Fedora Furtado

An array of choices

When Fedora was a child, she would sit at her desk and dream of one day becoming a marine biologist. But after taking an elective IT course in high school on the advice of her computing science graduate cousin, her daydreams soon turned from dolphins to data.

“At first, I thought, ‘why not?’ but I ended up really liking it,” she says. “It’s the ubiquity of software that inspired me: it’s is everywhere and it branches into everything.”

Like many high school students, Fedora faced a daunting array of career options. She was drawn to the versatility of computing science as open-ended pathway that could lead to exciting careers in a wide variety of specialty areas.

“Just think of bioinformatics or environmental computing, for example,” she says. “You don’t have to limit yourself to one thing if you have other interests you also want to pursue.”

Jumping right in

When it came time to pick a university major, Fedora knew one thing for sure: she wanted to focus on software “right off the bat.”

The Software Systems program at SFU piqued her interest because “it seemed focused, intensive and hands-on,” she says.

Her interest in biology and computing science led her to take a course in bioinformatics, a field that uses computing science to study biological questions.

During this class Fedora experimented with medical imaging and, with a small team, helped create an app to help diagnose sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts.

She explains the process: “We interfaced a Bluetooth pulse oximeter with an android phone to monitor oxygen levels and heart rate. Then we correlated this with when the user stopped breathing.” Through this project, she witness first-hand how technology can be used to improve, and even save, people’s lives.

A curious mind

Last year, Fedora landed her first co-op position as a software developer with networking equipment manufacturer Netgear.

“Learning more about software testing was really good training,” she says. “It also translates well into development because you have to be really meticulous in both.”

Like many passionate programmers, Fedora relishes the challenge of problem solving and lists self-motivation and a curious mind as traits common to computing scientists.

“If you come across a puzzle and you want to solve it, you’re likely to enjoy programming,” she says. “Or if you’ve always wondered how Instagram works; how hashtags work or how location settings work, for example – it could be a good fit for you.”

Taking initiative

In 2011, Fedora and some classmates seized the opportunity to create the student-led Software Systems Student Society, which was born of hard work and the support of the Software Systems staff.

“There’s a weekly de-stresser event with Mechatronic Systems Engineering Student Society with pizza, ping-pong and games to help students unwind,” says Fedora, the society’s first secretary. She still attends the society’s get-togethers and events.

“The society organizes events and supports software systems students, but most of all, it’s a whole lot of fun,” she says.

She also sat on the FROSH committee and welcomed new students as an orientation leader for two years, an experience she describes as “energy-packed from the first day.”

Like many students who take advantage of the opportunities offered outside the classroom at SFU, Fedora believes university can expand more than your academic horizons.

“You can network, make friends, get involved in a volunteer position that could lead to a job,” she says. “The student societies are a great way to meet people from other faculties and expand your connections.”