Merryl Sequeira (2012): Empowering Women in Coding & ICT
Past student Merryl Sequeira has returned to her roots at Santa Maria this year as a Mathematics and Robotics teacher, where she shares her passion for ICT and coding with her students. In our chat with Merryl, we delve into her dedication to inspiring a new generation of female coders and programmers.
Did you always know you wanted to be a teacher?
I always had a passion for teaching and helping others. However, throughout my schooling, I became interested in other subjects and exploring other careers. In fact, when I left school, my initial plan was to pursue a career in software engineering which meant studying a degree in computer science. During this degree, I had to spend lots of time coding in the lab, which I didn’t enjoy, as I was more of a social person and enjoyed working with others. I then decided I wanted to pursue teaching ICT and Maths and studied enough of the relevant units to allow me to get into a postgraduate teaching course.
When did your passion for coding and ICT develop?
My passion and fascination developed during my time at Santa Maria as a student. My Homeroom teacher was an ICT teacher, and I always found it very interesting. From the start of school, I enjoyed my ICT classes as I was continuously learning new skills. I wanted to continue studying ICT, so I did Applied Information Technology ATAR. It was in this class that I realised ICT was something I was good at and enjoyed, and therefore, an area I could have a career in. There were so many different and innovative ways to create solutions to real-world problems.
What motivated you to pursue a career in coding and ICT as a teacher?
The main motivation behind pursuing this career path as a teacher was the desire to inspire and educate the next generation of innovators and problem solvers. I believe that coding and technology skills are becoming increasingly important in today’s world, and I wanted to be a part of equipping students with the tools they need to succeed in the digital age. Additionally, I wanted students to enjoy ICT the way I did by creating a positive learning environment for them.
What are the key skills and knowledge areas you believe are essential for students to succeed in coding?
The key skills and knowledge I believe are essential for students to succeed in this area include problem-solving, logical thinking, creativity, and perseverance. It’s important for students to learn how to break down complex problems into smaller, manageable parts and develop step-by-step algorithms to solve them. Additionally, understanding fundamental programming concepts and having hands-on experience with coding languages and tools is crucial.
How do you inspire and motivate female students to develop a passion for coding?
It’s important to provide them with strong role models and create a supportive and inclusive learning environment. By being a female myself, I demonstrate that coding is not limited to any gender. I try to inspire and motivate students by having them code things of interest for them. For example, coding a website in HTML/CSS about their hobbies or using Python to create a text-based game of their choosing that meets certain criteria. I find this gives the students an opportunity to really engage with the content as it is mixed with their own interests. I also provide many opportunities for collaboration, so it is less daunting for the students.
In your opinion, what role do coding and ICT play in preparing students for future careers, and why is it important?
In today’s increasingly digital and interconnected world, technology is present in almost every industry. Having a solid foundation in coding and ICT opens a wide range of career opportunities, from software development and data analysis to robotics and artificial intelligence. These skills not only enable students to adapt to the rapidly evolving job market but also foster critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity, which are valuable skills in any profession.
What do you love most about your job?
I love seeing the progress from the start to the end. It usually starts with negative talk and self-doubt. However, by the end, students have created something fantastic using a range of new skills they have learnt. It’s incredibly rewarding to see them grow in confidence and develop their skills and to know that I played a part in their learning journey. I also enjoy the opportunity to continually learn and be in the technology space.
What advice would you give to our students who are interested in pursuing a career in coding and ICT?
My advice to students is to start by exploring and experimenting on their own. There are numerous online resources, coding platforms, and tutorials available that can help them get started. It’s important to practice coding regularly, take on challenging projects, and seek out opportunities. Building a strong foundation in computer science principles and constantly expanding their knowledge will greatly benefit their future careers.
What do you like to do in your downtime? How do you unwind?
In my downtime, I enjoy engaging in activities that allow me to unwind and recharge. Some of these include going to the gym or fitness classes, catching up with friends and family or watching some TV. I also enjoy travelling and always try to go somewhere during the school holidays.
Thank you for sharing your story Merryl, and inspiring a future generation of women in technology!