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Women in information tech? Erin says, “yes you can!”

by Yvette Maurice

Erin Sharp is a chick on a mission. She loves computers and has skills and talents with operating them. Can she turn this skill into a career? With an online course, that’s exactly what this student is aiming for!

An early love for computers

Erin is part-way through a course in ICA20111 Certificate II in Information, Digital Media and Technology with Open Colleges. This online student from Wagga Wagga, New South Wales plans to finish her course in about six months’ time. “I’ve always been very interested in computers,” Erin explains.

“In the past, I found that a lot of people would come to me with their computer issues and somehow I would be able to help them. It is something I am very passionate about.”

We all know how frustrating it can be when something will not load correctly or a computer shuts down for no reason. Some people, Erin says, are just a bit better at playing the waiting game than others.

“I realised,” the student explains, “that I am just very patient with electronics, whereas others tend to give up, pretty much straight away.” This student says she is made of stronger stuff.

Patience with electronics pays off for Erin

“I’m patient, because I really enjoy it,” says Erin. Her skills in helping her family and friends suggested to Erin that she might have a saleable talent, one which might actually get her a job down the line.

“I decided to get myself certified because it’s always been a hobby of mine,” she says. With a background where she felt drawn to computers, Erin explains a bit about how she chose the direction for the focus of her study. “I’ve done a complete rebuild on my own home computer,” Erin says.

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One of the first computers that Erin rebuilt as a hobby before beginning her course

 

“It came about because someone brought me one of their computers, saying that the motherboard had blown up. They said that they didn’t want it back because they couldn’t fix it – so I took all the good, working parts out of it and did a complete rebuild on my own!” She’s also good with other basic, but specialised applications.

“I have also reprogrammed people’s computers and installed Windows and things like that for them,” Erin explains. “I was about nine years old when I became interested in computers. I was fixing my mum’s computer at home.”

The course Erin is doing is actually entry-level, so many of the students who elect to study it may not have the same computing background that Erin has, but her enthusiasm and hobby skills mean that she is very engaged with her course. Erin is determined to gain her qualification and learn the surrounding skills that will get her into a potential job role.

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Erin studies at home, while working as a 2IC at Gloria Jean’s coffee shop

 

“Further down the track, I’d like to start building my own computers,” Erin says. Erin obviously has computer skills, but there is more to information technology than being good with software and hardware. Erin is also learning skills such as how to plan and organise her tasks, how to prioritise and how to work in a team. There is an entry-level technology component to the course where you learn about selecting, installing and using computer software and hardware products.

A simple way to learn real job skills

The ICA20111 Certificate II in Information, Digital Media and Technology is a great introductory course that is entry-level, meaning that students only need a basic level of education and experience to access the course, generally Year 10 or equivalent.

Erin explains a bit about how the course is run. “We get eBooks,” she says, “and these have all the information that you need. If I have any questions, I just email my trainer and assessor, and I have found them all to be really quick with their responses.” One of Erin’s trainers is Michele Hargrove, who has quite a bit of IT experience.

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It’s not a myth: despite comprising 52% of the population, women make up only 18% of the information communication technology (ICT) industry, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

 

She holds a Master of Education, Diploma in Training and Assessment Systems, Certificate IV in PC Support and a Certificate III in IT. She says, “I began my career in sales and marketing and, in order to better understand a specialised database that my original employer used, I went back to school to learn how to gain optimum value from the package. This decision set me on the path to teach IT.”

“This course is great because of the skills and knowledge that you can gain to complete computing tasks that you might not have even knew you could do!” Michele explains.  “Students with little computing experience can achieve as much as students with previous skills.  It is always up to your desire to learn and grow.”

Computers can be challenging: but Erin wasn’t alone!

Erin is equally enthusiastic about the help and guidance she is receiving for her online course. “They’re good if you have any issues,” she says of her trainers.   “I chat away to my trainer a lot! I have also used the library and I have read through the forum a few times. That’s been really helpful.” Erin mentions that the flexibility she enjoys due to the online nature of her course is something that is valuable to her lifestyle, and one of the main reasons she chose to study online with Open Colleges.

“With my work, being 2IC at Gloria Jeans, I needed to be as available as I possibly could be with them. That’s why I chose to do a course online,” the student explains. “At the moment, pretty much all I do is study and work!” she laughs. “At Gloria Jeans, I work and make coffees. That takes up a lot of my time.”

Her enthusiasm for both is clear. “Erin is an enthusiastic learner,” trainer Michele confirms, “and I admired how she applied the learning to her workplace to help make a difference,” the trainer says. “I’m sure Erin’s employer appreciates what she has achieved for the workplace and for herself in gaining computer confidence with competency.”

The skills Erin is learning within the course are designed to be applicable to many different types of employment situations.

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Erin can login in to her studies at any time and any place: so long as she is connected to the internet!

 

“So far in the course, I have learnt about PowerPoint and the different aspects of Word. At the moment, I am learning how to put together a media presentation,” Erin says. “The beginning of the course teaches all the basics, like how to install programs. But as you get further into the course it goes more into the different types of software that you should use for different reasons.”  

Studying for a potential career in IT

What’s next for Erin? This career-focused student has plans to move to where she might find more work in her area of speciality. “I plan to move from Wagga, to up the coast,” she says. “I want to actually get a job in information technology. Down the line, I’d love to work as a programmer or a builder.” This course could be a stepping stone to further study for Erin.

“I’d love to move to the Gold Coast. As a dream job, I’d love to design my own gaming computers. I am also interested in gaming and interactive media.” Her trainer Michele says, “I wish Erin all the best for her future. Go girl!” Other than studying her course, Erin says, “I enjoy being outdoors, I love to go fishing and walking the dog.  Whenever I am not studying, I love to get outside!”

Outside or in, information technology is a great career choice. Entry level roles in information technology can be a great way to get your foot in the door of a workplace, particularly if you have patience and drive, like Erin.

Want to do the same course?

The ICA20111 Certificate II in Information, Digital Media and Technology takes a maximum of 12 months to do, but many people complete it in much less. This course is self-paced, meaning you can work through your assignments at a pace that suits you: fast or slow.

Want more information on how the course is taught and what is covered? Call an Open Colleges Enrolment Consultant on 1300 853 033 for more details.

Photo credit: thanks to Zhao !

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