Aleisha Amohia is a second year university student at Victoria University of Wellington and Junior Developer at Catalyst IT, an open source software company.
What do you do on an average work day?
Most of my days start at university and end at work. I’ll go to my lectures, fit in some assignments, then head to work and write code to improve and enhance Koha.
Koha is an integrated library system used by schools and organisations across the world, and it’s unique because it’s completely open source (the code is free to use or share, and is collaborated on by developers based in many different countries).
What did you study at school? And after high school?
I went to Wellington East Girls’ College and studied Physics, Digital Technologies, Economics and Maths. I’m now in my second year at Victoria University of Wellington where I’m doing a conjoint degree of Commerce and Computer Science.
Was your study directly related to what you do now?
Absolutely - we were told since the day we started at high school to think about what we might want to do in the future, so I took classes that would be helpful if that was the path I ended up going down.
Luckily for me STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) has always been one of my greatest passions, so the things I learned at school help me with what I’m learning now, which all helps me do my work for Catalyst.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
The main thing I want young women to do is to explore all areas and give everything a go, especially activities and industries that are male-dominated.
I want the biased output from the media and under-representation to NOT be a reason why women don’t study science and technology, because if you’re even slightly interested in these subjects, then you should explore that interest and BE the change.
Take risks; don’t be afraid of something that challenges or scares you!
What are some of your career highlights so far?
There are some moments that I’ve been really proud of, that I know have made my team at Catalyst and my family really proud.
In 2016 I was a Finalist for the NZ Open Source Contributor Award, and this year I am a Finalist for the 2017 NZ Hi-Tech Young Achiever Award. The feeling that comes with that kind of recognition at my age (19) is hard to describe, because I never saw myself going to these gala dinners and sitting at the same table with people that inspire and teach me.
I think my favourite part about what I do is getting to interact with students who are interested in coding, at the yearly Catalyst Open Source Academy, and the code club that I am starting at my primary school. It’s awesome knowing I can pass the skills I’ve learned on to them and make the industry more inviting to them.
Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?
Engaging in STEM is important as young people move through school and start entering the workforce, and as organisations begin to incorporate technology into their main processes.
If we embrace STEM in our organisations, we can make systems more efficient, reach bigger markets, connect with global audiences and find solutions for environmental issues - which should be a priority for New Zealand.
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
It’s important to have women and other minority groups working in STEM because consideration of diverse skills, experience, needs and ideas make better quality end-products.
It’s as simple as the fact that the audience of products and services that come out of STEM areas is not as narrowly represented as the people producing them. As long as minority groups are using these products, they should be represented by the people who create them.
Aleisha Amohia is a second year university student at Victoria University of Wellington and Junior Developer at Catalyst IT, an open source software company. She also loves to sing and has a YouTube channel. You can follow her on Twitter: @aleishaamohia
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.
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