Amber Cahill has always had an interest in technology, but says it was during the first lockdown that her passion for coding really flourished. In addition to studying computer science subjects in high school, Amber accelerated her programming skills through the Grok Academy platform and took part in the NCSS Challenge in 2023, where she first encountered WiseTech.

Fast forward a year, and Amber is now studying computer science at UTS and is part of the 2024 Earn & Learn cohort, where she’s working on real-world projects under the mentorship of WiseTech’s CTO.

When and how did your passion for coding begin?

I always enjoyed messing around with AppleScript files on the family iMac as a kid, but my true passion happened during the first COVID lockdown, when I learned Python from school and used all of my free time on applying it to various challenges.

How did you learn how to code?

I took the Information Software and Technology (IST) subject in Year 9, learning Python from the Grok Academy platform. We were only supposed to spend a term on it, but I enjoyed it so much that I kept going until I'd finished the basic and advanced python challenges on Grok, before moving on to other platforms like Codewars.

What online courses or platforms did you find most helpful for learning new programming languages and concepts?

Grok was the best online platform for teaching me programming basics, although when I learned C# I found it more interesting to just read K&R's The C Programming Language cover to cover, a book given to me by my dad from when he learned to code.

Have you attended any coding bootcamps or competitions? If so, which ones and did they contribute to your skill development?

I attended NCSS Sydney 2023, a summer school focused on introducing some basic cybersecurity concepts through labs and competitions. It contributed greatly to the way I think about programming to protect against vulnerabilities, as well as helping me build connections. It’s also where I first heard out about the Earn & Learn program during a NCSS site visit to WiseTech’s Sydney office.

What practical advice would you give to high school students who are keen to advance their coding skills?

If you find yourself getting bored when trying to build large projects such as games and applications, spending some time on the small things can be a fun break and teach you advanced concepts quickly. I always had fun playing Code Golf; trying to write programs to do simple tasks in the fewest number of characters/lines possible, which taught me lots about functional programming and various problem-solving techniques.

What excites you about being part of the Earn & Learn Program?

The Earn & Learn program's approach to gaining valuable practical experience excites me the most. Instead of being stuck in a classroom learning somewhat-applicable concepts, I can do useful work under the mentorship of advanced professionals in the field.

Right now I'm being mentored by the CTO of the company, allowing me to work on a massive range of interesting problems and rapidly gain expertise that I would've otherwise had no access to, especially as a 17-year-old openly-LGBT+ woman in an industry that so often requires years of experience and lengthy degrees.

What’s it been like juggling full-time work at WiseTech with a part-time computer science degree at UTS?

While it started off a bit stressful given that this is my first job, I settled in very quickly. My first term of university, I chose to take one day of unpaid leave per week to watch lectures and work on assignments. This has left me with plenty of time to spend on the things that are important to me, especially given the option to work from home some days in the week.

What would you say to a Year 12 student considering applying for the 2025 Earn & Learn program?

Whether you've never touched a line of code or you've written huge projects, the Earn and Learn program will be able to adapt to your needs and bring up your skills faster than a standardised university course ever could, especially with the extremely helpful and supportive team of mentors. If you apply and put your best foot forwards, you'll find yourself gaining access to an incredible opportunity for your growth as a young professional. Good luck!