My first try at Computer Science

Though I started my post-bacc Computer Science degree in 2021, my first attempt was actually in 2015. I was in my second year at university and I had one year of pre-engineering coursework under my belt. I was undecided on my exact engineering major, but I had excelled at using MATLAB and decided to enroll in the intro to Computer Science course: CS161.

My first couple days of lecture went well. I was a shy student and sat near the front of the lecture hall, taking detailed notes on the binary number system. I liked the professor and the material made sense to me.

On Thursday, I walked into my first lab session. I remember that I had an event right after the lab, so I was wearing a skirt and had curled my hair. I scanned the half-filled computer lab for a seat. Before I could claim one, I was stopped by a TA.

“This is CS161, but I believe there is a CS101 skills course in the lab down the hall.”

“I’m pretty sure I’m in the correct lab,” I told him. I glanced at the room number to verify.

“Let’s check on the roster,” he said.

The TA made me state my name and paged through his clipboard to identify me on his list. Once he was satisfied, I was free to navigate to an empty computer.

My cheeks burned. I was mortified. I watched as more students shuffled into the room without roster checks. Of all the 30 students in the room, I was the only woman.

It was near the start of the session and I thought I was safe from further embarrassment when a second TA stopped by my desk. He pulled out a clipboard and made me repeat the roster exercise. Apparently he had been the only one in the room to not observe my first humiliation.

The lab assignment was simple. We used C++ to build… a clock? A calculator? I don’t remember, it was some tedious intro project. Both TAs lingered over my shoulder to offer swift “advice” for any mistype. My classmates largely ignored me and turned any other direction to seek collaboration. I completed my assignment as quickly as possible so I could be one of the first to leave the stifling room.

I dropped the class a couple days later. I knew I had the ability to learn the content and succeed. But I did not want to spend the next four years of my life in that environment. Instead, I ended up in Industrial Engineering where there was a staggeringly high percentage of women. Maybe 20 – 30%?

I wish this wasn’t my experience. I wish this had been a product of “oh, that was just the 70’s” but it was 2015. I wish that at a block party, my childhood neighbor didn’t have to tell me she had an almost identical experience in a different room, different university.

I don’t regret my time in Industrial Engineering at all. I gained skills, made friends and had fantastic internships and a job right out of college. It is truly a rewarding experience to come back to my CS education as an adult. I have significantly more confidence in my capabilities than I did as a teen and I no longer have to deal with 19 year-old boys (at least in person).

But I hope that the undergraduate environment is shifting. I hope my experience becomes less common.

If anyone is interested in donating time or money to a fantastic organization that promotes tech education for young women, trans and non-binary students, consider ChickTech. I have volunteered with this organization since 2018 and these high school students continue to inspire me. They are the reason I came back to school to pursue my post-bacc degree. The support and encouragement they show to one another is astounding and something we should all strive to replicate.

Comparing IBM Cognos and Jet Global data warehousing

My first exposure to data warehousing was through Jet Global (now known as Insight Software). At the time, I was working at a mid-sized company that experienced chronic headaches when it came to reporting. Reports seemed to take forever to build and existed largely as standalone Excel spreadsheets connecting to the transactional databases.

I realized that we already owned the Jet Global reporting software package that had been purchased for financial reporting. Here is where I learned the best feature of the Jet Global data warehouse system: Jet Global is built to integrate with 100+ ERP and EPM systems out-of-the-box.

My company used Microsoft GP, and upon opening the Jet Global data warehousing software for the first time, I found that the software immediately was able to build data cubes for Purchasing, Sales, Finance, Inventory and more because it was familiar with the Microsoft GP structure.

Insight Software – Data Warehousing

This completely eliminated the need to tediously build a data warehouse from scratch for the most common data needs. As a beginner to data warehousing, it was immeasurably valuable to have this data warehouse built out that covered 95% of the business needs. I was able to learn from the structure and work to implement some of our customized data objects in Microsoft GP into the data warehouse.

Since learning more about data warehousing, I have worked with IBM Cognos Framework Manager as well. I have found that this is an easier platform to use as an intermediate data warehouse developer. The diagram visualizations aid in the development of different data models and are superior to those in Jet Global.

From the Data Warehouse Laureate blog

In my experience, it is easier for developers to work out of the IBM Cognos tools to build data models. But the huge win for the Jet Global (Insight Software) data warehouse package is the ease with which an out-of-the-box data warehouse can be built for a company’s ERP system. It requires very little support from developers before being ready for actual reporting use.