Ivana Žužić is a long term volunteer in Centre of Technical Culture Rijeka. She’s been organising workshops and lectures in programming and robotics for XX years now. We managed to catch Ivana in her busy schedule for a short interview. This is her success story.
Ivana, you volunteer a lot. What is your motivation for volunteering?
When I was a child, I attended many programming workshops because I wanted to learn as much as I could and practice for the competitions in programming I was taking part in. The lecturers who taught me were smart, interesting and kind people who also competed in programming. They motivated me to do what they did – teach other children how to code. I found out that I can do that through volunteering and that’s how I’ve become a volunteer.
How did you discover your interests for IT?
I discovered my interests for IT when I was in elementary school. My informatics teacher invited me to attend additional classes to practice programming. I liked it very much and became interested in programming and started to compete. Through competitions I’ve met many friends and learned a lot so I’ve become even more interested in the IT world. That’s the reason I am studying computer engineering and that’s why I’m still a competitive programmer.
Do you feel like the IT world is reserved only for men?
I don’t feel like the IT world is reserved only for men. Most of my friends and colleagues are involved in the IT world and most of them are men, but they always acted friendly and encouraging towards me. Anyone can succeed in the IT world if he/she has an interest for what he/she does and tries hard.
You work with boys and girls. In your opinion, why are boys still more interested in IT than girls?
There are many reasons why boys seem to be more interested in IT than girls. There are some stereotypes about jobs which still exist. Therefore the society suggests different kinds of games and hobbies for boys and girls and those for boys are more technically oriented, while those meant for girls are more focused on social interaction and art. Even if career choice isn’t based on gender as much as it was before and the society is getting rid of it’s prejudice, it will take some time for the society to accept the modern way of thinking. Even if they don’t have prejudice themselves, some girls might not choose an IT career simply because no one has ever gave them an insight on such careers. Some girls are maybe discouraged because they think an IT career would be to hard for them.
What do you think, how can we inspire more girls to get more involved? What would you do to achieve this?
I think we can inspire more girls to get involved in IT by organising motivational workshops for them. Especially for the young girls because kids are really creative and open minded when they are young and it’s good to offer them the opportunity to gain IT skills and use them later in life, even if they won’t choose an IT career path. I wouldn’t force anyone to enrol in IT workshops, but having the opportunity to attend such workshops is an important thing. Teaching girls about IT in a later age is also a good practice because it gives them more chance to become employed, but teaching at a younger age is more efficient. I usually have some IT themed workshops for Girls in ICT day which are only attended by girls and women. The purpose of them is to give the girls an opportunity to learn something new, without the fear of being ashamed if they don’t know something yet or the fear of being the only girl in the class. The workshops are meant to give them the self esteem and encourage them to continue digging deeper into the subject if they become interested. However, I don’t think girls should be isolated. After they gain interest for the IT world, they should enter other courses and working groups, regardless of the other participant’s gender.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
It’s hard to tell what exactly am I going to do, but I will definitely stay in IT and continue developing on that field. I would like to work in some company as a software developer or maybe choose an academic career and become a lecturer at a university. Either way, I hope I’ll continue volunteering and teaching kids how to code in my free time.
We wish Ivana a happy and productive future, although we already get the feeling she’s got it all under control.