MAIN PHOTO: Olivia Handspiker of Beaver Bank speaks to Pat Healey of The Laker News. The video interview can be found in the story. (Dagley Media)
BEAVER BANK: Getting some homework assignments on the side from a teacher at Lockview High led Olivia Handspiker to discover what she wanted to do as a career.
The Beaver Bank native said in high school she had an idea what she wanted to do, something related to the science field in her post-secondary learning, but exactly what remained unknown.
“When I was in high school, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do afterwards,” said Handspiker, a Lockview High alum. “I knew I wanted to go into some sort of science field, but I didn’t know what.”
In Grade 12, she took Astronomy as a class because there weren’t any technology-related classes available for her to take.
“My teacher, Ms. Turner, was talking to me about this and how it was sad we wouldn’t have the opportunity to do technology,” said Handspiker. She actually gave me some assignments on the side that I could just do for fun where it was just to edit this website, learn a bit about this.
“I took that and ran with it. I just started doing my own little websites. It was just really a good introduction that I had.”
The full video interview can be found below or click on the highlighted link in this sentence.
She went and met with some people at Dalhousie University who were in the computer science department, one she never knew had even existed.
“When I saw the different kinds of things you could do with technology, I was immediately pulled in,” said Handspiker, 21 in her third year at Dal.
Handspiker has made it her mission to ensure that women in technology are well represented and are receiving the supports they need to break down barriers in a traditionally male-dominated field of study and work.
“Women in technology are really underrepresented in their fields, especially when it comes to after university,” she said. “It’s really important to let women feel like they have a space in these settings and feel like they have a voice and can be heard.”
The full interview: Edited by Dagley Media
In her spare time, Handspiker said she plays music on the six different type of instruments she has at her apartment. She picked up that love from being in every different band there was at LHS.
The third-year computer science student said being awarded as one of Dalhousie’s first recipients of the Women in Technology Scholarship, valued at $10,000, is proof of her hard work. The scholarship is given to female students who are committed to raising awareness of gender diversity within the study of computer science. Recipients also demonstrate contributions towards increasing and encouraging the involvement of women in the field.
“I feel very grateful to be shown this way,” she said.
Handspiker said helping other women in the field makes her feel really happy.
“Whenever I see somebody saying because of my society they feel welcomed and prepared for the work they’re doing, and able to speak up against issues they have,” said Handspiker. “It’s really just gratifying.”
She is an active member of the Alpha Gamma Delta International Women’s Fraternity. She has held several positions over the past few years including Vice President of Philanthropy, Vice President of Chapter Wellness, and Director of Ritual.
Through her involvement with the fraternity, she has also taken part in volunteer missions including a week-long trip to New Orleans where she worked towards further developing an anti-racist lens and also helping with community clean-up efforts and filling sand pits at the local zoo.
When asked about why she wants to be a data analyst in the banking industry, Handspiker said numbers are her niche.
“I’ve always had a really weird thing about spreadsheets,” she said. “I love making them all the time.
“It’s just my dream job to work with this data.”