Making a difference with Oracle Academy
Reyyan Ayfer, Assistant Chair of Computer and Instructional Technology Teacher Education at Bilkent University in Ankara, is passionate about all aspects of computer science. She and her staff teach database management, programming languages, data structures, information ethics and security.
Her department’s four-year program instructs students in how to analyze complex business scenarios, design data models, and create databases using SQL. Central to her curriculum are Oracle Academy courses Database Foundations and Design and Programming with SQL, both of which Ayfer’s teaching staff have taught for more than 15 years.
“Oracle Academy allows me to pass on the happiness I found in solving problems through computer programming as an undergraduate at Middle East Technical University,” she says. “It was so much fun that I took as many elective computer science courses as I could, and now it’s become a vocation.”
Another facet to Ayfer’s vocation, built upon her interest in computer science: helping Turkish women advance in computer science careers.
“Although the number of women studying computer science rose from 20 percent to 30 percent over the past 10 years, there’s still a gender disparity both in higher education and in the job market,” she notes.
In 2004, Ayfer founded BILWIC (Bilkent University Women in Computing), the first non-U.S. student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Council on Women in Computing (ACM-W). Her goal: to improve computer science education for women and increase the number of women working in STEM-related fields.
Since then, in her continued outreach for ACM-W, Ayfer has helped set up student chapters in 12 other Turkish universities. As a frequent visitor to those chapters and speaker, she continues to spread awareness of the Oracle Academy program, organizing roundtables on computer science, workshops and events on university campuses, using the BILWIC social networks to get the word out.
“When students are invited to meetings and activities, information flows from the bottom up,” she notes. “Oracle Academy is very attractive because of the high-demand computer science training in skills it delivers, and the industry-recognized certifications it provides.”
To help students obtain certifications, Ayfer helps university faculties enter their students for exams leading to Oracle Certified Associate certification in Java and Database.
Another of her activities is promoting introductory programming workshops that help make computer science fun for youth—available as Oracle Academy Workshops in a Box—designed for delivery by volunteers who may not specialize in teaching computer science.
Continuing her drive to make careers in technology more appealing and accessible to young women, she helped found the Ankara Celebration of Women in Computing, a regular event in which women guest speakers talk about their career journeys.
“I highlight how Oracle Academy is encouraging young girls to consider ICT as a career option and supports them via computer science resources,” she says.
Ayfer, as the founding Chair of ACM-W Europe, was a key initiator of the successful ACM Celebration of Women in Computing conference, womENcourage, which began in 2014 and next takes place in October 2018 in Belgrade, Serbia. WomENcourage brings together women in the computing profession and related fields to exchange knowledge and experience and provide support for women who are pursuing their academic degrees and starting computing careers. Oracle Academy is a Platinum sponsor of the conference.
Ayfer is proud that her progeny, BILWIC, won the 2017 Internet Society (ISOC) annual Chapterthon event. The only entry from Turkey, “Coding Sisters” was a shining example of an initiative to help close the country’s gender gap in STEM and show how women can be successful in technology.
Thirty BILWIC members, assisted by Oracle Academy, provided beginner-level coding workshops to 42 middle- and high-school girl students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The girls learned to create 3D platforms and games using the Alice platform promoted by Oracle Academy.
Coding Sisters beat 31 other ISOC chapter submissions from around the world. Their success is due in part to Ayfer’s commitment to encouraging girls to study computer science. “It is a wonderful feeling to learn of the success of the student chapter to which you have dedicated so much of time and effort,” she says.
“I believe that the next generation is going to fix the problems we have faced so far regarding diversity in computer science such as conscious and unconscious bias and discrimination,” states Ayfer. “Organizations such as Oracle Academy and ACM-Women are driving this through educational initiatives and by empowering women within their own structures.”