Full plate included mentoring female students

October 21, 2004, vol. 31, no. 4
By Stuart Colcleugh

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Sandhya (Sandy) Venugopal was shocked. Her first SFU computing science class in 2000 was filled with 60 male students and no more than a handful of females.

“I couldn't believe there were so few women in computing,” recalls Venugopal, who graduates from SFU in October with a bachelor of science in computing science and business administration, and a 4.07 grade point average out of 4.33.

But having already experienced being “in a minority” after immigrating to Canada from Bangalore, India at age 13, Venugopal was far from intimidated.

In early 2002, she volunteered with several other students, faculty members and staff to help found women in computing science (WICS).

WICS is committed to attracting more females to the field, supporting them on campus and in high schools and dispelling the biases and myths facing women in computing.
Venugopal spent hours organizing WICS and other science-related events and mentoring female high school students. She also volunteered with the Golden Key honour society, the Red Cross and B.C. Children's hospital, while holding down two part-time jobs.

It was a “full plate,” she admits, but Venugopal never lost sight of her career goals, maintaining a first-class average, completing two co-ops and earning a slew of scholarships and awards along the way.

Dual majors in business and computing seemed like a perfect fit for Venugopal after her success in her first information technology (IT) class in grade 11 at Coquitlam's Centennial high school.

“Every business needs IT in order to be successful these days,” she says, “and for IT to be successful it has to meet some sort of business need.”

Venugopal particularly likes developing software to meet a variety of specialized business needs because “you get to become familiar with all kinds of different businesses.”

It's a talent she nurtured during her co-ops with Burnaby printing equipment maker Creo Inc. and Vancouver's Techneos Systems, which designs software for mobile survey and testing equipment.

She has already secured a highly prized position with business consulting giant Accenture. “I plan to get a MBA or a MSc eventually,” she says. “But first I want to work for a few years.”

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