Get to Know our Alumni: Hannah Beder

Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Science) Honours 2018 

Hannah Beder had quite a mixed bag of interests in high school. Juggling her love for music and languages with maths and physics, she decided on an engineering degree at UNSW and never looked back.

During her study she was awarded the CSE Anita Borg Award for her work promoting women in STEM. Her advocacy and support of women in the field of Engineering continued and in 2020 she was awarded the NSW Young Woman of the Year for her efforts. She believes that as technology shapes our future, we need people of all genders and abilities to contribute to the effort.

We spoke to Hannah about studying at UNSW Engineering and her role as a Creative Technologist at Creatable, a STEM education experience designed for young women.

Where has your career taken you? 

My career has taken me to many places! I’ve enjoyed internships with Google in Sydney and Seattle. I’ve worked as a Software Engineer at a small AI start-up and more recently at Macquarie Bank.

I’ve continued teaching programming to young people with entities like Girls’ Programming Network and Code Like A Girl. I currently work as a Creative Technologist with Creatable. They’re a creative technology program which ignites a passion for creativity through technology and prepares young women for the future of work.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The most interesting things happen at the intersections of different disciplines and industries, and sitting in that overlap is one of the best parts of my profession. Anybody who’s done any tutoring or teaching will also know how joyful it is to experience the ‘Aha!’ moment with students. 

Why did you choose to study an Engineering degree at UNSW?

In high school my subjects were divided with music and languages on one side, and with maths and physics on the other. It was a pretty tricky mix of interests to combine into one degree, but I knew that I enjoyed problem solving so an Engineering degree seemed like a good place to start. I was even able to take some music subjects within my Computer Science degree too!

How has the hands-on experience you received at UNSW helped in your current role?

Almost every practical and technical skill that I use in my career can be traced back to UNSW. I came to uni completely new to the field of engineering with no programming experience. When it came to the technical stuff, I arrived with nothing, and left with everything.

I was also given the opportunity to be an academic tutor and lab demonstrator where I built skills in empathy and communication. As a software engineer, both technical skills and interpersonal skills are necessary.

What is the most valuable thing you took away from your time at UNSW? 

The most valuable thing I took away from my time at UNSW was the support of my peers and teachers. My thesis supervisor Dr Nadine Marcus encouraged me to apply for the CSE Anita Borg Award, which I received in 2017. This recognition for my work promoting women in STEM pushed me to continue my pursuits provided a steppingstone to be awarded 2020 NSW Young Woman of the Year. 

What developments do you think your industry needs?

There are some harsh realities to realise in the tech industry regarding (lack of) diversity and gender parity. Keeping things the way they are will leave large swathes of people - mostly women, underrepresented minorities, and differently abled people - behind. Technology is shaping the future, and it’s important we all have the opportunity to build the future we’ll inhabit.

What would your advice be for those considering an Engineering degree at UNSW?

Work hard and seize opportunities, if you choose to study engineering that’ll happen naturally. My advice is to make friends, build a community and learn new things together. Connection makes a lasting impression on your experience and on those around you. 

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