WiT Wednesday #5 – Thanksgiving Post

With Thanksgiving in the US being tomorrow, I wanted to take some time to thank some of the women in tech that I deal with and who are active in my local and regional tech communities. These are some of the women that I have met and have learned from them or been inspired by them or their social presence.

Jennifer Marsman

She’s a super-accomplished developer evangelist for Microsoft here in the Heartland District. Whether it’s hosting a hackathon or writing an app like ELIZA or just getting involved in general, it’s great to see Jennifer’s excitement for tech and the amazing things she comes up with! She also has a family and juggles the roles of mother and wife, and she’s one of the ones I look up to as I embark on the journey of balancing that many roles.

Carey Payette

She’s a developer evangelist for Telerik and lives in the Heartland District as well. Whether she’s blogging, speaking, or even organizing events, she’s always on the go. And when she isn’t doing stuff in the tech community, she’s also a mother and wife, and like Jennifer, she’s one of the ones I look up to as well.

Pieri Levandofsky

I recently met Pieri through Working Women Connection, and I understand now why my fellow local chapter ladies thought of her when they first met me.  She has been running her own computer consulting company for awhile. Pieri is involved in a variety of local groups, and she’s always up for teaching people how to benefit from tech, how to approach tech, and how to make tech less scary. I’m working with her on her event on March 29, where we will be showing women how to use Office tools and tablets to increase their productivity. When Pieri isn’t doing community work, she’s not only a mom and a wife, but she’s also a grandmother!

These are just some of the inspirational women in the local and regional tech community. I look forward to being inspired by more. I am very thankful for these ladies, as they’ve been great influences on me.  Hope you all have a happy and enjoyable Thanksgiving!  (And for those who don’t celebrate, then have a happy and enjoyable Thursday!)

WiT Wednesday #4 – Reaching Out to Younger Girls

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been featuring some very influential women in tech.  This week, I want to take a break to focus on some groups that work with women in tech, specifically with the younger demographic.  Since I’ll be speaking on Women in Tech next week at the Avon High School Tech Club, I figured it’d be great to tell them of these groups as well.

Rails Girls – http://railsgirls.com/

While this adventure started in Finland, Rails Girls has grown to be a world-wide non-profit volunteer community that encourages women to understand technology and build their ideas.  They teach concepts including sketching, prototyping, basic programming, and an introduction to the wide world of technology using Rails.  I really heard a lot about this from two girls from Colombia who presented before me at Strangeloop this past September, and so of course I was intrigued.  Past events in the US have been held in Chicago, South Florida, Raleigh-Durham, Columbia (MD),  Austin (TX), Washington D.C., Los Angeles (CA), Philadelphia (PA), and Pittsburgh (PA) – just in 2013 alone!  The next event here in the US is January 17 & 18, 2014 in San Francisco.  You can find out about Rails Girls’ events at http://railsgirls.com/events

HER Ideas in Motion – http://www.herideasinmotion.com/

Based here in Cleveland, HER Ideas in Motion is a non-profit focused on getting girls into technology and media arts.  They try to reach out to girls ages 11-14.  They deal with tech clubs, hands-on workshops, and other events to get women into these areas.  They provide mentoring from technical and creative women in the professions.  My friend Nicole Capuana is one of my favorite local UX resources, and she was the one who mentioned this group to me.  If you’re in the Cleveland area and either have girls who are interested in technology or are a woman interested in mentoring these girls, please check out their website.

DigiGirlz – http://digigirlz.com

DigiGirlz is a Microsoft YouthSpark program that has Microsoft employees working with high school girls on getting into technology.  They run DigiGirlz Day events and DigiGirlz High Tech Camps throughout the world.  These events cover topics such as:

* Career planning
* Information about technology and business roles
* Microsoft product demonstrations
* Thought-provoking exercises
* Developing cutting-edge technology

Some of the DigiGirlz events are for as early as grade 7 through as late as grade 12, with the age requirement of 13.  Check their events schedules to verify your local requirements.

Girl Develop It – http://girldevelopit.com/

An international organization certified by the Board of Education, Girl Develop It is trying to make software development easy, affordable and accessible to all women (as stated on their About page).  They are throughout the US and also have international presence in Canada and Australia.  Some of their events include:

* Hackathons
* STEM fairs
* Nerd parties
* Code & coffee
* General meetups

Some topics include:

* Responsive Web Design
* JavaScript & jQuery
* WordPress

These are just some of the few groups that I know that encourage girls to get into technology or into some aspect of STEM (science, technology, engineering, & math).  If you’ve got more recommendations, please leave me a recommendation on my WiT Wednesday Recommendation Form!

