Grace Nolan

Grace Nolan

Grace Nolan, a Computer Science student at the University of Waikato, discovered her passion for technology at age seven with a Nintendo game. Despite early mishaps, she advocates for women in IT, co-founding CS3, a support group.

Google Student Ambassador

Grace Nolan

When Grace Nolan first got her hands on a computer, her parents hated it.

"It was a Nintendo Super Mario Brothers game. They tried to ban me but it didn't work."

That early exposure – "I was about seven" – got her interested in technology and she proceeded to delve deeper into computers.

"I was always interested in menus and changing things," she says.

That interest came with its downsides. She once decided it would be a good idea to click the icon that said 'restore default settings' and promptly lost everything.

But it never put her off and she is now just a couple of papers away from completing her undergraduate degree in Computer Science at the University of Waikato, where she is a strong advocate for growing the number of women taking it as a subject.

She helped start CS3, a support group for computer science students, and actively seeks opportunities to spread the word that computer science isn't just a subject for boys.

"I gave a talk at my old school (Waikato Diocesan) and we had to move to a bigger room, there was so much interest," she says.

And with technology now playing a part in all aspects of everyday life, there are far more opportunities to get involved.

"You can work with your passions, take something you are interested in and add computer science to it.  I just want girls to know it's an option."

And it's an option which can bring many rewards.

She has been a Google Student Ambassador for two years, attending retreats in Sydney, and has received a scholarship to attend the world's largest conference for women in IT, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, being held in Texas in October.

She has also been awarded a Summer Research Scholarship to carry out a literature review of research into women in computing. Following that she hopes to develop code camps aimed solely at girls.

She says receiving the scholarships provides validation of her skills, which is important as it can still be tough for women to gain respect in IT.

"There is still a lot of bias and women are not taken seriously," she says.

"Boys are often louder and dominate conversations. Girls tend to sit back and watch a bit more. And women tend to undervalue themselves."

Grace Nolan

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