‘Making good quality education available at all levels is very important’

National Scholarship winner Sarah Sellier speaks on studying abroad, women in IT, and the value of the training she received from the ClickToStart Foundation

It is no secret that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is supposed to open doors to new possibilities. This proved to be a life-changing reality for 21 year-old Sarah Sellier when a national scholarship led to her travelling thousands of miles across the world to study engineering at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Sellier has been immersing herself in information and communications technology (ICT) from an early age, and was mentored by the ClickToStart Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation created by Abigail Wren, a project manager and e-learning specialist who works with UWI St Augustine’s Campus IT Services. With volunteers, many of them from the campus, the foundation provides training to both young and elderly people to help close the gap in technology use.

As the world celebrated International Girls in ICT Day, Sellier recently sat down with Communications Professional Jaye-Anne Figaro-Mc Donald to share her experiences. Here are some abridged interview highlights. The full 6-part interview is available on their Instagram: @clicktostartfoundation

Jaye-Anne Figaro-Mc Donald: Tell us a bit about your background.

Sarah Sellier: I grew up in the ICT age, so I went to a lot of STEM-related camps and workshops, and I think that really shaped how I decided to go about my future.

I studied subjects like physics, chemistry, and IT. I also studied technical drawing and industrial technology, specialising in woodwork and construction technology. I played sports, and also participated in activities revolving around service and faith.

JFMc: What motivated you to study ICT?

SS: What really drew me to engineering and ICT is that you can take your ideas and make them into reality. The environment that ClickToStart Foundation creates is very supportive, but it's also very dynamic. It's very inclusive.

JFMc: What has it been like to study abroad?

SS: More than half the students I've met are either international students or first generation immigrants. There are a lot of different backgrounds and cultures and languages represented – you never feel out of place.

I came across a really good piece of advice in a TED Talk once: if something is worth doing, you will make time to do it. I really see that come into play. I know that I can't do everything at once. Rather than letting that crush me, I focus on what I can do and choose the things that are worth doing.

JFMc: What do you think are the biggest obstacles that women face in the ICT field?

SS: I think there there's a two-fold obstacle: under-representation and perceived under-representation. I've been to ICT camps – there were a lot of girls there – and yet there's always that underlying sense when you talk about ICT that it's not a field many women will go into. We want to avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy for the next generation that everyone thinks no women go into ICT, so less women go into ICT. The best way you can tackle that would largely be by making it seem less extraordinary whenever a girl goes into the field.

JFMc: How can educational institutions better support women who are pursuing careers in ICT?

SS: Making good quality ICT education available at all levels, especially during the beginning of their ICT journey, is very important. That is essentially what ClickToStart does.

There’s also the need to have that sense of “I can do this” fostered in people who are starting out. Once they have that, it gives them the confidence to ask the questions they need in order to learn.

For those seeking a sign that this is right for them – and this may sound kind of Christian-based because I am Christian – I believe that you live as an example of what you want to see in the world. I am being visible. I'm a visible sign that there are people here doing this thing. It's something that's happening, and it's dynamic, and it's growing.

JFMc: What are your career aspirations?

SS: I definitely want to continue working in Trinidad. Of course, I want to share the knowledge I've gained here. I want to give back to my country because they've given so much to me.

JFMc: What advice do you have for young women interested in ICT?/span>

SS: I think you should check out a ClickToStart event. ICT is something you have to love in order to love doing. You can't get around that.

JFMc: What is one of the most important lessons you have learned?

SS: There’s a piece of advice a friend always gives me: I'm a shark. I don't move backward. That sense of whatever happens, you keep moving forward.

For more on the ClickToStart Foundation, visit