WiT Wednesday #3 – Mary Lou Jepsen

This is the last of the women from my History of Women in Tech presentation that I’m going to mention in this series, at least for now.  If you want to see the other ladies mentioned – including the ladies of the ENIAC, Barbara Liskov, and Frances Allen – you can check out my presentation over on SlideShare.  (And yes, for those of you wondering, this was a recorded session, but InfoQ won’t be releasing the Strangeloop presentations for a few months yet.  When the presentation is live, I will be Tweeting about it, so follow me at @sadukie for more details.)

While Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper are no longer with us, I wanted to also focus on some women who are with us and active today.  When I read up on Mary Lou Jepsen, my inner geekette was psyched to see such an interesting story!

Tell us about Dr. Jepsen’s interesting story.

The first thing that caught my mind while researching Dr. Jepsen was her focus areas for her degrees.  From art to optical sciences and then applying those to technology, Dr. Jepsen has quite a story.  Check out this list:

  • Bachelors Degree in Studio Art & Electrical Engineering
  • Masters Degree in Holography
  • Ph D in Optical Sciences

Some of the things that she’s done in her career include:

  • Co-founder of the One Laptop per Child project
    • Deployed XO laptops – lowest-power and most environmentally friendly laptops – in over 50 countries in 25 languages.
      • Laptop with sunlight-readable display
      • Ultra-low power management system
    • Every child in Uruguay got one
  • Founder of Pixel Qi – focusing on low-cost, low-power LCD screens
  • Head of the Display Division, Google X Lab

With her varied background, you can see her contributions in:

  • Head-mounted displays (devices similar to Google Glass)
  • HDTV
  • Projectors
  • Holographic video systems

So wait… she’s out there today and doing cool stuff.  Does she have a website?

She does!  Check out her site at: http://www.maryloujepsen.com/

So You Want to Get Into Speaking….

Over the past decade and change of speaking at various events, it’s finally now becoming less intimidating and a ton more fun.   I’ve had people ask me various questions about getting into speaking, and so I wanted to take a few moments to share some of my key notes.

Find topics you’re interested in and excited about.

This makes it even easier to talk about the topic.  If it’s something you’re excited about, your audience will pick up on your excitement and has a better chance of staying engaged.  If you have the passion for something, your passion will help get others curious about your interests.  And if you start to lose that passion, have no fear – it’s possible to reignite your passions.

Find other speakers to learn from or even co-present with.

My first talk was one of the few where I had a co-presenter.  My friend Kevin Otte saw my potential as a speaker – he saw my enthusiasm and energy and knew I could do it.  He talked me into presenting at the local Linux user group on the Samba web administration tool.  Kevin was my co-presenter, and for me, I felt much better working with him, as we had been friends for awhile and he was a Linux guy, someone the audience could easily relate to, whereas I was the token girl there.  To me, he had early credibility, which I think helped our talk.

My second talk was part of a team presentation at a major conference, and I did miserably, as stage fright and some other internal noises got to me.  Thankfully, my teammates were able to pick up the pieces and fill in the gaps.  And after we were done, they reassured me that things would be fine.  And a month later, I would be back to presenting at the user group, this time on my own, and I was psyched.

You can find a lot of speakers over in the Speak.NET and INETA communities.  Many of those speakers are approachable and may offer more words advice on how to get into the community and into speaking.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Especially when you’re just starting out… practice, practice, and practice.  Practice giving your talk to yourself in mirror.  Give the talk to your pets.  Give the talk to the people in the cars around you in rush hour.  Give the talk to your significant others or friends.  Give the talk to the open air around you.  Give your talk to as many people as will listen before the big day so that you become comfortable with what you have to say.  And ask others for feedback – you’d be surprised what people can pick up in a presentation, not just from verbal cues.

If you’re doing demos, make sure to run through them and verify that everything is working.  Back up your demos and presentations to the cloud, just in case your hardware fails. (Trust me – I’ve had hardware failure on the day of and it wasn’t a pretty day for recovering the talk.)  If you’re that worried, capture your talk on video as a backup.

Start small and work into the bigger groups.

