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Toni James

Toni James is Software Engineer at Orion Health in Christchurch. Orion Health is a New Zealand owned international healthcare software company. She is speaking at the Techweek'17 event Breaking Stereotypes: Inspiring Christchurch Women in Tech.

Toni jamesWhat do you do on an average work day?

I start by checking the calendar for what’s up for the day and new this week, then I browse over HipChat for any conversations I missed or to see what my team at Orion Health is up to. 

I make a flat white at the espresso machine and help myself to some breakfast if I didn’t eat at home. Then I get down to business.

I may work on a ‘story’ which could be writing code, documentation, testing, reviewing, and/or publishing my work. I could investigate some future work to get it ready or playing with some code to see if something is possible and how difficult it may be to do. I might do either of those things on my own or with a teammate, depending on the size of the task and the skills needed for it. 

I’ll most likely have at least one meeting in the day which is either focused on personal or professional development, or focused on upcoming work for our team. 

We also do daily ‘standups’ which allow us to let the rest of the team know what we did work on and what we’re planning to work on, if we have any questions or issues, or if we need to collaborate with others. 

I try not to plan much after 4pm so I can be free to pick my daughter up from after school care whenever I need to, but I share that with my husband.

Toni and family

What did you study at school? And after high school?

High school was a long time ago and in the USA, but I had a wide range of interests which included French, Art, Computer Programming, Maths, English Literature, and History.

I recently finished a Bachelor of Science for Computer Science at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch.

Was your study directly related to what you do now?

Absolutely, I knew I wanted to be in the Canterbury tech industry and I felt a local qualification was the best way for me to get into it. I knew I enjoyed coding, but university exposed me to so much more than I could learn on my own online. It really solidified my understanding of the foundations of computer science and programming.

I received a scholarship through a local tech company which included an internship, and knew before my second year at university that this is what I wanted to do. Hint: I’m doing it now!

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?

First of all, try it! If there is something you’re interested in, get out there and talk to people doing those jobs.

Ask the companies if you can shadow someone for the day. Shadow Tech is specifically for this, but you should try any job you could possibly be interested in before you spend years studying for it.

Also, whatever degree you do at university does not define what you will do for the rest of your life, so take that pressure off your shoulders. I know so many people in tech that studied tourism, or music, or a different discipline entirely, so don’t worry about making the wrong choice. Making the choice to further educate yourself will always be a beneficial decision.

Toni snowboardingWhat are some of your career highlights so far?

I was President of Computer Chicks while I attended University of Canterbury, where I was also awarded three scholarships: the Google Anita Borg Scholarship, the Orion Health Computer Science Scholarship and the Women TechMakers Google I/O Scholarship.

I was also promoted to Junior Software Engineer from Graduate Software Engineer within 5 months of my first year.

My research paper on Gender Diversity in Software Engineering Teams was published at the 39th Annual International Conference of Software Engineers and I am presenting it later this month in Buenos Aires.

I am also an organising committee member for the Christchurch Women in Tech, where I am organising a Techweek event with a few coworkers that I am also a speaker at.

Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?

Technology is everywhere we look in our daily lives and understanding that technology will make us creators, not just consumers. Simply speaking: creators make money, consumers spend money.

Nearly all forms of work deal with technology in some aspect and the more you understand, the more you will be in control of your environment and your future.

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?

We are 50% of the population, and yet we represent less than 25% of the STEM workforce. Technology for everyone is being designed by one subset of the human race. Only with a diverse workforce can we truly achieve the greatest ideas in technology and innovation.

Receiving the Google Anita Borg scholarship

Toni James is Software Engineer at Orion Health in Christchurch. Orion Health is a New Zealand owned international healthcare software company.

This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM. 
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