Meet Grace, a former fashion designer who’s boldly paving a new path for herself in computer science. Inspired by the example of mathematician Amalie Emmy Noether—and determined to overcome her math anxiety to be a good role model for her daughter—she started taking courses online. It wasn’t easy balancing learning with her family responsibilities, and she was going through breast cancer treatments at the same time. She persevered, and Grace is now enrolled in the University of London’s Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degree. She’s excited about all the ways computer science will open up a whole new world for her. Learn more about her journey, inspirations, and goals, as she shares her story below.

As someone who comes from an art and design background, enrolling in the University of London’s Bachelor of Science in Computer Science program was a huge leap for me. Plus, I was an older student. I was enrolling in an undergraduate program after having already been in the workforce for over a decade. Still, I was determined to take on this challenge. I was already familiar with the Coursera platform, and I found it easy to navigate and I appreciated the lecture format and clear deadlines. Given my positive experience, I figured it would be easier to pursue my goals with an online degree program offered through Coursera. 

Photo: Grace learning with her daughter

It was also very important for me to be a good role model for my kids, especially my daughter. I wanted her to see her mom struggle with something hard and keep pushing through. I wanted her to see that while learning anything in the sciences can be hard, it’s beautiful and reachable too. 

I was a fashion designer by trade for over a decade. Art and design always came very easy to me, but not the sciences. I decided it was time for me to address an old issue I had with mathematics. I suppose you could call it a math anxiety. I started slowly taking math classes and worked hard and consistently to build up my knowledge in math. I had a family to take care of and was going through breast cancer treatments during those earlier years. It was hard at times, but exciting when you would have the breakthrough in solving a math problem. I felt a strong sense of satisfaction and empowerment when I mastered new and difficult math and programming techniques. I am proud that I have come this far in the sciences. I started at the very bottom. If I can do it, anyone can. 

One of my favorite role models is the mathematician Amalie Emmy Noether (1882-1935). She published many papers on David Hilbert’s work on fields, rational functions, invariants, and finite groups. This work led her to groundbreaking contributions in the field of abstract algebra. She was met with many rejections in her scientific career—including certain faculty from the University of Gottingen. Despite all the naysayers, she never stopped doing what she loved. I often think to myself: “What an amazing mind she had and what an amazing personality to pursue her passion in a time when women were discouraged or not allowed to study in the sciences. If she had the courage to face those challenges, why can’t I?”

Noether’s story gives me hope and serves as my inspiration to keep going in my computer science program. We all need inspiration and encouragement sometimes:

While I’m still entering the very beginning of my computer science studies, I hope to expand my knowledge and advance my skills. So far, I have learned how to program a game in Javascript. I’ve never done any programming before and I really enjoyed the course and how it was laid out for learning. My daughter is learning Scratch, a simple programming language designed for kids and beginners, and based on what I have learned so far in my degree, I’ve been able to help her keep making progress. I love being able to study together with my daughter and see both of us grow. 

Learning computer science will open up a whole new world for me. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the past few years to take care of my family, and I’d like to jump back into a career that challenges me and provides a fresh perspective. I would love to apply my new programming skills to the arts or design––a career in animation would be a dream job for me!

Fun fact about me: I come  from a small village in Cork (Rathcormac), Ireland and my original background is in Fashion Design and Art. I have been living in the United States for the past 27 years. I have worked in Dublin, London and New York. I love cooking and applying my artistic touch to my food presentations. Cooking, photography, and designing and constructing my own clothes are among my favorite hobbies!

Photo: Grace designing apparel
Photo: Grace applying her artistic touch to food presentation while watching her lecture videos on Coursera.