SMU: Women In Tech Talk

“It can make many impossible things possible.” – Associate Professor Zheng Bai Hua

Recently, I had the honor of attending an event held by SMU named Women in Tech. It was a talk based around women who are working the technology industry or are planning to work in it. The event started off with a short presentation by Associate Professor Zheng Bai Hua who talked about the different parts of computer science. She mentioned that contrary to popular belief, computer science is not only about programming because programming is just a part of it. She also talked about the different courses in computer science as building blocks which can help in future problem solving. I could tell how passionate she was about technology and to me, that was extremely inspiring. Despite the fact that I was someone who is not well-informed about the technology industry, she was able to put across the concept of computer science easily to me.

This was followed by a talk by Ms Jessica Tan, director of commercial for the Raffles medical group. She discussed about women in the technology industry and the lack of it. She strongly believed that the lack of representation of women in technology is worrying and that it may lead to severe repercussions. During the panel discussions with Kyong Jin Shim (Associate Professor), Tan Hwee Xian (Associate Professor), Chloe Lim (SIS alumna) and Shermin Ho (SIS almuna), she further emphasized on the importance of more women being in the technology industry as it was growing really quickly and thus, women should get themselves involved in this rapidly growing industry.

One of the most memorable things about the panel discussions was the quote “Unlearn, Relearn and learning to learn.”, this was in regards to how fast technology was growing by the day and how people should be more flexible to survive in the technology industry. I found this very memorable as it is extremely applicable in many aspects of our lives. Additionally, when it came to discussing how genders played a role in getting a job in the technology industry, most of them mentioned how even though both genders may be biased, it is more about what kind of competencies and values you can bring to the company/industry and not only just about your gender. This caught my attention as they have previously mentioned how even if both gender are of similar competencies, the female will have a higher chance of being employed as many people believe that women should have a larger representation in the industry. The panel discussions were very insightful and allowed me to understand more about the inner workings about the technology industry and also how it is like to pursue a degree at SIS in SMU.

The event ended off with a short hands-on workshop with Associate Professor Zheng Bai Hua on data processing behind location-based services. The entire workshop was not as complicated as I thought it would be! She explained the Voronoi diagram, which is basically partitioning regions based on distance to points in a specific subset. Papers with points printed on them were given out to us so that we could try to partition the spaces ourselves. The other professors would walk around and explain to the attendees why they were wrong if they made a mistake. This allowed me to learn really quickly and understood how the voronoi diagram is used to provide location-based services. Before she ended the workshop, we were all given a small task of building our own MRT stops to reduce MRT walking distance across the island. We were given a website (http://shawn.life/voronoi/index.html, if you would like to try it out yourself!) and through trial and error, to find the shortest distance it can be reduced to. It was a lot of fun and a lot of people were doing a excellent job (as low as 4km) while I was still stuck on 5.9km being the least distance. Overall, the workshop was really informative and really allowed me to know more about how the location-based services (e.g. google maps) worked in our daily lives. Even though I still found it rather complicated, I thought that it was a good starting point for me to start learning more about computing and the applications they have to our daily lives.

All in all, I think that this event was extremely empowering for both young women and men who are planning to enter the technology industry as they have discussed many pertinent issues which would definitely help those interest to be more informed and ready. The professors and alumni were really eager to answer any questions the students have during the networking session and I definitely had a lot of fun listening to the discussions. To all those are interested in SMU, SIS or computing science, you can definitely email them for internship opportunities after your A-levels!

Shoutout to @4llysa (National Junior College) and @tan_li_xin (Nanyang Junior College) for being so helpful and friendly during our short 4 hours together!

-cey.

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