February 19, 2020

We get asked frequently why the proportion of women in computer science is so low. Anja has already developed her own hypotheses.You can read them in this blog post. But we also like to read the stories of the women in our community. Today we interviewed Katja, who after a successful first state examination in law does not continue her classical legal career but studies computer science.

When did you first come into contact with computer science?

I first came into contact with computer science in my last three years of school. I had seen how my older brother quickly learned to create little games and chat programs in computer science class and thought it was very cool to be allowed to do something like that as a school subject! Besides all the other subjects in which you learn more theoretically, I liked to actually have usable results in this subject at the end. I had a lot of fun in the computer science lessons and I was easily able to keep up with the others, although unlike some of my classmates I didn’t do programming in my free time, but went dancing and read books. Now, at the age of 26, I am a first-year computer science student and have a pretty good first state examination under my belt.

Even though you enjoyed your computer science lessons, you decided to study law. How did that happen?

In my last years at school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do after school at all - I liked many subjects, even though my strengths and interests always lay mostly in the STEM subjects. It therefore made sense to study something that involved logical thinking but it also had to be practical and application-oriented. At some point I came up with the idea of studying law and enrolled in it.

How do you explain the choice of your first study program today?

Although I loved computer science at school, it wasn’t until years later that I realized that I hadn’t even considered it when I was looking for my first study program in 2013. Looking back, I can only explain this with the stereotypes I associated with it at the time. I couldn’t imagine that a computer scientist can work with people, that she can be interested in social issues, in art, that she can like being in nature and enjoy dancing. I could not imagine at all that she could be like me. It took me some time to understand that it is possible to have as many different interests as I have and at the same time to enjoy logical puzzles and find technology fascinating. That one can gladly spend hours working on program code and in between one can just as gladly go to dance lessons for two hours.

How is it that despite having passed the state examination in law you now study computer science?

When I was already in preparation for my state examination, there was a course at my university called “Programming for Lawyers”. For the first time in many years I suddenly encountered code again. It was immediately as great as it had been in the beginning - and I noticed right away that the mode of thought in programming suits me. My brother, now an IT business engineer, motivated me to program a simple AI for an online challenge. For hours we were thinking about better strategies and let our AI compete against each other. My brother defeated me most of the time but my AI and I did well. After that, I couldn’t get the thought of studying computer science out of my head. It took over a year until I completed my state examination - that was in February 2019, so there was enough time for me to think about what I wanted do from autumn on. For me, that mainly meant gathering courage. I already knew exactly that I wanted to find out whether I would like studying computer science as a university subject. On the other hand, I had just spent over five and a half years putting a lot of time and effort into my studies, and I had also graduated with a good grade. So who would immediately start with a new study program? As a first step, I just applied at the university. Until I enrolled in August and started my studies in October, I was mainly interested in learning more about IT. I also think it’s never too late to reorient yourself when it comes to what we spend the next decades of our lives with.

What is your conclusion after the first semester of computer science?

After the first semester, I can now say that I really like the study content. Digitization and IT are hot topics in every area of life, and it’s exciting to understand how the technologies work that have such a huge influence right now. My fellow students are very nice and they all help each other with detailed explanations, helpful links and materials when necessary. In general, the atmosphere on the computer science campus is very positive, there could just be a few more women*. I think in our subject their percentage is under 10%.

Do you have a message for our readers?

It is precisely because of my own experiences that it is important to me that young women* dare to go down less beaten paths, try out new things and make the world their oyster.

What about you?

If you would also like to encourage others with your story, please contact us! moin@moinworld.de