When you’re just getting into speaking, it’s easier to start with smaller groups and get your message out that way.  The smaller the group, the easier it is to sort through feedback and then hone your presentation for the future.  This, to me, is probably the most logical from smallest to largest:

  • Company presentation for your team
  • Presentation at a local user group
  • Presentation at a local event (SQL Saturday, Day of .NET, PowerShell Saturday, etc.)
  • Presentation at a regional conference (CodeMash, StirTrek, That Conference, devLink, etc.)
  • Presentation at a national or even international conference (PyCon, VSLive, TechEd, deConnections, SQL PASS Summit, etc.)

Don’t picture the audience naked. Just don’t.

Some things can’t be unseen.   Seriously, did you really want to see that? Probably not.

Now if you are giggling, okay, giggle the nervousness away.  But seriously… WORST. ADVICE. EVER. is to picture your audience naked.

Remember that they’re trying to get something out of your talk.  Whether it’s someone who wants to learn more for their own gain or for their employer’s gain or maybe even someone scouting you for another conference, you never know who’s there or why, so bring your A game and just be the best you can be.

Learn to channel your nervousness into excitement.

As an introvert, this was one of the toughest things for me to deal with.  However, I finally hit a point where my nervousness for the most part flips right into excitement because I convinced myself – people come to my talks either to be there for me or the topic I’m speaking on.  Keeping that in mind, the more people walk in, the more excited I get.  I found this to be very true at Strangeloop.  I was terrified at the thought of speaking in front of hundreds of people in a theater in an opera house.  Introverted me was like “Lights! Camera! Die!”, but I had to keep ignoring that.  As I sat in the theater that day, with my voice fighting to stay since I was losing it due to sickness, I was nervous about losing my voice, but I was getting more excited as people filtered in for my talk.  I can remember texting one of my more outgoing friends about how the excitement was finally there and the nervousness not-so-much.  Words can’t explain how much easier it is when you present with excitement rather than with nervousness.

Quit second guessing yourself and just do it!

When I was younger, I had a project that challenged myself, and I ended up calling it Project Nike, because Nike’s slogan is “Just do it!”  After giving it that name, any internal roadblock I tried to create would crumble because I let the words “Just do it” carry me through.

Don’t worry yourself to pieces over the little things.  Find a topic you’re excited about, a group to present to, and just jump in and do it!  Take feedback as constructive criticism, and improve for the future.

I hope to see more new speakers in the community and would love to shepherd more into speaking!

Upcoming Speaking Engagements – November 2013

As I am slowing down here for the holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas are big for my family, I foolishly thought I had a slow November. I’m supposed to slow down a bit around the holidays, right?  In addition to helping Sam Nasr by watching his user group on November 19, I also have a few presentations this month.  This is what my month looks like in terms of presentations.

Kent State Ashtabula AITP – November Meeting – November 13th, 2013

Topic: IT Environment Discussion and Intro to PowerShell

This year, the Kent State Ashtabula AITP chapter is working with a theme on working in the varied IT environments.  With my varied background – IT (desktop support, lab support) for a university, tech support for an ISP, IT (desktop support/database administration/PBX maintenance/system maintenance/programming) for manufacturing, software development for a media company, and now an independent consultant facing various industries – I look forward to talking with the chapter about the various roles IT serves as well as how they differ from company to company.  Having friends in smaller and larger companies, I can also share some of their stories as well.  For the second half of this meeting, we’ll be talking about PowerShell, what it can be used for, and how they can benefit from it.

DogFood Conference – November 22, 2013

Topics: Office 365 Administration with PowerShell, A Lap around PowerShell 4.0

For the past few years, I’ve been meaning to get down to Columbus for Dog Food Conference.  No, Purina is not a sponsor.  No, I don’t think I get any Snausages or Kibbles’n’Bits.  Not that “dog food”! 🙂

Dog Food Conference is about the technology concept “dog fooding” – where you not only talk about technology but you’re also likely using said technology.  Speakers include various industry members, Microsoft employees, Microsoft MVPs, and other community members.  I will be speaking first on Office 365 Administration with PowerShell at 9:50am.  Later in the afternoon, at around 2:10pm,  I will be taking people on a tour of PowerShell 4.0.

I have given my Office 365 Administration talk before for Simplex-IT.  As time has gone on, I’ve really started working with Office 365 a bit more, and I’ve even moved a few of my email addresses to Office 365.  For me personally, I deal with a few users and could easily get away with the GUI.  However, for some of the guys I work with, they deal with dozens upon hundreds upon thousands of users, so scripting these just makes sense, and PowerShell is the way to go.

