Hannah Beder studied Computer Science and graduated from UNSW Sydney in 2018. In 2020 she was awarded NSW Young Woman of the Year for her work empowering young women in the technology industry. In mentoring roles for Code Like a Girl, MoneyGirl, and start-up company Creatable, Hannah’s career has been nothing short of inspiring, so the GIE Club sat down with Hannah to get an insider’s view on what it’s like to be a computer scientist.


Could you explain to the GIE Club, what is Computer Science?

A broad definition of Computer Science would be that it is the study of computers and computational systems. It spans the theoretical to the practical, software to hardware, and abstract to tangible. Some areas within Computer Science that may be familiar are software engineering, human computer interaction, database systems, artificial intelligence, security, computer vision and graphics, bioinformatics, the list goes on!

PS. Some might say that programming is Computer Science, but that isn’t strictly true! Programming is essential to Computer Science, but it is only one element of the field.

How did you come into the field of Computer Science?

I didn’t know I wanted to study Computer Science in high school. In fact, I was busy playing the oboe, swimming, and learning languages while others were taking Information Software Technology and Software Design and Development as electives. All I knew was that I enjoyed Mathematics, and the sentiment at the time was if you were good at Mathematics then you should keep doing Mathematics. My school was also near UNSW, and I knew that was the university I wanted to attend, so I remember applying for every different discipline of engineering at UNSW. I actually started in a double degree studying a Bachelor of Computer Science with Electrical Engineering and then transferred into Computer Science alone from second year onwards. What can I say, I found Physics hard, but Computer Science was fun!

Computer Science has led me down a few different paths, such as interning with Google in Sydney at 19, and then in Seattle at 21. It led me to teach many different courses at UNSW while I studied, and to continue teaching with Girls Programming Network, Code Like a Girl, and Open Learning after I graduated. It also led me to work as a software engineer at a small tech startup and a large financial institution.  

What kind of roles are you currently working in?

You may be starting to tell that I have had two concurrent careers: one in Software Engineering and the other in Computer Science education. For anyone who has been a casual academic or lab demonstrator at UNSW, be warned… it is addictive! I now work full time at Creatable as a Learning Designer & Research Lead. In this role I’ve taught creative technology to hundreds of high school girls, developed engineering & entrepreneurship syllabuses for young people in Burundi, and am currently working on an online teacher professional learning platform. 

Finally, Computer Science has also led me to connect with some of the most brilliant, conscientious and inspiring people. I am grateful to UNSW and CSE for connecting me in this way, I continue to orbit my friends and peers from university as we work and grow. 

What jobs are available in the field of Computer Science? 

As detailed above, there are several fields of study within Computer Science. This has implications for what kinds of jobs one can do because there really are so many things! The standard jobs you may see out there for Computer Science graduates would be Software Engineer, Security Engineer, Solutions Architect, Hardware Engineer, Firmware Engineer... and adjacent roles like Business Analyst, UX Designer and Product Manager. There are also lots of roles within the academic community too, like Research Assistants, Lab Demonstrators, Lecturers, and Professors. A Computer Science degree also sets you up well to hold positions beyond the field of Computer Science itself. The way you think and the skills you develop as a computer scientist have applicability in other fields like policy development, product design, education, and finance to name a few. 

What advice would you give to high school girls interested in studying Computer Science?

Having spent the last few years teaching creative technology in high schools, I’ll be the first to say that there’s nothing that makes you feel more deeply uncool than trying to demonstrate to a room full of 15-year old girls why the thing you do is worth them trying too. However, I think that whichever high school girls are reading this blog may already have a feeling that they may like to study Computer Science. But please take this advice with a grain of salt. :)

Choosing what to study is a big decision, in fact it may be the biggest decision you’ve ever made. That means there’s a lot riding on feeling like you’ve made the ‘right’ decision, and conversely a lot of negativities that can come with feeling like you’ve made the ‘wrong’ decision. What I will say to that is that it’s okay to try something and not like it, whether that’s Computer Science or something else. Cultivate an enjoyment of learning, and a healthy desire for action. That will help to take the pressure off achieving a certain outcome while you learn what’s out there and explore what you like and what suits you best.

For more information about studying Computer Science at UNSW Sydney visit the School of Computer Science and Engineering.