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Kylie Bottcher (left) with Lyndsey Scott, who says she became interested in programming after playing around with a graphing calculator. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Program aims to grow STEM shoots

Lyndsey Scott’s career pathway is unusual, to say the least, and quite likely unique.

Ms Scott knew from an early age that she wanted to be in show business, and achieved that goal early on as an actress and model, working for the likes of Prada and Victoria’s Secret in the latter capacity.

More recently, however, she has applied her creativity to another field, and is currently lead software developer for US-based crowdfunding platform Rallybound

US-based Ms Scott told students at Ashdale Secondary College last month that a career in programming rarely crossed her mind during her school years.

Addressing the school as part of Women in Technology WA’s Techtrails incursion, a program designed to expose children to a diverse array of role models in STEM-based careers, Ms Scott told students about her unlikely transition from the runway to the tech sector.

Having admittedly little interest in the field growing up, Ms Scott said it wasn’t until she discovered she could program games such as Tetris and Snake into her TI-89 graphing calculator that she realised computer sciences could be fun and have practical applications.

“I started playing around with programming language, and never thought it was computer programming at the time,” she said.

“It wasn’t until I took a computer science class that I realised that was programming.”

Reflecting on the decision to transition from modelling to coding, she said the most significant challenge was overcoming the perception of coding as an isolated or extremely technical activity.

“Working in tech doesn’t have to be like that,” Ms Scott said.

Operating since 2011, Techtrails aims to promote careers in STEM among Western Australian students by inviting industry figures to talk to them about the diversity and potential offered by the tech sector.

Speaking at last month’s event, WITWA executive director Pia Turcinov explained that the program was part of an effort to help future proof the state’s students.

“You’re growing up in a world where jobs are very different to those that your parents or grandparents are considering,” Ms Turcinov said.

“Perhaps some of their advice they share with you is becoming less relevant, so it’s important to understand what your options are to make the right decisions that suit you.”

Ms Turcinov’s comments were echoed by school principal Kylie Bottcher, who told students she had rarely received encouragement to pursue STEM courses while at school.

“We occasionally had a teacher that would try to inspire us in other ways [outside of our] usual pursuits,” Ms Bottcher said.

“I certainly was not lucky enough to be exposed to a diverse education.”

STEM skills have become increasingly sought after in recent years, with Education Minister Sue Ellery stating an aim to increase the percentage of year 12 students studying two or more STEM courses to 85 per cent by 2024.

Ms Turcinov emphasised the demand among employers for STEM graduates, citing a 2013 figure from the Australian Industry Group that 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations in Australia required STEM knowledge.

“You want to be part of that group of students that bring those skills to the table,” Ms Turcinov said.

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