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Sarah is passionate about cybersecurity: Wants to ignite the IT spark in more girls

Sarah Manon Pradel is at the forefront of the fight to attract more women into the IT and tech fields. She is studying at TEK to become a software engineer and is one of the main forces in the new campaign Go Get IT Girls.

By Jakob Haugaard Christiansen, journalist TEK., 3/11/2022

She had never coded a line in her life when she started the software engineering programme at the Faculty of Engineering (TEK). She was one of just 11 girls among the 180 new students.

- There are a lot of girls who have played with dolls and had the role of the caring mother throughout childhood. When they grow up and have to choose a degree, they, or we, often go for a degree within the healthcare sector, because that is what we have learned, Sarah Manon Pradel says.

Six semesters later, 23-year old Sarah has actively thrown herself into the fight to draw more girls to the keyboard and IT degrees as part of the Go Get IT Girls campaign at TEK. In collaboration with several companies in Odense, TEK is behind five events where young girls can learn how to build a website, be introduced to artificial intelligence or hack a computer.

Attract more girls

- It is about showing them the many different aspects that exist in the IT subject and in technology, where we take our starting point in reality. It is a super practical study; however, you can’t avoid the theoretical aspect. It covers everything from planning to creativity, and how to use IT solutions, in the health profession area, where, among other things, virtual reality is used to help patients with schizophrenia, she says.

At the Faculty of Technology at SDU, project manager Mette Høyberg Qvarfot is excited that Sarah Manon Pradel can help raise interest in IT among other young girls.

- We want to break down prejudices and make more young girls aware of the many opportunities in the IT and tech industry, which is in such high demand for more women. The campaign aims to show girls the nuances and creativity that can be found in professions they may perceive as boring. We hope to see a lot of girls on the five evenings, says the communications officer at TEK.

From medicine to coding

Sarah Manon Pradel grew up in Korsør and via Nyborg Gymnasium, she came to SDU, where she initially studied medicine. On a path chosen by many girls.

- I was on my way into the healthcare sector like many other girls, who often consider IT and a degree as a software engineer as a "hard" subject characterised by gamer boys in hoodies, she says.

She now wants to change that notion as part of the Go Get IT Girls campaign, which starts on April 20 at the IT company House Of Code in Odense. During the evening, participants can learn how to build a website. This is followed by four other theme evenings at TEK and at private companies, where participants become acquainted with hacking, artificial intelligence, and programming.

- I could not code anything at all when I started. Today I can program, and I have found that when you know the basic programming language, it is actually quite easy to learn a new language, so at that point, it is no different than learning English or German, she says.
Precisely a green code on a black background is a crucial stumbling block for many girls, but not only is it easier than you think, but it also does not make up the largest proportion of the degree either, she emphasises.

- Of course we write a lot of code, but we spend more time on everything from analytics to understanding cybersecurity and how to maintain an IT program. We are engineers before we are programmers and we work a lot with the process itself, she says.

It was precisely her interest in cybersecurity that in her time drew her away from medicine and into the software degree. And even though half of the girls she started with today have dropped out of the degree, they still study technical education.

- It is not because they have become nurses or read to a doctor, they have, among other things, switched to computer science degree so they have stayed within the subject, says 23-year-old Sarah Manon Pradel.

She is not uncertain about why more women need to enter the IT world.

- We have a different perspective than the boys, and in fact, with our caring genes and interest, we have a different approach to the task and the problems we try to solve with coding and technology. The soft values take up more space in our approach to the problems we have to solve.

- In fact, it is exactly these values and interests that deter many from applying for the degree, which also makes it so crucial that we get more girls interested, she says.

If you would like to join Go Get IT Girls, you can read more about the five events here and watch a video with Sarah Manon Pradel:

Editing was completed: 11.03.2022