The PowerShell 4.0 talk is a new talk, as PowerShell 4.0 has only been out a short time.  If you are interested in getting it, you can download it as part of the Windows Management Framework 4.0 download.  If you want to know what’s cool about it, come to my talk.  But if you can’t come to my talk, stay tuned to this blog, as I’ll blog about it afterwards.

Avon High School Tech Crew – Women in Tech Discussion – November 26, 2013

Topic: Women and Diversity in Tech

Thanks to Scott Seighman, my main Java resource here in the Cleveland area, I will be speaking at Avon High School’s Tech Crew on women in tech and probably diversity in tech in general.  I’m extremely excited about this opportunity since I will be talking with a much younger audience than I normally deal with.  I’m excited to be talking with our future and find their insights as well as share my insights having been in the field for over a decade.

Working Women Connection – Cleveland Tech Consulting presentation – November 27, 2013

Topic: Using Tech to Help with the Holidays

Working Women Connection is a women’s business networking group that I joined back in June.  We get opportunities to present our business and what we’re about at our chapter meetings, and I volunteered to speak on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Last time, I spoke about what my company does – being an independent consultant who can focus on software development, computer training, and even just general making technology more approachable.  This time around, I’m going to take a “making technology more approachable” twist and show them how you can use technology to make gifts for the holidays.  Whether it’s making coupon books, printing holiday cards and address labels, or even using something like Shutterfly to make photo goods.  I’ll have my photo books, magnets, mug, and other Shutterfly goodies with me, so that they’ll be able to see what can be done and just how simple it can be done – yes, someone like me who is far from crafty can make this happen.

Want me to speak?  Let me know!

While I have a busy November, it looks like December and January may slow down a bit.  Other than Christmas and CodeMash, those months are open.  I like presenting within a 2-hour commute radius from Cleveland, but I’m also willing to do virtual presentations.

How are things after January? What does 2014 look like?

In case you want to get me to speak after January 2014, here’s what’s coming up on my tech community calendar (that I know of at the moment):

  • February 8 – SQL Saturday Cleveland – I’m helping organize this.
  • March (early) – PowerShell Saturday Detroit/Toledo – I’m helping organize this as well.
  • March (late) – Working Women Connection Office & Tablet Technology Event – I’m helping organize this as well.
  • April (early) – Stir Trek – I’m on the board for this and am going to help as much as possible.

If you want me to speak in 2014, please drop me an email and we can compare dates to see how we can make the presentation happen!

WiT Wednesday #2 – Grace Murray Hopper

While studying Computer Science & Engineering Technology in college, Grace Hopper’s name appeared in various parts of history.  I recognized her name and some of her contributions to the field, but the part that wasn’t talked about in college was her military career.  Add to it that I never looked up her picture, as I figured she was a figure of the past but no longer with us.  This led to my awful post a few years ago, which to this day I feel very remorseful of.  However, while preparing my History of Women in Tech talk, I delved a bit deeper into Admiral Hopper’s life.

Tell us about Grace Hopper’s diverse story.

  • She served many roles:
    • Teacher – BA in Math & Physics, MA & PhD in Mathematics
    • Military Servant
      • Joined Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service), commissioned as a lieutenant 6 months later
      • Taught for the US Naval Reserve while working for companies
      • Promoted to commodore in 1983, took the title of admiral in 1985 when the titles were merged.
      • Retired from the Navy in 1986
      • Buried with full Naval honors in 1992
    • Computer Genius
      • Worked on Mark I, Mark II, Mark III
      • Created 500-page Manual of Operations for the Automatic Sequence-Controlled Calculator
      • Worked on the first compiler, the A-O series
  • She wanted to bring the computer to a much wider audience – not just to scientists 0 through programmer-friendly and application-friendly tools.
    • Promoted collaboration among the programmers on her teams.
    • Created FLOW-MATIC – using English to describe automatic billing and payroll calculations, the UNIVAC I and UNIVAC II could run these programs.
    • Worked on COBOL.
    • Promoted language validation, starting with COBOL.  This led to national and international standards.

What can we learn from Admiral Hopper?

  • Don’t be afraid to challenge “We’ve always done it that way.”  Just because it’s been done that way in the past doesn’t make it right today.
  • Collaboration with other developers tends to make life a lot easier.
  • By bringing it down to plain English, computing is no longer just for programmers and mathematicians.  It’s more approachable by non-technical people.