC Computer Science partnered with Amazon Women in Engineering to host over one hundred high school girls at Amazon Vancouver.  The event was spearheaded by Rebecca McKnight, a former GIRLsmarts4tech coordinator and UBC Computer Science alumnae, who is now a Software Development Engineer at Amazon Vancouver.  The goal of this event was to encourage these young women to pursue technical education after high school. The format of the event was a combination of lightning talks and speed mentoring, so the participants could hear from industry members and also have a forum for asking questions in smaller groups. A dozen Amazon mentors were joined by twenty non-Amazon mentors from a variety of local companies and institutions, which made the event a real community effort and showcased the Vancouver tech scene.

The lightning talks portion of the event included seven speakers from various local tech companies and featured topics like, "Why Choose a Career as a Software Engineer -- Especially When You Haven’t Figured Out What You Want To Do" and, "Geekdom Knows No Boundaries: Atypical career trajectories in tech." These talks were 5-7 minutes in length, and introduced the participants to a variety of career paths and job roles as well as the basics of what it means to be a software engineer.

For the speed mentoring portion of the event, the participants were broken up into small groups, with two mentors in each group. Each round lasted fifteen minutes, after which the mentors would rotate to a new group. This gave the participants an opportunity to ask questions in a less intimidating setting, and allowed them to hear from a variety of mentors. Although it took people a bit of time to open up, there was a lot of great discussion in the groups and the mentors really inspired the participants.

The young women who attended the event responded positively, particularly towards the lightning talks section. Here are some comments from the participants:

"It opened my eyes to career paths that I wouldn't have thought about."

"I especially liked the lightning talks because they showed me a possible path that I can consider when going into university next year."

"I really loved how the mentors talked about their education experiences and the steps they took to get to the position they are in now. It was very insightful, and is an experience that without a doubt, will help me with my future."

"I enjoyed how we were able to talk to women who are either pursuing or already a part of the tech industry. It allowed me to have a better understanding about the the industry itself."

Huge thanks to Amazon for hosting the event, and to all the mentors for making this such a successful event!