Of all the things Bachelor of Software Engineering graduate Melinda Fischer learned in her time at the University of Canberra, knowing what she is truly capable of is one of the most meaningful.
“I’ve learned that I have a really good brain, and a unique way of looking at things!” Melinda says.
“My journey at uni has been very much an inner one – it’s been about building confidence and feeling good about the work I was doing.”
For someone who used to see herself as the average one in a family of high achievers, that’s a world-changing realisation.
Melinda embarked on her journey at UC after moving halfway across the world – and found that her second foray into higher education was the charm.
Born in Hungary, Melinda later moved to Germany – where, aside from a few years spent at high school in the United States, she completed most of her schooling.
Following high school, she started a degree in early childhood education in Germany.
“I decided not to continue with my degree in Germany – I was struggling with my mental health, and even though I had wanted to be an early childhood educator since I was six years old, it just didn’t seem the right fit anymore,” she says.
Then a visit to Canberra to see her father, an Associate Professor at the Australian National University (ANU), saw Melinda fall in love with Australia – and decide to stay.
“My father and little siblings are here,” she says. “And I love the culture – Australians are really friendly and funny, plus you have the sunshine and beaches!”
So moving here was an easy decision – but deciding on a career path proved a little more difficult.
“I had little confidence in myself, and didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, to be honest,” Melinda says.
And then she had a chance conversation with a friend, an academic who heads the IT faculty at a university in the United Kingdom.
“He knows I really like board games and games of strategy, and one day he just said ‘you know what? I think you’d be really good at coding’,” she says. “He gave me some coding lessons over Zoom, and I found I really enjoyed it. So when I decided on a course of study, that’s what came to mind.
Melinda first did a course at the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT). “I did well, and that gave me the confidence to apply to UC,” she says.
Her second foray into uni life was very different from her first.
“There was a lot of support for students at UC – the uni seems really invested in student success,” she says.
“The first time, I didn’t care very much about my studies. When I decided to attend UC though, it was as a mature age student – and by this time, it was about proving to myself that I could do it.”
Melinda found herself working very hard in her course at UC – and loving it.
“I always need a problem to solve, and tend to reverse engineer what I need – so in everything I do now, I figure out the outcome I need, and then learn the things I need to know to achieve that outcome,” she says.
“I really enjoyed the coding, finding a solution to a problem – and I was so passionate about some of my assignments here!” she says. For one of those, she had to code a genetic algorithm.
“Rob Cox was the lecturer for the Soft Computing unit, and he had us find a solution to a problem by writing an algorithm based on the principles of natural selection and genetics – survival of the fittest,” Melinda says.
“How we defined the genome itself made all the difference – it was difficult and we did struggle, but Rob said I came up with a good solution.”
It was all part of the growth in confidence and skillset that she enjoyed in the course of her degree.
For her commitment to her studies and her consistently high grades, Melinda received the Dean’s Excellence Award at UC four times. While still studying, she was also recognised for her professional practice with the Australian Computer Society Women in Tech Award and was a finalist for the 2022 WIC Women in ICT – Raw Magic Award.
Today, Melinda is Senior Business and IT Manager at TAFE Directors Australia – where she started as an Administration Assistant prior to enrolling at CIT, before working her way up. She is also starting a casual research position at UC.
Post-graduation, she is ready for new challenges, and would like to find a job in software engineering.
“Change is scary, and right now I am in a role which I enjoy, in which I get to run my own projects and where I know what I am doing – but I want to transition to a coding position where I can tackle complex problems and develop solutions,” she says.
Now it’s all about channeling the knowledge, skills and self-realisation Melinda gained at UC into her next steps in life.
Words by Suzanne Lazaroo, photos by Tyler Cherry.
This March, the University of Canberra congratulates the graduating class of 2023.
We are so glad to celebrate this milestone with you. You have overcome challenges with grace and resilience, and grown in remarkable ways.
Many of you are already making an impact in your chosen fields, and others have embarked on their postgraduate study path – we look forward to seeing what you achieve in these next steps in your amazing journeys.