Unimagining the image of a computer science studentJennifer Kieffaber | Computer Science, Undergraduate | Department of Computer & Information Science, Department of Mathematical Sciences Jennifer Kieffaber doesn’t put much stock into how a computer scientist should look or act.
“I think the current stereotype of a computer scientist is of someone who has been a (video) gamer their whole life, who is kind of geeky and introverted,” said Kieffaber, a computer science major and math minor at the School of Science at IUPUI.
“I think that comes from people not knowing much about computer science, how it’s not just about mainlining syntax all day,” she added. “It’s a science degree, so there is a lot of theory and problem solving, and it takes a whole new mindset.”
Kieffaber has enjoyed breaking down this stereotype most of her life. She once parlayed her love of computer technology into a job on the Geek Squad (computer repair) at a local Best Buy. She remembers how customers would seek her male co-workers for advice on technical questions. She uses that to motivate her to achieve more as a woman studying in a male-dominated field.
“I know I’m going to be highly marketable with my degree, so I don’t worry very much about my future job prospects,” said Kieffaber, originally from Minnesota.
Computer science lends itself well to a variety of industries and offers her a flexible career option, Kieffaber said. She questions why more women don’t pursue the field, in which you are virtually guaranteed to have a well-paying job upon graduation. Recent estimates suggest there are three computer science jobs for every one qualified candidate.
Studying computer science gives students an advantage when employers look for people who can solve complex problems in an efficient and innovative way, she added.
“Since I’ve started studying computer science, I’ve discovered just how complex computers are and how I’ve improved my logical thinking to overcome problems,” Kieffaber said. “It really affects the type of thinker you are.”
Kieffaber spends a lot of time hovered over her monitor, either as a full-time student or at her job as a data analyst at a local tech company, iGoDigital. She also works as a security guard at outdoor concerts across the city and occasionally works developing iPad applications.
“I don’t sleep a lot,” she said. However, she has found time to commit to a cause she sees as highly important—helping high school students learn more about computer science. She has participated in student panel discussions for prospective students and helped to host Computer Science Day at IUPUI.
In her spare time, she enjoys playing soccer and spending time with her friends across Indianapolis.