Mixed Messages

This is something that’s been on my mind, and I’ve just got to get it written down.

When I see these combinations together, I feel like I’m getting mixed messages:

  • Non-discrimination policy and diversity scholarships
  • Equal opportunity and minority-owned grants

When I ask people about them, I hear the phrase “level the playing field”, which also makes me cringe.

Non-Discrimination Policy and Diversity Scholarships

The part of this that gets me is that…

  • The diversity scholarships are for women and other under-represented demographics.
  • The non-discrimination policy prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, national or ethnic origin, age, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, veteran status (special disabled veterans, disabled veterans and Vietnam-era veterans), or any other characteristic protected under applicable federal or state law”.

Now wait a minute… how is it that the diversity scholarships are allowed while there’s a non-discrimination policy in effect?  Those diversity scholarships discriminate against other demographics by excluding them.  That doesn’t seem right to me.

Equal Opportunity and Minority-Owned Grants

This is along similar lines as above.  If you are giving grants out to a certain demographic, then there’s no equal opportunity there.

“Level the Playing Field”

I am absolutely irritated by this phrase.  While I may be part of an underrepresented demographic, I also know that it’s not my fault that I’m underrepresented.  My under-representation doesn’t handicap me; if anything, it makes me more of an unknown, a wild card.  I’m offended when someone suggests a handout to “level the playing field”.  That’s not how I operate.

The Plight of Conference Organizers – Conference Diversity

Throughout my time at CodeMash, I found myself retreating to the speaker room to try to hide and preserve my voice.  At one point, I found myself talking with fellow speakers and conference organizers.  (Note: I’m in both roles – speaking at CodeMash and helping with speaker recruitment and selection for Stir Trek.)  When I mentioned I was giving my History of Women in Tech talk, it opened the door to let the others vent about a common problem… managing conference diversity.

Problem #1. The Lack of Women and the Community of Crucifiers

One of the speakers happened to be an organizer of a conference that accepts every submission that they receive.  One year, they had all male speakers, not a female speaker at all.  To add to the furor, there was a male speaker with a name that’s commonly associated with females.  This didn’t bode well.  Unfortunately, this caused a community uproar – “this group apparently is anti-female speakers” and other untrue statements.  The community raised the issue to the local media, giving the event even more unnecessary negative publicity.  The fact of the matter is that they indeed had 0 submissions from female speakers.  However, the community – who thinks they know the whole picture – was quick to crucify the conference organizers on this.  These actions not only stress conference organizers out but also drive conference organizers away from wanting to plan more events.  This negative publicity also drives away any female speakers who would possibly submit their talks to the event – what person would want to submit their talks to a conference where they wouldn’t feel welcome?  This isn’t helpful.

How to be a Supportive Community

Rather than the community being all up in arms and saying “this group is anti-female”, it would be more helpful for the community to be more pro-active and reach out to their favorite female speakers saying “Hey, we’re having Event ABC on such-and-such date and would love for you to submit your talks there.”  Conference organizers do this already, and we’d love to have the community help us by letting us know which speakers they want to see.  Rather than crucify conference organizers for the lack of diversity, reach out with ways on how to increase the diversity.  (As an aside, there were a bunch of us who recommended talking with Alex Miller and how he runs Strangeloop, as it’s probably the most diverse, community-run tech conference that we’ve seen so far.)

Problem #2. The Lack of Experienced Speakers

In the previous situation, that was a conference that accepted all submissions.  However, on the speaker selection committees I’ve been on – including a couple past CodeMash committees and most of the past Stir Trek committees – we don’t accept all submissions.  In fact, with Stir Trek, we do some submissions and some invitations if we find speakers we really really want.  Our job on the speaker selection committee is to select the talks that our audiences want to hear, which means selecting the right topics and then hoping we schedule them all appropriately.  So this is how I approach speaker selection:

1. Find all the talks on topics that I know we need.

2. Research the abstract to make sure it’s covering everything we need.

3. Research the speaker to make sure (s)he is the right level speaker for our event.

In #3, we’re looking for people who have spoken in front of crowds successfully and have been very well-received.  I’ve been known to vote against speakers who don’t have this track record.  I’m not one to sacrifice the quality of talks for the sake of diversity.  I also would expect other conferences to be doing the same thing.

How to Become a Better, More Experienced Speaker

While there are plenty of women speakers, we come in at various levels – from the ones who speak at international conferences to others who are still at user group level.  So what do I recommend to the ones who aren’t ready and end up not getting accepted?

  • Speak, speak, speak!  From internal company user groups and lunch-n-learns to community user groups… from local mini-conferences to meetups… there are plenty of opportunities to hone your speaking skills.
  • Get involved with Toastmasters.
  • Find a mentor in the speaking world who may be able to help you get where you want to be.

In conclusion, rather than complaining about the lack of diversity in conference speakers, let’s find productive ways of increasing diversity.

CodeMash 2015 Recap, Part 3 – One Last Talk…

My family arrived Thursday evening, just as I had finished my History of Women in Tech talk, so I figured I wouldn’t get to see anything on Friday.  I didn’t want to look at the talks list for Friday, as I didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment.  But as I had mentioned in an earlier post, Fiddler is my favorite web debugging tool, so when I saw that there was a talk about it on Friday, a part of me hoped to escape from family obligations to catch it.  My husband and I talked Thursday night, and we were going to do everything we could to make this happen. As luck would have it, my youngest was teething and tired so I took him in my carrier and went to catch this talk.

