Optus Cybersecurity scholar Emily Pendlebury has been accepted into the Google Women Techmakers Scholar Program in Sydney, she spoke to MyLaTrobe about getting the call from Google, starting a Uni club that supports women in tech and the pursuit of gender equality in the tech industry.
Getting the call from Google
I applied purely with a ‘why-not?’ attitude as I had nothing to lose and so much to gain.
Emily caught up with MyLaTrobe to talk about how excited she is about this opportunity.
“I grew up with Google and they have such a huge influence in the technology field that it was just insane to me that they even knew my name!”
The program was recommended to Emily by her mentor and La Trobe’s Optus Cybersecurity Chair Professor Jill Slay.
“I applied purely with a ‘why-not?’ attitude as I had nothing to lose and so much to gain. So I wrote my application and sent it in not really thinking much of it. When they told me I was shortlisted and would be doing a phone interview with two google engineers I was so excited and super nervous because, A) it was now real and I wanted it more then anything and B) what if the google engineers didn’t like me!
“The call came and went and the Googlers were lovely and genuinely interested to hear about GirlCode (an extracurricular tech program Emily developed at La Trobe to support women in tech) and my experience in the tech field.
“After the call, the nerves set in again, as I was constantly checking emails and my phone for any update. It was a Thursday morning when the final call came from Google with the exciting news I had been accepted into the program and I honestly couldn’t believe it.”
Making the switch from Nursing and Midwifery to Cybersecurity
I’ve always been interested in tech, although I pushed it aside as I associated it with anti social men having poor posture.
After more than year studying nursing and midwifery Emily made a brave decision to pursue her passion for technology.
“I’ve always been interested in tech, although I pushed it aside as I associated it with anti-social men having poor posture. After a year and a half of studying nursing and midwifery I thought stuff it, I’m not enjoying this at all let’s just follow my passion and see where it leads me.”
She says she’s really enjoying her course and that you don’t need to be a once in generation tech wizard to enter a course like Cybersecurity.
“I decided to do the course because I really enjoy working with people, problem-solving and the exciting technology space. I’m loving my course because I’ve got such a broad range of options to learn, from how to develop web applications, to networking, to databases, I’m constantly learning new things.
“I think the underlying assumption that you must know everything about technology to study it is deterring people away from the course, but you don’t go into nursing expecting to know how the human body works and functions, if you’re interested in it, you’ll learn it!”
Gender equity in Tech and studying at La Trobe
I’m such a big believer in ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’, so with the lack of role models and the male stereotypes, it’s no wonder there’s a significant gap.
She said she is really enjoying her time at La Trobe and the opportunities that it has afforded including starting her own tech club.
“I enjoy the atmosphere at La Trobe, there’s always a buzz in the Agora and everyone is so friendly. I also love the huge amounts of clubs that La Trobe has to offer, including our very own GirlCode which I developed to support women in tech. The sisterhood we have at GirlCode is something I hold close to my heart and La Trobe has given us free reign to do what we want with it.”
GirlCode exemplifies how passionate Emily is about achieving gender equity in the tech industry.
“I think there are many barriers and obstacles for women when in comes to gender equality in tech. I’m such a big believer in ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’, so with the lack of role models and male stereotypes, it’s no wonder there’s a significant gap. I think running programs in primary schools and high schools are key to allow girls to realise it’s ok to be interested in tech because people like me are doing it so why can’t you?”
Future pathways after her degree
As for Emily next steps once she has completed her Cybersecurity degree at La Trobe?
“I’m really interested in AI as its future is super exciting and I really want to see driverless cars become a safe and secure part of our future.
“The cyber security field is really broad so I’m not really sure exactly where I want to end up yet but I do I love working with people so maybe a manager position directing a diverse team – hopefully at Google and Optus!”
If you’re interested in applying for the Optus Cybersecurity Scholarship you can find out more here.