MA Conference for Women 2019 || Experience & Tips

Hey guys! There were roughly 12,000 attendees at the MA Conference for Women last week and I had the wonderful opportunity to be one of these attendees on behalf of my company! (I am an associate software engineer for those who may not know.)

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At the Reebok “It’s a Woman’s World” Booth in the Exhibition Hall

I took the train into Boston and was at the convention center all day long with booths to see, sessions to attend, and people to meet. When we arrived, we received attendee “swag bags” filled with snacks, a water bottle, the event guidebook notebook, and other miscellaneous items.


Tips on how to make the most of the event:

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luckily I was warned of these, i’m now queen of the event
  • Arrive early: by 7am to head into the line or else you’ll have to spend time outside in the cold waiting to get through security and this way you’ll be one of the first to grab breakfast (free) and hit the booths down in the exhibition hall
  • Skip the coat check–bring a warm enough but lighter jacket to carry or else you’ll have to be in line twice and there’s sooooo many coats in the coat check
  • Use the womens restroom: I know, like isn’t that obvious? They actually convert a bunch of the mens restrooms into womens restrooms for the event, but the permanent womens restrooms have a lot more stalls. I accidentally waited in line for one of the converted restrooms for a long time only to find there were only 3 usable stalls and the other half was urinals!

 

Overview of Events and Sessions I Attended:

full schedule hereIMG_6168.jpg

Opening Keynote Session

IMG_6331Featuring Simon Sinek, Amanda Southworth, Yara Shahidi, and others; we were welcomed to a day of reminders that we can kick ass!!!

  • Sinek focused on the infinite game: explaining how learning from our competitor and using what we can study from them could help us become better ourselves and get stronger (and vice versa).
  • Southworth told her story of mental health and how coding not only helped herself but enabled her to help others too.
  • Shahidi is asked a question and answers with how she was taught at an early age about financial independence and how to be smart about money; saving it, spending it, and donating it.

Exhibition Hall (ft. sponsor booths, small business marketplace, and roundtable discussions)

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  • So. Many. Things. Being. Given. Away.
  • And so many photo opportunities!
  • Essentially, I came home with (on top of the swag bag stuff) a T Shirt, schrunchie, button pin, mirror, mints and lip balm, crystal nail file, travel brush and sewing kit in one, pens, magazine, candy, and more!

Unplugged: Reclaiming Balance in a Connected World (POE)

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(from left) Tiffany Schlain, Mary Laura Philpott, and Stephanie Humphrey
    • This was an interesting panel session on unplugging from the social media world, turning 24/7 into 24/6.
    • Tiffany Schlain (filmmaker, founder of The Webby Awards, author) talks about a “tech sabbath” of sorts that her family has done for almost 10 years now where they unplug from their devices for one 24-hour period a week and focus on the present.
    • Mary Laura Philpott (author of I Miss You When I Blink) catches attention from the Type-As of the room, those who love lists and getting things done once they’re started. It’s her journey of accepting that our time is our time and it’s okay to take it back to do what we want.
    • Stephanie Humphrey (technology and lifestyle content creator) discusses how she tries to unplug even with a career that consists of being on social media. Setting time for planning in one period and then scheduling posts is a must.

The Likability Trap: Women, Leadership and the Double-Bind

IMG_6332Alicia Menendez, asked us a question: do you want to be likable or do you want to be successful? Her answer is to ALWAYS. CHOOSE. SUCCESS. People will always either like you or not like you for various reasons and it should not hold you back from reaching your goals.

  • Yvonne Garcia, Minda Harts, and Erica Keswin joined Menendez in discussing their own experiences of having to choose between being liked or being successful in their workplace and the feedback they have sometimes received from it.

Keynote Luncheon: Malala Yousafzai, Tara Westover, Megan Rapinoe

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All of the women involved in the keynotes, panel sessions, and other discussions have all done something to be recognized as leaders, mentors, or just those to look up to. During the keynote luncheon, we also were lucky to hear from Malala Yousafzai, Tara Westover, Megan Rapinoe, and others.

  • Yousafzai spoke of her journey that most of us have heard about (if you need a refresher) and how her father continued to push for her education when extremists who took over their town banned girls from school and how it has developed her into the strong woman she is today. She continues to fight for 12 years of education for girls in countries who are less able to receive the opportunity.
  • Westover joked about how her job is to be a professional narcissist, telling her story about how she was raised in a family that did not believe that the government, education, and other things were genuinely real (instead seen as a conspiracy). She eventually went on to being enrolled and educated at the age of 17 and then went on to get her PhD.
  • Rapinoe was her authentic self with Kara Swisher; it was highly entertaining to listen to them discuss important topics like how Rapinoe was fighting for equal pay among professional soccer players (ex. how the womens soccer team is not compensated the same as the mens soccer team), the upcoming election, and various other topics.

While leaving the convention center, I realized that I was feeling so empowered, a feeling that I had not felt in a while. It makes me want to continue to chase after it all.

I’m hoping to get the chance to continue attending The MA Conference for Women and other events like this! The 2020 Grace Hopper Celebration for Women Technologists is also on my radar and I can’t wait to launch into this potential opportunity!

