Navigating life as BCIT students can feel isolating for many of us. But in certain programs, fostering a sense of belonging can be particularly challenging.
The execs of the BCIT Women in Computing (WiC) club are no strangers to these experiences.
I had the chance to interview six WiC execs for their stories and perspectives. These friendly and insightful individuals are:
• Roelle Kim (outgoing President)
• Sally Poon (outgoing Treasurer)
• Nicole Jingco (outgoing Exec, previous President)
• Dannicah Salazar (current VP, incoming President)
• Geetika Varma (incoming Treasurer)
• Monika Szucs (current VP, incoming Communications Director)
Popping up—and updating
WiC empowers female students in computing programs: It creates safe spaces for them to comfortably connect to one another and to female leaders in the industry. It also offers them the resources to be successful in the workplace.
Nicole (the longest-standing club member) shared that Shasha Hua and Loretta Cheung co-founded the club. She also explained that activities like events and workshops were developed through the efforts of past execs Christy Yau and Saki Serizawa.
Nicole herself was a member when those changes took place. She’d initially joined the club to support her friend, Mikhaela Layon (an exec at the time). When she experienced how supportive the club was,
she decided to become an exec herself. “I felt really empowered to help keep running the club and recruit more members,” she reflects. With this motivation, she later became the President, a role she held for more than a year.
In time, more people got involved, like Nicole’s fellow execs. They had similarly been inspired to support women in computing programs, which didn’t have the best women representation. (Geetika estimated a 5:1 men-to-women ratio in her set, and Roelle reported only four women in hers.)
“Although I was doing okay academically in my set, I still felt that I did not belong and was not good enough,” says Roelle, who found it challenging to build connections in the male-dominated environment. “I joined WiC and realized that I was not the only one feeling this way, and I want to give back.”
Monika, who recently started studying at BCIT and has been learning online, also got to make connections through the club. The same goes for Dannicah, who was pleased to have discovered a Women in Computing event through a mass email. “I didn’t know this was offered at BCIT,” she admits. “I joined the event, and it was welcoming and fun. I wanted to be part of it and grow with everyone.”
The club is not just open to women, despite its name. Anyone who values empowering women is welcome. Plus, the club requires no commitment: Just come to the events you want; there are no meetings involved. Sally says, “All events are created for everyone to grow or take something away. There are opportunities to take advantage of what we put together.”
WiC typically implements large monthly events (between six and eight per school year). Additionally, they plan hangouts like game nights. Just in April this year, the club ran a hackathon alongside the Computing Club and the Coding4All Club. They also held professional development sessions, such as résumé and LinkedIn profile reviews with Hootsuite, mock interviews with IUGO and A Thinking Ape, and a talk from/with Sarah Ménard, an SAP Design Leader. That session with Sarah was memorable to every exec, as it helped spark feelings of inspiration and revealed insider knowledge about the workplace.
Best of all, through planning and running all those events, each exec feels that she’s grown as a person.
Roelle learned organizational skills through coordinating events and liaising with professionals. Geetika grew more confident at hosting events. Monika learned to open up and communicate even more skillfully, building on her experiences working in sales.
Reflecting on her personal development, Nicole says, “I used to be introverted and would only speak to my friends.” Now, she’s gained leadership skills, such as identifying the strengths of the people she leads.
Meanwhile, Sally feels confident initiating conversations with industry professionals to gain career advice. “There are people out there who are happy to help you succeed. Reach out to anyone. The worst thing is that they’re too busy.”
Dannicah appreciates all the positive learning experiences she’s gained as well: “These helped me come out of my comfort shell.”
In the coming year, we can anticipate more in-person opportunities, such as hikes, study sessions, and movie nights. Face-to-face panel events and prep sessions for interviews, including Co-op technical ones, can also be expected. The incoming execs are all thrilled to roll these out.
“I’m excited to work with companies like Best Buy,” Dannicah says. “They have a big female leadership in the IT sector. Many IT directors and managers are women.”
“I’m excited to help reach out and talk with companies,” Geetika tells me.
“Similar to Geetika, I’m excited to help out where I can and meet with different industries,” says Monika.