SFU Graduand Gains Foundational Skills while Being a Leader in Women in Computing Science Community

June 22, 2021

By Andrew Ringer

SFU graduand Dawn Chandler’s path to finishing their undergraduate degree was not what they originally had envisioned. While initially majoring in communications at SFU, Chandler did an internal transfer to the School of Computing Science as a means to challenge themselves in their studies and gain practical skills.

This June, they are graduating with a joint major in computing science and linguistics, learning foundational skills that have led to a career in software engineering while pursuing their passion for languages.

This path wasn’t always easy. Chandler overcame several challenging periods at the beginning of their studies as they took on computing science and math courses without programming experience and with previous struggles in math.  

“I didn’t consider myself a ‘good student’ until my fourth year at SFU,” says Chandler.

“It took so much trial and error and self-reflection to understand what study strategies and environments worked for me.”

These efforts were worthwhile. Upon graduating, Chandler boasts an impressive list of awards that highlight their academic achievements, including multiple Dean’s Honour Roll and President’s Honour Roll appearances.

Perhaps more impressive, however, was Chandler’s involvement with the Women in Computing Science (WiCS) student group. Over four years they served in multiple different roles, including President, Technical Coordinator and Mentorship Coordinator. This provided Chandler with leadership experience as well as a sense of community at SFU.

“WiCS was a very defining part of my SFU experience,” says Chandler.

“It’s important to have groups focused around different areas of diversity, equity and inclusion because to not have those you are basically saying that the status quo is fine.”  

They also gained significant work experience through five co-op and internship roles at Environment and Climate Change Canada, Thomson Reuters, IBM, Collective Health and Microsoft.

“Working for five different companies in different domains, in different areas of software development, in different cities, with different types of teams and projects taught me so much about what I did and didn’t like doing,” says Chandler.

Now finished classes, Chandler recently started as a Software Engineer at SkipTheDishes where they work on backend software development. They credit their co-op experience and the foundational knowledge that they gained through computing science courses for preparing them for this exciting new role.