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Life pivot

International student swaps career as dentist for computer programming

Teaching and Learning

By Rebecca Newhook

Kanika Mathur’s career path has been anything but a straight line.

The former dentist is nearing the end of her bachelor of science degree in computer science.

She is passionate about how computers and technology have the potential to drive innovation across all industries, including health care.

What makes a practising dentist pivot to a brand new career in technology?

“My journey from dentistry in India to pursuing a computer science undergraduate degree in Canada has been a significant transformation,” Ms. Mathur said. “It all began with my passion for science and a desire to make a difference in people’s lives, which initially led me to dentistry. Being a dentist was fulfilling, but when I moved to Canada, I felt the urge to explore a new field.”

Co-operative internship

Ms. Mathur began her program at Memorial University in the fall of 2020.

When she learned about the co-operative internship component of the computer science program, she was eager to take part and learn more about the industry.

As part of the program, Ms. Mathur secured an eight-month work term as a software developer with Enaimco.

The St. John’s company develops software that helps energy companies more effectively manage and maintain their subsea equipment.

From left are Kanika Mathur, a brown woman in her early 30s, sits on a couch with Ron Parrott, a white man in his early 40s. A blue and white sign on the wall behind them says "enaimco."
Ron Parrott, chief technical officer at Enaimco, says Kanika Mathur is “a real go-getter.”
Photo: Submitted

Ms. Mathur’s work-term responsibilities included building new software features, providing code reviews and fixing bugs, and working both individually and as part of a group under the guidance of her supervisor, Ron Parrott.

“The team at Enaimco introduced me to several valuable technical skills, including frontend and backend frameworks and database management and version control, which are highly transferable skills that can be applied in different areas of the tech industry,” she said. “These experiences greatly enriched my capabilities as a full-stack software developer.”

In addition, she learned how to work collaboratively with others in a professional technical environment.

“I learned how to communicate with teammates effectively and to work with them to complete our projects on time,” she said. “I feel like all these skills will benefit me in my final year courses and in the job search upon graduation.”

Ron Parrott, chief technical officer at Enaimco, is a supporter of co-operative education; he started his own career as a co-op student over a decade ago.

“Hiring co-op students helps us engage with the community in a way that benefits everyone.” — Ron Parrott

His affiliation with the program remains strong and says co-op students are “a breath of fresh air.”

“They bring a strong work ethic and a strong will to learn that encourages a culture of professionalism, energy and interest,” he said. “Hiring co-op students helps us engage with the community in a way that benefits everyone. The students learn valuable skills and the company may retain them as employees following their graduation. Kanika is a real go-getter and fast learner, exactly the type of student we look for in a co-op recruit.”

‘Never too late’

Ms. Mathur’s decision to switch from dentistry to computer science came with challenges but also with rewards, she says.

Ultimately, she says she is happy with her new career direction, one that she describes as dynamic and ever-changing.

She also has some advice for anyone considering a similar switch.

“Embrace change, be prepared for a learning curve and be persistent. Leverage your existing skills, stay passionate about your chosen field and always appreciate your ability to adapt and succeed in a new career. Life is a series of adventures and it’s never too late to embark on a new one if it aligns with your passion and goals.”

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