The write attitude

Who knows what the future holds? Well, some pretty interesting theories were put forth by some Grade 8 and 9 students in a recent IT essay contest.

This contest was specifically for young women, in an effort to peak interest in possible IT careers. CIPS (Canadian Information Processing Society) organized the contest, which drew more than 80 essays from Peel Region, Ont., public schools and Toronto catholic schools (the contest was originally designed for all Toronto schools but a work-to-rule prevented the public school board from participating).

Dr. Les Oliver, CIPS president, said that Statistics Canada has stated that there are only 15 to 20 per cent of female students enrolled in computer science at the university level.

“This contest not only encouraged young girls to pursue careers in computer technology, but it also encouraged the girls to recognize the impact that technology will make to our lives in the not-so-distant future,” he said.

The awards were presented at Mississauga, Ont., school Hazel McCallion Senior Public School, where contest winner Carolyn Lawrence is in Grade 8. Lawrence received a Casio handheld computer and some CN Tower gift certificates.

The second place winner, Vanessa Rambihar – a Grade 9 student at Havergal College in Toronto – received a $1,000 RESP, courtesy of InfoAdvise, and some CN Tower gift certificates.

The third place winner, Laura Di Paolo, a Grade 8 student at Robert J. Lee Public School in Mississauga, won an HP digital camera, along with CN Tower gift certificates.

The essays imagined worlds where virtual reality ruled, jewellery was used as a wireless device and doctors diagnose based on internal scans done at the door.

The essays were judged on creativity, research and a good understanding of technology and technology careers.

CIPS vice-president Charles Wordsworth presented the awards to the top ten winners. He showed a video originally produced by Nortel for CIPS’ Women in IT: Looking Towards the Future event in March where the essay contest was announced.

Young women were invited to this event, and similar CIPS’ sponsored events across the country, to try to discover, and if needed, change the girls’ perception about careers in computer technology.

The video showed a day in the life of and IT professional, and how she balanced her work and personal life. This video is being made available to schools across Canada.

Wordsworth joked with the students attending the awards ceremony that he was not a geek, that computers were not just for geeks, that they were for people who wanted to make a lot of money and have really cool jobs.

Lachlan Peck, co-ordinator of computers in education at he Peel District School Board, said in a statement that, “Currently, in the Peel District School Board secondary schools, girls comprise an estimated 25 to 30 per cent of enrolments in computer science courses.”


Looking to the future

Essays show creativity


By Carolyn Lawrence, Grade 8

I can barely make out the sunrise out my bedroom window when my home computer, Abby chimes in.

“Good morning Carolyn. When you really wake up, our first client today is the Berlin IT Group. They want us to interview candidates for future expansion in Singapore. Samantha Browne is their IT manager already on site. I have placed her bio on your bathroom monitor. Take a moment to get to know her after your shower. Oh, Natalie will meet you for running at 3 p.m. after your wireless diagnostics training and I have already let your mom and dad know where you will be tonight. Buzz me through your wristband when you are ready to roll and your earpiece will automatically click into gear.”

“Wristband?…earpiece?…Oh yes of course, my gold necklace and matching earrings! They won’t look so great with my nylon jumpsuit though. I consult, I advise, I recommend IT to companies worldwide. Now if I could just get that computer to tell me where I left the clean towels.”

Dressed and ready. Twenty minutes later I’m off the elevator at the concourse level. I remind my fellow team members, Simonne, Sung lee, Arkadi and Vanessa through my wristband that if we don’t hurry, our client will call it a day in another hour. While I wait for the LRT, I comb through the details of our spring conference in San Francisco on my Palm 90.

I meet with Simonne on the LRT and we discuss the restructuring plan we’re working on for another client, Blue Water Kennels. Our ride on the LRT is a quick one. We head into the Berlin IT Group’s Toronto offices and prepare for our link-up with our Generation 10 View PC monitor.

Before the interview session starts, my home computer beeps into my earpiece.

“Hello Carolyn. Your parents have just called, and they would love to join you for dinner tonight.”

“Great! Thanks for doing that Abby.”

“No problem Carolyn.”

Career in Computer Technology

By Vanessa Rambihar, Grade 9

I lean comfortably back in my office chair as I speak and gesticulate towards the VideoPhone mounted on my wall. My students stare intently back at me, through their Virtual Reality Surgery Packs. These give students the real sense and feel of conducting a surgery. While I demonstrate the finer points of surgery, my students, search the Web through hyperlinked references. After class, I notice some of them downloading beach scenes to relax and even splash in the waves. Studying has never been so much fun.

Beep. My focus returns to my office as a patient walks into the room. His MIC, or Medical Information Chip, was scanned as he walked in and read by computers. These MIC’s are wonderful pieces of technology, tiny chips implanted under the skin storing medical information, patient history, ID and contact information. I re-scan his hand for the test results plus the computer diagnosis and treatment. The information is correct. Thanks to experimenting with technology these new chips seem to work very well.

Another beep. This message is beamed to me via satellite. One of my patients has been involved in a serious accident. A chip implanted in this patient’s brain monitors his health, and in an emergency, informs the nearest Medical IT Office, emergency systems and his personal doctor, of where he is and what happened. I arrive at the hospital the same time EMS returns with the patient…saving his life.

Information Technology has changed the planet. The flurry of development and advances in this field during the last decade has made the entire world a healthier and safer place. Hopefully, we can continue to advance and improve the health of all people, the world over. In the whirlwind of development in IT, we are truly now in the eye of the storm.

Women in IT: To boldly go where few women have gone before

By Laura Di Paolo, Grade 8

For the past twelve years, I have worked in a virtual reality world. I am the systems analyst for Click-a-Flick. I enjoy my job, and I believe this is above and beyond where I expected to be. If I had not had an information technology education I would not be who I am today.

Many people don’t understand what my work is. In fact, when they ask me about my employment and I begin to explain, they become bored. My job isn’t what its thought to be. I don’t sit in front of a twenty-inch computer for twelve hours a day creating the next binary code. Only my staff meetings are dull. As a systems analyst, I am responsible for guaranteeing that the progress of our project is going well. At Click-a-Flick, we are creating a system that will enable you to rent a video without leaving your home. Through the power of fibre optic cables (wires that are thinner than a human hair) we send a movie from your local video store straight to your computer through your Internet service provider. This would be similar to Napster, except it isn’t free. Also, encryption makes sure these videos can be viewed only four times per rental. It may seem complicated, but once I explain it, people do not find my job boring.

Equality in the workplace can only be achieved if we it becomes a priority. I work on a fourteen-member team, whose jobs vary from programmers to graphic artists. Only four members of my team are female. The reason for this is that there are not enough women recruits to hire. Individuals in IT careers are stereotyped as nerds. This stereotype originated from Bill Gates, who many people see as a dork. Many girls don’t take computer technology courses in high school to avoid becoming a “computer geek”. When some women enter colleges and universities, they are unable to take computer courses because their computer knowledge is limited. Therefore men dominate the IT field, where some women fear to tread. We cannot close the gender gap until women are willing to take the IT challenge.

IT has provided me with a lifestyle many can only dream of. My job is challenging and rewarding. I work with technology that is new to the world and I am changing lives.