Deviating from the straight and narrow

CSE graduate and 2020 winner of the NSW Harvey Norman Woman of the Year Award, Hannah Beder.CSE graduate and 2020 winner of the NSW Harvey Norman Woman of the Year Award, Hannah Beder, tells us about her time at CSE and her new role at Creatable.

Hannah Beder graduated from CSE in 2017 and initially took the traditional grad path, joining Macquarie Bank as a Software Engineer. She recently decided to change course and follow her passion, encouraging young women to pursue STEM through her work as a Creative Technologist at Creatable.

Bachelor’s degree and year: BSc (Computer Science) and Honours (Computer Science) 2013-2017
Current role and organisation: Creative Technologist at Creatable

What led you to study Computer Science?

I started university doing Electrical Engineering. As part of that degree, it was compulsory to take COMP1917, which I didn’t expect to enjoy. It landed up being my favourite subject that semester, largely due to me clicking with the lecturer’s approach to learning and ultimately led to me transferring into Computer Science.

Can you tell us about your role/s since graduating? And what is it like to work at your current workplace?

I currently work as a Creative Technologist at a tech education company called Creatable. It is a recent move from the straight and narrow software engineering path I’d been treading since leaving uni. I was working as a software engineer at Macquarie Bank while holding multiple part-time teaching positions with Code Like A Girl, Coder Academy, and UNSW on the side. I’m very grateful for the skills I picked up as an academic tutor while studying at UNSW, and I’m so pleased I made the move to Creatable as it combines my passions for technology, creativity, and education in one job!

Working at Creatable is fantastic. The environment is a wonderful mix of creatives, engineers, and educators all working towards the same goal of empowering young women with the skills they need for the future of work. That is to say, STEM skills! My day to day involves content development for technical projects and a whole lot of teaching. The projects Creatable teaches are contextualised in creativity and ideation, giving students the tools which they need to solve any problem they encounter, and showcase the prevalence of tech across every industry. It’s the tech education I wish I’d had in high school.

What’s your favourite/fondest or most striking memory of studying at UNSW?

My fondest memories of UNSW were from teaching. As an academic tutor, I loved the cadence of the semester. It was wonderful to meet new students and build rapport while they grappled with, and ultimately mastered, new skills and technologies in the classroom. I particularly enjoyed tutoring Human Computer Interaction, which was the subject area of my thesis and was taught by my thesis supervisor Dr Nadine Marcus. Nadine has always been one of my biggest supporters; she encouraged me to apply for the CSE Anita Borg Award in my final year (which I was awarded!) and continues to seek opportunities to showcase my endeavours today.

I also enjoyed doing laps at the pool, which was a great break from studying. My favourite study spot was the café in the Tyree building because it was always warm and sunny and had the perfect amount of background noise.

What advice would you give to other students who are just starting their degree in Computer Science?

I always say that my Computer Science degree taught me how to learn. I was quite timid and scared of breaking things when I first learned how to program, and it hindered my ability to tinker around and figure things out. I now know that if you get comfortable with the process of learning new things, you can learn anything! That does mean getting comfortable being uncomfortable. Computer Science is often challenging, and learning is a process, however, even the things which are most easy and natural to you had to be learned once. Everything is learnable, and when you can recognise this, your fear of trying things will go away.

What character traits/skills do you think are important for engineers to cultivate?

While it may not seem apparent during uni, all good engineers know how to work well in a team. It is incredibly rare to sit and problem solve alone, or complete entire projects without seeking guidance or collaborating with others. All of the skills which come with good teamwork, like communication, empathy, and curiosity, are important for engineers to cultivate.

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