Allyson Cairns

BSc, Computing Science (Business Minor), University of Alberta

Having a computing science degree from the University of Alberta (U of A) doesn’t guarantee you a job.

"Like many new U of A graduates, I did the brute-force attack on job applications, applying for anything and everything I felt I was qualified for," says Allyson Cairns.

It was a tough go for awhile, but finally Cairns received two job offers. Now, after working in the industry for three years, she can testify that while her degree did not guarantee her a job, it has definitely bolstered her career.

"The professors and the curriculum at the U of A set me up for success; I feel that I have an advantage over others who did not receive a university degree. For example, my education at the U of A showed me how to teach myself and how to troubleshoot different situations. It also developed my problem-solving abilities and enhanced my communication skills."

The U of A also prepared her handsomely for her career by setting her up with a paid internship.

"The internship program has had the largest impact on my life as a professional," she says. "I spent 16 months working at Statistics Canada in Ottawa; the skills I learned there greatly affected my career path."

Her minor in business instilled her with entrepreneurial skills as well. Near the end of her degree she started up a website company with some U of A business students. PlanetStudents.com helps students buy and sell used textbooks, find roommates and tutors, and otherwise fulfill their student needs. Cairns was a shareholder and involved in everything from the business plan to the website design. She later left the company to focus on her career with Bell Canada.

"PlanetStudents.com was an excellent opportunity, and I learned a lot in the process,” she says. And, the computing science program managed to teach Cairns, a self-confessed computer novice, enough about computers to enable her to be what she is now: a database developer.

"When I started at the U of A, I did not have any prior experience or knowledge about computer programming or how computers even work, but I found the first few courses relatively simple and actually enjoyed our small programming tasks," she says.

Cairns, a former competitive figure skater who moved to Edmonton for her skating, liked her first computing courses so much that she abandoned her original aspiration of being a physical therapist. She has no regrets.

"I enjoy my job because of the wide range of tasks I am able to do, the responsibility placed upon me, and the knowledge I have gained… I have met some great people… I feel that my hard work at Bell is being appreciated."

Cairns develops and maintains applications that load and transform data for Bell’s corporate systems, which are used by internal departments such as finance, sales, and marketing. Her work includes designing and implementing projects and installing and administrating software.