"I was always absolutely determined to study computer science. Otherwise you can't succeed." That's how Sarah Schuchardt sums it up. From 2011 to 2014, she took a degree course in applied computer science at the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree.
Continuing her education, she has been training for almost a year to become a cyber security expert. That makes her one of the two women in this first year of the course. Looking back, Sarah Schuchardt says the path was clear cut. She already liked arithmetic in elementary school, and chose computer science as an elective in grades 7 and 8. Math was a subject she was always good at. "But no-one else in the family was ever that way inclined," says the future security expert. Unfortunately, computer science wasn't offered as an advanced course in the senior grades at her school, which is why she chose physics and English.
"It was the best thing that could have happened to me"
After her school leaving exam in Berlin, she began a cooperative study program in STEM in Leinfelden-Echterdingen near Stuttgart. "My cousin told me about it." He was in the first year of the study program. For Sarah Schuchardt, the cooperative Bachelor degree course in Applied Computer Science was exactly the right thing: "This study program was very varied. Simply learning at the university would have been too uninspiring for me. In short, it was the best thing that could have happened to me." Since the first semester, eight of the 23 students on her course were women – the course with the highest proportion of women. And six women stayed with the program through completion.
"I needed to expand my horizons"
Near the end of the course she applied for a number of jobs. But just before the end of the program, she became increasingly agitated: "Until then I'd only looked for a job in my old home of Berlin. But as time began to run out, I realized all the more that I needed to expand my horizons." Then she got an e-mail: A space had opened up at the last minute on a training course to become a cyber security expert. She applied for it. Schuchardt remembers: "I was accepted on the Friday and the start of the course in Bonn was on the following Monday. It took a long phone call with my family and a day to think about it, then I accepted." Two main questions still had to be clarified: "How do I get to Bonn and where will I stay?"
"It was the opportunity of my life"
The first week of the new training program was planned through from start to finish. Classes began the day after the kick-off event. The first comprehensive IT security seminar took place for everyone until the end of the first week. During the course, Sarah Schuchardt also discovered a new passion in programming: "I can learn a lot here." There are university modules you can attend, exams that need to be passed – it's all an ongoing process. Her conclusion after almost one year of study: "It was the right decision, the opportunity of my life."
"Everyone learns independently"
Schuchardt says that the team is friendly and, after all, there are two women training to become cyber security experts. Each of the program participants has their own opinion and follows a different path. Before exams, says Schuchardt, you might well ask the group how they would solve the task, but everyone learns independently. And there are also women in the workgroups, just as there were in her degree course. Sarah Schuchardt finds that the nature of the work is different when the team is mixed.
"It requires a broader range of knowledge"
As far as the future's concerned, she's very interested in making security data easy to understand in the form of graphics. It's a new area and one that will become increasingly important. She thoroughly enjoys her work at the Cyber Defense Center and would like to work longer in this field. It requires a broader range of knowledge, unlike specializing in security data visualization. But the security of data and systems will definitely be the focus of her future work, Schuchardt is sure of that: "The security field has me firmly in its grip."