|Just ten days after completing her university coursework in May 2011, Jennie Masterson started her job at SAP in Citywest, Dublin. She’s an Enterprise Support Advisor dealing with clients around the world, and is also active in promoting careers in IT to university students.
But when she was making her choices for the CAO, Jennie wasn’t sure that a career in ICT was for her.“I had worked in a pharmacy already and I really enjoyed the business side of things. I was planning to do business and accounting for the Leaving Cert, so I was interested in commerce as a degree course. But my guidance counsellor recommended that I do a course where I would “be” something at the end and would give me a definite career.
“My DATS tests showed that I was good at logical thinking and mathematics. The guidance counsellor talked me through the whole thing. She asked me other questions and added a few things together and asked if I enjoyed computers, which I did, so she gave me some prospectuses about computer science.”
Jennie went to open days in Trinity College, Dublin and UCD to meet lecturers, and find out more about the courses on offer. “In UCD, I met some lecturers there who showed me fun things, and things you use in everyday life – like how a clock knows how to change between summer and winter time; they showed me phones and robots. I put Computer Science down as my number one on CAO and entered UCD in 2007.”
The course itself was challenging, and Jennie considered leaving with an ordinary degree after third year, but a research internship encouraged her to complete the four-year programme. Her individual project in fourth year combined natural language processing, geotagging, geodisambiguation, maps, RSS feeds, placemakers, and web design to form a map of crime in Ireland.
“In the US and UK they have maps and you can find out about robberies, arson and attacks; America is very good because they release their police reports. In Ireland, because of privacy policies, we can’t get our hands on these reports so I decided to get an RSS feed off some of the Irish newspapers, and then I had to get the computer to understand what negative wording was.
There was a lot of negative wording because of the recession around house prices and politics, so I had to get it to understand specific sentences. “I taught the computer to understand what I called “trigger words”. I got it to understand stabbing, killing, murder and words like that. Eventually I plotted all the stories on a map and then I added an extra bit of functionality so you could use just the past week’s stories.”
Finding a job in IT Jennie and her classmates also each completed a thesis. The group of 24 – nine of whom were women –presented their project work at a poster day for a range of companies. “The companies could get an insight into us and we could find out more about the companies. I had already had my interview with SAP in February and I got offered the job in April. I had ten days off and then I started here!”
Jennie was surprised at the difference between her original idea of support work, and what it was actually like in the workplace. “When I was in first and second year and I heard the word “support” I had visions of going crazy sitting in a room with customers screaming at me. It’s not like that at all. “The Support Advising Centre is pro-active. I call customers if I see anything unusual with their reports. It’s a nice relationship because they’re glad when you help them – they’re not just getting in touch because they have a problem.”
Jennie thinks that even if she hadn’t studied computer science for her degree, she would be looking at a conversion course. “I think because I picked computer science it made the transition from study to work easier. In third year, I thought it wasn’t for me, but after I got the internship, it restored my faith. I realised I had friends with extremely good degrees who didn’t have jobs, and the course I picked had jobs at the end – the course itself was fun and exciting and it also led on to something good.”