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UBC Reports | Vol. 51 | No. 6 | Jun. 2, 2005

Computer Sci Grad Changes Perspective, Discovers Possibilities

By Brian Lin

Susanne Hille knows choosing a career is no picnic in the park. The UBC IT Services Executive Director learned the hard way but is determined to make things easier for young women like computer science graduate student Micheline Manske.

“As a student, I really struggled with my career options,” says Hille, who arrived at UBC almost two years ago and immediately volunteered for the Dept. of Computer Science’s tri-mentoring program. “I loved mathematics, and took computer science as an elective and just fell into it as a career, which is quite common when you’re young and taking those first uncertain career steps.”

Manske was at a similar crossroad when she met Hille a year ago. “I had a vague idea that I wanted to combine computer science with my teaching skills,” says Manske, who will graduate from UBC this summer. “But I was at a loss as to what kind of jobs were out there.”

“Micheline was very quiet and uncertain when I first met her,” recalls Hille. “In her mind, there were only a few options open to her, and part of my goal was to help her explore other ideas, even ones that seemed totally radical to her.

“We often form mental pictures of ourselves and put up barriers based on those pictures,” says Hille, whose own mentors inspired her to reach farther than she otherwise might have. “They helped me to see myself doing things I didn’t think I could ever do, gave me confidence, courage and great advice. They made a big difference in my life.”

Through a series of one-on-one discussions and guided research with Hille, Manske identified corporate training as an area of interest, and is now pursuing leads with IBM and educational institutions in Toronto.

“Learning to network was the hardest part for me,” says Manske. “But once I got started, I was surprised at all the opportunities that were open to me.”

“At the program’s official closing dinner, Micheline walked in and it was as if she was a different person,” says Hille. “She was buzzing with excitement from the positive responses she’s received and the many possibilities she now sees for her career path.

“It’s extremely rewarding to see someone change her perspectives in that way.”

Manske says the tri-mentoring program is especially popular with female students. “About 22 per cent of undergraduate students in computer science are female, but the percentage of female participants in the tri-mentoring program is much higher.

“It just shows how important it is to have a strong female role model,” Manske adds. “I think more than anything, what I learned from Susanne is that what I want out of my life and my career is achievable.”

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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