WSU x AMPATH || Sprint Retrospective 6

Sams ShipsHey guys, it’s a weird feeling to be wrapping up my last semester in my undergraduate career in computer science (and sociology). For this final installment of my AMPATH sprint series, I will just go over the general overview of what went on for my team.

Most of our updates went onto our PowerPoint presentation, which is going to be presented on May 15th, 2019. My team and I are looking forward to presenting the overall process of our group’s learning and working process, the many lessons we learned, our advice for future students, the work we tried to implement, and various other technical aspects of our project.

We decided that on top of the search bar work, it is also a priority to organize the git repository so it can be better organized and an open work environment for other classes. I think this is important especially when new people come in and cannot efficiently locate and access the files they need. As someone who was once new to an organization that had a lot of different projects and files to sort through, I believe that this is very considerate of the team to go with this.

With some limitations my team had to face, we worked around it to determine how we should move forward. The end result is pretty much a search bar that is attached to the toolbar. It cannot currently be live tested due to there being no backend but it can definitely be done in the future under certain circumstances.

It was interesting being able to observe how much planning you can start with but still end up having to take detours, starting new paths completely, or sometimes even needing to take U-turns.

I thought it would be important to pull some of the advice for future students from our PowerPoint and include them in this wrap-up:

  • Point out and address problems with technology right away because others around you might have the same problem(s) so you can solve them collectively
  • Do all team implementations in a separate component based on what you will be working on
  • Merge your work constantly to the master branch so each team can have the updated changes

A pattern I am noticing in a lot of teams or group projects is that not everything is going to work out in ways that you expected or were hoping for but you learn to move as a shifting team to make progress and continue growth.

Overall, I’d say I learned an important life lesson from this: if I am to contribute extra time on top of my technology career in the future to work on side projects, it will be a challenge to allocate time if it is a group initiative. I also learned that even when we try to communicate everything there is still more room for miscommunication, so there may be no such thing as over-communicating. I am happy to say that we always tried our best to move forward in all ways!

 

Find Mentors || S.S. 10

Sams Ships (13)In this final installment of my individual apprenticeship patterns, I think an important one to write about would be Find Mentors. To summarize the main point of this one, I would say that it encourages people to observe their role and their surroundings to see where they can find the most value from learning or use their resources. It encourages you to look at things from one level back instead of blindly jumping into something right away.

Personally, I have been in a role where I had to figure out a lot of things that could have just been taught to me. I quickly learned that I would be able to ask other junior developers how they managed to learn things on their own and it helped me a lot. If other junior developers were not available, then I would work my way up to people who had the most recent on-boarding experience and hope that they could recall the process I was currently going through. For the most part, that worked out well!

Thanks to this pattern, I thought it was useful to think about and remind ourselves that even though our mentors will know a lot more about us, they still do not know everything. They are still continuing to learn as much as we are in their own careers.

I thought I should update this blog to throw in a little hidden announcement if anyone actually reads these that I will be learning at a company with about 100 peers going through the same thing. This makes me feel a lot more confident knowing that I will have a designated support system around me and have mentors around.

Overall, I agreed with the pattern. This is because I can testify with my personal experiences how useful it was to be able to utilize my resources including being able to ask mentors questions or just find my own. A common question I had for my interviewers was, “Will I have a mentor or support system along the way throughout my career progression?” Personally, it is important for me to have a designated place to go for support because it just takes one more worry away about having to ask somebody a question.

It is now time to conclude my individual apprenticeship pattern series! I hope you have at least learned one thing from it because I have learned so many things.

Draw Your Own Map || S.S. 9

csseries281829For my second-to-last individual apprenticeship pattern, I have decided to go with something a little more relevant to my current situation–relating to starting my career post-graduation.

The Draw Your Own Map pattern caught my attention right away with “we might come across situations or colleagues or people in the society who will try to prove that programming will become an unsustainable activity as time passes by.” Throughout my job search process, I asked questions and requested advice from all different kinds of people across different fields (and especially within computer science) on how they knew what job they wanted to start with when given opportunities.

In the end, I must choose what I think is best for me in terms of what I’m looking for. I’ve finally came up with a list and that includes:

  • Having solid mentorship
  • Proper training (no room for imposter syndrome)
  • A company that tries to stay on top of new technology
  • Work-life balance that allows me to continue doing all the things I love to do outside of work and travel often

The Draw Your Own map pattern is very encouraging, reminding us that we have options elsewhere if we feel that our current company is hindering our learning and personal growth. I found that this pattern was interesting because I part of my decision-making process was “what if I am ____ amount of time into my first career and realize that I do not like what I am doing?” How would I move on out of that role to figure out what I may like better in terms of my day-to-day tasks?

The activity to list three jobs that I could do following my next was was really helpful to visualize future career possibilities. I know that we can always learn on the job and at new jobs but it is also important to build up your skills that can be transferred in the first place.

The pattern has helped me feel more confident in the decision I made to start out in software engineering. I will build up my skills starting here and then more onward from there!

