Recently named as one of Science & Technology Australia’s #SuperstarsofSTEM, alumna Rashina Hoda’s research focuses on the human and social aspects of software engineering.
“I find the process of software development fascinating. How does a team that’s creating an app, come up with the ideas and design for it? How do they ensure that the product is ethical, caters to diverse users, and is user-friendly? These are some of the questions I’m interested in,” says Rashina.
Starting her journey at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington with a Masters that turned into a PhD, Rashina went on to complete her PhD in software engineering, with her thesis titled Self-organising Agile Teams: A Grounded Theory.
It was a chance encounter at an education fair in New Delhi that marked the beginning of this journey. “I happened to meet Tim Fowler, who was the Director of Wellington University International, and Shona de Sain, who was the Associate Dean (Students) for Engineering, at the New Zealand Education Fair—they made me an offer of place and followed it up with a scholarship. It was a great opportunity and I’m glad I took it.
“My experience at Wellington’s university has been pivotal in making me the researcher and academic I am. I was first introduced to agile software development during a class by Professor James Noble—later, that became my PhD focus and James was my supervisor. Both James and my co-supervisor, Dr Stuart Marshall, encouraged me to explore new research designs, learn new methods and techniques, and provided a supportive and open environment in which I could explore my topic fully. I grew into an independent and confident researcher, publishing and representing the university at premier software engineering conferences and journals,” says Rashina.
Teaching formed an important part of her PhD years and Rashina had over 300 students in her first lecture. “That sort of teaching experience was extremely valuable. I had a lot of support and guidance from Associate Professor Peter Andreae (Pondy) and Associate Professor Marcus Frean, with whom I co-taught. Roger Cliffe, who was one of our systems engineers, recorded videos of some of my lectures and this went a long way in helping me improve my teaching practices—these skills gave me a great head-start in my career. Once I completed my PhD and a brief period as a post-doctoral researcher at Wellington’s University, I started my first academic job at the University of Auckland where I worked for eight years before moving to Monash University.”
Currently the Associate Professor and Associate Dean (Academic Workforce) in the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University, Australia, Rashina’s vision is to nurture her staff to be happy, balanced, passionate, and agile so they can deal with any challenge that comes their way. “I really enjoy interacting with people, understanding their concerns, and coming up with ways to make things smooth and efficient. I’m also working towards simplifying academic processes, improving transparency, fairness, and equity in workforce practices, especially when it comes to supporting our early career academics and those from underrepresented backgrounds.”
Rashina is also the Deputy Director of the HumaniSE Lab project, where she works closely with its Director, Professor John Grundy, an ARC Laureate Fellow, who is globally renowned for his work on domain-specific visual languages and model-driven software engineering tools. The HumaniSE Lab research group is focused on understanding and accounting for the unique ways in which people interact with software. “I am working to establish a strong human-centred software engineering research program at our HumaniSE Lab with our team focusing on understanding and better supporting human aspects such as personality, gender, age for software teams and users,” Rashina explains.
Recalling her experience of working towards a doctoral degree, Rashina says “A PhD is a roller coaster ride—it tests your grit, passion, determination, and sometimes your sanity. But it is also amazingly empowering and rewarding. And I really enjoyed the freedom to explore a topic of my choice, the ability to investigate it in an open, yet structured and robust manner, and working with supportive supervisors—they helped me maintain a good work-life balance as I had a family with very young children. Wellington is a lovely place to raise a young family!” she adds.
Internationally reputed for her work on agile methods and grounded theory, Rashina also works closely with children, teachers, game designers and education experts to design games that help promote STEM literacy in the modern classroom. “It is indeed a great honour to be recognised as one of the 60 #SuperstarsofSTEM in Australia and I’m looking forward to using this opportunity to promote STEM to girls, and to promote women in STEM. Both industry and academia need more women in technology. The winds of change have only intensified in recent years and there are great opportunities for women in technology.”