“It’s with great pleasure that I announce that SoCAS has successfully filled the position of Associate Dean of Computing with one of our very own!” announced Dean Hildebrand, Dean, School of Computing & Academic Studies (SoCAS).
Donna Turner is already known by many at BCIT as Program Head, Student Success for the Computer Systems Technology Diploma and Bachelor of Technology (BTech) programs. We asked her a few questions about where she’s been, what she loves about working in education, and some of the incredible opportunities offered by the evolution of technology.
Q: What’s your background, and where were you before you came to BCIT?
Donna Turner (DT): Since taking a computing class in High School, I knew I wanted to be in a technical field. At UBC Engineering, I was drawn to Computer Engineering, but more specifically the software elective courses. Most of my co-op positions were also in software.
I “grew up” professionally at MDA, where I was a part of some great teams and got to do cool things like go on a submarine, and visit Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) offices in Oklahoma. I had to do some coding in a Tempest room which blocks electronic emissions – it sounds exciting but is actually very lonely. MDA taught me the value of good process, and through that work I gained my Professional Engineer (P.Eng.) designation.
I became a Project Manager at Ensemble, which was a big switch: from large long-term software systems, to short agile app development projects. I enjoyed the fast-paced work environment, and there were some months where I was submitting multiple iPhone and Xbox One apps for review, and then anxiously waiting for the results. Through my work at Ensemble, I gained my Project Management Professional (PMP) designation.
Q: What do you love about working in education?
DT: I really enjoy helping people. I sincerely feel like we are changing lives for the better. No one can ever take education away from you.
I also like the cyclical nature of academia, and being on the same cycle as my kids. The excitement of a new term, the relief at the end of term, and the joy of summer vacation never get old.
“No one can ever take education away from you.” – Donna Turner, Associate Dean, BCIT Computing
Q: What can you say about BC’s tech scene and/or sector growth?
DT: As awful as the pandemic is, I think one silver lining is that it reinforces the fact that Computing is vital. Almost all non-computing businesses still have need for computing. Can you imagine the world being able to function as well without email and virtual meeting software?
The tech industry was very stable during the last two years, and projected growth and opportunities are very promising.
Q: What do you think are the most exciting opportunities for computing to help humanity in the coming decade?
DT: Computing will continue to help us in forming and maintaining global connections, and making things more accessible and equitable for everyone. Increased blended/remote learning and employment will be leveraged to reduce carbon emissions and hopefully slow down climate change.
Q: How do you keep up with a changing industry?
DT: Our Industry Sponsored Student Project (ISSP) courses give me great insight into what is gaining popularity. We get some really interesting project submissions from industry sponsors each term. I also like to peruse the position titles on job boards to see what’s in high demand. And of course, the students help! The other day they used the acronym FAANG to describe Big Tech companies, and I had to go look it up. Although with the Facebook/Meta rename, the acronym might become MAANG.
More broadly, BCIT Computing has a Program Advisory Committee (PAC) made up of industry representatives from a range of companies and organizations. We meet with the PAC to update them about our offerings, and hear their ideas so we can keep computing education aligned to sector needs.
Q: What would you like prospective students to know when they’re considering computing at BCIT?
DT: I have a quote that I like to tell the new students, from the movie A League of Their Own: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
I don’t pretend that our programs are a breeze. They can be intense and stressful at times. But you also make lifelong friends and contacts, and your job prospects are excellent, and your subject matter is always interesting and evolving.
Q: Any final insights or comments?
DT: I never pictured myself working in education, but now I can’t imagine myself working anywhere else.
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