Sustainable Motivations || S.S. 7

Sams Ships (9)From recent conversations with friends and professionals I’ve had genuine one-on-one discussions with, a common concern people have is whether they will continue to actually enjoy what they do. Today I’m going to discuss the Sustainable Motivations apprenticeship pattern. This pattern pretty much goes over scenarios people may run into throughout their careers in technology. There will be great days where people may be amazed that they are getting paid to create things and there will be rough days where people may be doubting if it is the right profession for them at all.

The points brought up remind me of a recent article from the New York Times titled Wealthy, Successful, and Miserable. What happens when the new-ness of what started as an exciting role to join in a company wears off and you are left off with unsettled feelings? It is up to individuals to keep going until they find what they love again or shift what they are doing a little to stimulate something new.

I like how the pattern encourages people to come up with a list of things that motivate them. It then tells them to reflect on what those things means or if there is a noticeable pattern from the things they have chosen. Having a list like this around to remind people of what they are working for is a reassuring way to keep them going. It reminds me of a post on LinkedIn I saw where someone kept a sticky note on their monitor screen that just had a number like “-$237.25” because it was to remind them of how much they had in their bank account when they started their job.

The pattern has caused me to think about the way I intend to work as someone who constantly likes to change things up or is not afraid of change. I do not disagree with anything in the patterns as it tells us to keep pushing and persevering by thinking about The Long Road, which is another apprenticeship pattern.

Overall, I think people interested in this pattern should read the NYT article I linked as well because it gives insight on the difference it makes when people do something that makes their work feel more meaningful.

Use Your Title || S.S. 5

Sams Ships (6)Having a software-induced identity crisis? Worry no further, I guess that may be a more common thing than I would have expected! This week’s individual apprenticeship pattern will be Use Your Title.

I thought this was really interesting because there is such a high likelihood that there will come a time when you find yourself in-between positions but called something higher because there was no pre-existing label or category that would perfectly suit you. It may feel weird to have to explain yourself in your title to someone who assumes what you do based on what they see or hear. But perhaps, I wanted to add that I feel like someone could just be feeling imposter syndrome; which is something I heard is common for women in certain career fields tend to feel. What if someone does 100% fit the title they feel that they need to explain their title for but just does not see themselves the way their supervisors do.

I like how this pattern tells us that the title is due to the organization we work for, not necessarily us whether or not it does not match us enough or over-exceeds our abilities. By removing ourself from the current situation, I like how we are encouraged to think how we would view or think about someone’s role based on what they actually did in their job. This perspective was thought-provoking to me because I had not considered

Something I tend to think about is knowing when you need to step out of your comfort zone. When should you move on from one thing to the next; how do you know to take that risk? Seeing the little feature on David Hoover’s actions after he achieved his goals, it was interesting learning how he decided to move forward by continuing to draw his own map.

Overall, the pattern has caused me to think a little more on my intended profession in terms of where I want to end up. Right now, assuming I will have a junior/associate position after I graduate and later become a ‘senior’ or ‘lead’; where would I like to go after that? What will be my ongoing goal?

 

 

WSU x AMPATH || Sprint 1 Retrospective

Sams Ships (5).pngFor my first sprint retrospective, I wanted to start off by introducing what kind of project my team is working on and what we are hoping to do with it before I move onto the description of what is happening.

The project I will be working on for the rest of the semester has to do with AMPATH (Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare); if you have not yet heard of it, it is a healthcare partnership based in Kenya made up of different organizations. Part of my sprint was getting more familiar with who they are and what we could potentially do to help them. It looks like they are mostly trying to ease or log more operations technology-wise to help people.

Our main tasks for this sprint were of course getting to know my team (classroom-wise) and getting our set-up tasks sorted. It is my first time using Trello for something and as a visual learner or visual person in general, I found it very convenient being able to see our “Product Backlog | Sprint Backlog | In Progress | Done” lined up. We decided to start by organizing because of course that is usually how projects are best done and kept on track. Along with setup tasks, we began by cloning the project and then installed Karma and Protractor.

So far, I cannot say anything failed (and hope I will not have to report that anytime this semester for the sake of us progressing) but I hope we will have more concrete plans for what is coming up next for Sprint 2. I think it also has to do with me as a person being so used to always working moving forward or on with the “next thing” and it’s just different not having that yet. That way there will be things to continuously progress on and track more efficiently.

However, if I were to proceed any differently; I would have gone back and gotten a little more background knowledge because I feel like we tend to tell ourselves “I’ll just go back later and review” but of course that doesn’t always happen. It’s just a fact when you’re a highly involved student who works on the side; but when you plan or set some time for yourself you will be able to do what you need to.

A majority of what was done during this current sprint consisted of trying to understand and introduce ourselves to Karma; which is a test runner for JavaScript.

If someone else were to follow these steps; I would recommend going in this order: Getting to know your teammates, making sure the team has a solid enough understanding of what project we will be contributing to this semester, beginning setup tasks, and then setting goals for when you should check certain things out.

Overall, I enjoyed this first Sprint as I did not feel too much pressure in terms of what needs to happen yet so we can ease into producing software that will help benefit AMPATH.