Alyssia Jovellanos is a Computer Science student and undergraduate teaching assistant at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. Coming from a high school that did not offer computer science courses, Alyssia was the only girl in her entire graduating class of about 350 students who decided to pursue post-secondary education in the Computer Science field.
In the summer of 2015, Alyssia worked as a Summer Research Assistant and Software Engineer in the Faculty of Engineering at McMaster University. In this role, she developed tools and modules to teach elementary school students how to code and worked as an Outreach Instructor in the program “Software: Tool for Change”. This program targets middle-school children who are about to make academic decisions which will open or close different career paths, in the hopes that with a bit of beginner-friendly hands-on experience of CS and a discussion on the social impact of software, girls and other underrepresented groups might be inspired to consider a career in software. These tools and workshops have been delivered to more than 3,500 students to date, and aspects of these tools have been embedded in the first course that all Computer Science majors have to take in their first year at McMaster University.
As an aspiring software engineer who is deeply involved in advancing women’s participation in technology, Alyssia has served as a role model in multiple leadership positions, actively creating opportunity and impacting thousands of students to develop and learn new skills in computing. In her freshman year, she co-founded and co-directed DeltaHacks, Canada’s second-largest student-run Hackathon for Change. She was elected as both the youngest and first female president of her university’s Computer Science Society by the end of the school year. DeltaHacks’ theme, “Hack for Change”, encourages a diverse array of interdisciplinary student teams from across Canada to create software and hardware projects along tracks of impact. In total, DeltaHacks brought 800 students to the McMaster campus and the support of over 50 organizations, targeting underrepresented groups of attendees such as women and ethnic minorities.
In addition to these roles, Alyssia continues to spend time volunteering as an Outreach Instructor to deliver the content developed in the summer and is a Women in Engineering Ambassador for her high school. She also helps organize and run events through HackitMac and the Microsoft Student Partners Program, attracting hundreds of students to networking events, technology workshops and hackathons.
At 17, Alyssia was the sole founder and owner of her own multimedia technology company Beta Pear, which ran full-time as part of the 2-month Summer Company program. Beta Pear was funded by the Government of Ontario’s Flagship Student Entrepreneurship Program and Kevin O’Leary’s Future Dragon Fund. She went on to be named as one of Canada’s Top 10 Future Dragons, and spoke at multiple youth events to inspire the next generation of female leaders and technologists.
Whether it’s working on tools to empower small business owners, creating prototypes of applications that could better the experience of many at hackathons, or starting an initiative to expose disadvantaged groups to computer science, Alyssia loves to work on high-impact projects. She recently founded McMaster University’s first Women in Computer Science club, and hopes to partner with other organizations such as the Anita Borg Institute, Ladies Learning Code and Girls Who Code to expand her efforts and show girls that software is a tool for change.