Getting involved, widening her horizons, and contributing to the community – that’s what Divya Packianathan really enjoyed about her time pursuing a Bachelor of Software Engineering degree at the University of Canberra.
Throughout her studies, she was very active in some of the clubs at UC – which included being on the committee of the UC Engineering Society for a year and a half, as well as being an active member of the Student Developer Organisation (SUDO) and UC Supporting Women in STEM (UCSWIS).
“My involvement started out mostly because I wanted to meet and talk to other people, and see what interesting things they were doing – it’s fine to talk to people in classes, but I think the clubs have been a really good way to both make friends, and to learn a lot,” she says.
Divya says that the clubs also provided learning beyond classes and made available opportunities she might not otherwise have had.
“We got to see some of the cool stuff happening in other parts of UC – like getting a tour of the robotics lab and having a robotics workshop,” she says.
“Also, in class I tended to focus on whatever I was learning, so I didn’t necessarily take advantage of the social aspects. And with learning online for a large proportion of the last couple of years, being able to engage in the online events and check in with each other was really great.”
She also became a STEM Success Advisor for the Faculty of Science and Technology for the Laying the Foundation for Success in STEM program, under which she helped commencing students transition into their university studies.
“It was a peer mentoring program in which you’re paired up with a first year student, and you meet up every week – online for us at the time, as we were in lockdown because of the pandemic,” Divya says.
Drawing on her own experiences with Peer Assisted Learning Sessions (PALS) in the early days of her degree, Divya thought becoming a STEM Success Advisor would be a great way to pay it forward for the mentoring help she had received.
“I think getting involved in mentoring also gets you to reflect on your own learning, on how you manage situations, and you get to learn from other people too,” she says.
Growing up in Canberra, Divya always had a keen interest in maths and science. “My family is quite science-oriented, and as for my friends – well, I think you have a tendency to end up hanging out with people like you!” she says.
After finishing high school, Divya started studying for a medical degree, but ultimately decided it wasn’t for her.
“I was working for a few years, and then I knew that I wanted to go back to uni, but I wasn’t really sure of exactly what I wanted to do,” she says.
“It was almost on a whim that I ended up doing software engineering, and I really enjoyed it – the endless problem-solving provided good opportunities to use my brain in a way I really liked.
There’s a huge variety of opportunities in the field, and there are so many different areas that you can work in with this degree, because software engineering has such a scope for flexibility.”
Divya says there were definitely moments at the start of her degree when self-doubt crept in.
“I was like ‘oh my gosh, why would I think I could do something like this?!’, because I went into a field I had no knowledge of at all,” she says.
Divya found that support programs like PALS really helped her along the way, as did the warm, friendly support of faculty and fellow students alike.
“I really enjoyed the hands-on, practical approach towards learning at UC,” she says. “The people here have been lovely, and love to help as well! That’s been my experience.”
While she may have started her studies in a field completely new to her, Divya not only excelled academically but also received several awards, including for the Best Demonstration for the Capstone Project Expo in Semester Two of 2021, and the 2019 Australian Computer Society Prize in Software Technology 1 at the SciTech Prize Presentation ceremony.
“Having come to the end of the road with this degree, and achieved the level of competency that I have – it just makes me feel really proud,” she says.
Divya is now working in the NSW Government Graduate Program, in the digital stream.
“The program has three rotations of six months each, and you spend each rotation with a different team – which works great for me, because I really wanted to try a few different things, and see what I might be interested in pursuing further.
I’m still very passionate about healthcare, and would love to eventually do something in that field, which combines all my different areas of knowledge. But I’m interested in so many different things, from stats to data analysis and even business analysis – so we will see. I think the skills I’ve gained in my degree will give me a good grounding in any field, really.”
Words by Suzanne Lazaroo, photo by Maddi Green.
This March, the University of Canberra would like to congratulate the graduating classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022.
We are so glad we can celebrate your journey – you have grown in so many ways, and risen to meet challenges with grace and creativity.
Many of you are already impacting your chosen fields, while others embark on the postgraduate study path.
We are so proud of you all, and we can't wait to see what you will do next.