CPIT's 'Google scholar' off to Tokyo

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03 Sep 2014

Catherine Northcott’s IT studies will reach new heights this month, as she looks down from the 30th floor of Google’s Tokyo offices.

The CPIT student has been awarded the prestigious Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship for Asia Pacific. As a recipient, Northcott has won $5000 Australian dollars, a ‘retreat’ at Google Tokyo in mid-September and a second retreat at Google Sydney in October.

Northcott is one of three New Zealand recipients, out of 28 winners from all over the Asia Pacific region including India, Australia, Singapore, Pakistan, Korea, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

The application process involved Northcott submitting her CV and academic transcription, as well as writing three essays about how she became interested in computing, an example of her leadership skill, and a technical project she was involved in.

The next stage was the two phone interviews with Google Software Engineers.  “I was so nervous, but the Google engineers that interviewed me were really kind and it was very pleasant to speak with them,” she says.

Northcott has been highly involved in the IT community at CPIT, founding the CPIT Tech Girls group across campus. She found out she had won the scholarship while volunteering for the CPIT IT GRLS Holiday Workshop for Year 11 and 12 girls.

“After I read it I was so happy I became kind of hysterical. I could barely believe it was happening to me - I was literally dancing, spinning, and jumping for joy. The staff and girls doing the workshop were really supportive and everyone congratulated me. It was pretty special.”

Northcott is in the Second year Bachelor of her Information and Communication Technology Degree and after graduating wants to work in a software engineering role.

“The great thing IT skills is their incredible flexibility, especially programming skills. Technology is everywhere and there are so many opportunities out there that open new doors, so I just want to keep my mind open and go wherever that takes me.”

She hopes the trip will bring her into contact with new people, cultures, and experiences and that will challenge her to “think of different ways of solving problems and see things from new viewpoints”.

“There is so much I can learn from the other scholars and from the Google software engineers, much of which wouldn't occur to me from where I stand now. Diversity helps foster creativity and innovation and those are qualities I highly value in a project and which I want to bring into my work in the future.”

Northcott is most looking forward to meeting all the other scholars and “doing cool things together”, but has extended her stay at her own cost because she hopes to do some sightseeing as well.

 “Tokyo itself is of course an incredible place to visit. I've always wanted to go there the experiences and friendships I make that will make the retreat something I will treasure forever. I know this entire experience will be unforgettable and I feel so privileged to have this opportunity, I definitely want to make the most of it.”