UNSW Computing University Medallist living the dream

“I’ve always loved math, science and physics so Computer Engineering was a great fit for me. The course was really enjoyable, particularly if you like programming. The lecturers were inspiring, the facilities were fantastic and campus life was a lot of fun. I felt 100% ready to join the workforce after I graduated and was lucky enough to get a job as a Software Engineer at Google Australia, which is a dream come true.” - Florencia Irena 

Florencia Irena is living the dream as a freshly minted UNSW Computer Science Engineer having scored her first graduate job at Google Australia. “I’ve been a software engineer at Google for three months now and I’m loving it. The job’s amazing. I’m learning so many new things and the people I’m working with are great.” she says. Florencia Irena completed a Bachelor of Computer Engineering (Honours), graduating with the University Medal.

Hailing originally from Indonesia, Florencia’s journey to UNSW, and indeed Google, was inspired by her sister who had walked a similar path a few years previously. “My sister did her Bioinformatics degree at UNSW and raved about how good it was so when I told her I was interested in studying physics and computing after high school she recommended UNSW Computer Science Engineering. I did some research and was so impressed I signed up,” she explains.

Although she knew “virtually nothing” about programming or computing before starting the course, Florencia found the lectures stimulating and the lecturers supportive and knowledgeable. By the end of her first year she felt confident to follow more specific interests and by the end of her fourth year she had topped the class and ended up graduating with the University Medal and numerous other prizes and awards for her academic achievements.

“I really enjoyed the software side and programming, but I also found hardware really interesting. My fourth-year thesis, which focused on hardware, was fascinating and one of the best experiences I had. I particularly enjoyed reading research papers and seeing the amazing things people were working on all over the world. By the end of my thesis I had actually designed a homomorphic crypto-processor and was very proud of myself!”

Florencia’s road to Google was smoothed by the world-wide tech trend to encourage more women into engineering and she was lucky enough to land not just one but three Google internships with a gender diversity focus, while still studying. “It’s great that companies like Google and universities like UNSW are interested in getting more women interested in computer science engineering because, at the moment, they are still underrepresented in this industry.”

Although women were in the minority, particularly in her hardware classes, she says she always felt very welcome. “My classmates were very supportive, and came from many different backgrounds, it was very interesting to meet a diverse group of people from all over the world.”

She says her advice to female students considering computer science engineering is not to be put off by the lack of gender balance in the industry. “Don’t be intimidated! I know there’s not a lot of women there at the moment, but it doesn’t mean that women can’t actually do it. Definitely don’t let your gender hinder you from doing what you’re interested in.”

Finding herself very content in her present role, Florencia isn’t thinking too much about the future but is looking forward to a long and successful career at Google. “I’d like to be a team leader one day or run my own project, but for now, I just want to do well and see what opportunities come my way.” 

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