Lucking In, the Fiddler Story with Eric Lawrence

I really enjoyed catching Eric’s story about lucking in and taking his passion for Fiddler and turning it into a career.  Personal and professional stories abound made this presentation really interesting.  After telling stories, he included words of advice.  These are the ones that stick out the most:

* Do things that TERRIFY you.  Get out of your comfort zone.  You’d be surprised what you’re capable of.

* Be curious.

* Care. Genuinely care about your end users.

I’m glad I was able to catch most of Eric’s story before my teething 9 month old woke up.  It was very enlightening to hear his adventures with Fiddler (and his past life of being a PM at Microsoft in charge of Clip Art… clip art?!? 🙂  ).

CodeMash 2015 Conclusions

I saw many interesting talks this year at CodeMash, and if their talk selection is any indicator of the year ahead, we’re going to see a plethora of awesome talks at upcoming events.  It seems like all the communities are abuzz, and security seems to be the theme for 2015.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to give my talks at CodeMash 2015.  My audiences were very enjoyable and responsive, which made it that much easier to give my talks.  It was great getting all sorts of feedback, and I hope to be able to deliver these talks at future events as well.

We’ll see what 2015 brings for me personally – I’m hoping that I can tap into the excitement of CodeMash and run with it!

CodeMash 2015 Recap, Part 2: UX, Security, Crypto, and WiT

For the first day of conference talks, I had quite a bit on my plate.  I had two talks that I had to give, and I knew I had to make the best of the conference since my family was coming later that evening.  These are my experiences of CodeMash 2015, conference talks day 1.

The UX Toolbelt for Devs

Bright and early in the 8am session, I had a great turnout for my UX Toolbelt for Developers talk.  Every time I go to a conference and see a UX talk, it’s usually by a designer or a UX expert.  While I understand why they’re the ones who are giving these talks, I also was frustrated because they don’t capture the mindset of a developer necessarily.  It’s time to talk user experience to developers, wearing my developer hat.  Some of the things I cover include:

  • Personas – and how these help us understand and empathize with our end users.  I also referred to Eric Meyer’s talk on designing for crisis.
  • Gathering Requirements with Gherkin – and how it helps to be consistent with the English part.  I also mention various tools that work with gherkin – including tools for C#, Java, Ruby, and PHP.
  • Wireframing – and choosing the appropriate Ipsum generator for the project and client.

Shoutout to Jon Knapp for pointing out that Chrome has a plugin called NoCoffee to help test for vision problems.

You can find my slides for this talk on SlideShare.

HTTPS in 2015 with Eric Lawrence

When I was much younger (back in the late ’90s), I was going through my college courses and seeing just what I liked about computing.  Debugging was one of those things that I truly fell in love with, and using Ethereal (now known as Wireshark) to see traffic in my networking classes really opened up my eyes.  Many years later, I worked as a web developer on the Windows side of things, thinking that Ethereal was a bit much for what I needed.  As luck would have it, I stumbled upon Fiddler, which would become my favorite web development debugging tool for sniffing HTTP and HTTPS traffic.  Oh the things you can see with the inspectors in Fiddler!

In this session, Eric Lawrence covered the fundamentals of HTTPS (which conceptually hasn’t changed much, as I recognized a lot of the terms), ciphers, certificates, and many other concepts.  His talk included newer concepts too such as forward secrecy, HTTP Strict Transport Security, and Public Key Pinning.

This talk reminded me of the younger version of me and the adventures I had playing around with things I probably shouldn’t have.  It definitely has me curious about the crypto and security side of things again.

The moral of this talk is easily boiled down to this:


DevOps: What it is, What it Isn’t, and Why Coders Should Care with Dave Swersky

After the HTTPS talk, I retreated back to the speaker room, as I told Dave Swersky that I’d work with him on his talk before giving it.  Dave is a friend I met through the user groups here in Cleveland.  He’s getting into the conference speaking circuit, and I’m excited to see what else he has in store.

Dave’s talk on DevOps is a high overview of what DevOps is and why devs should care about it.  This topic is something I’m personally interested in, as it explains a lot about me and why I am the way I am and how I fit into this world.  Having both the admin side and the dev side built into me, I always felt weird and inexplicable, until someone threw the word “DevOps” at me.

I love Dave’s use of graphics and wording.  Dave is quite the storyteller, and this talk is a great mix of definitions and storytelling.  I highly recommend it!

What you don’t know about crypto can hurt you! with Adam Caudill

Eric Lawrence had recommended this talk during his talk, so I figured I’d check it out.  Adam Caudill is a security researcher, and it was interesting to hear his experiences in his talk.  Eric pointed this out in his talk, and Adam reaffirmed it – MD5 is broken.  This can’t be stressed enough.  Adam also showed us some code patterns that are implemented in trying to secure a password, including ridiculousness that involved layers of MD5, SHA1, and ROT13. (What?!? Why?!? *facepalm*)  He mentioned the various hashing functions out there – including SHA2 (256, 384, and 512 versions), SHA3, and BLAKE2b.  This talk had great advice on what not to do when implementing cryptography techniques in code.

Gone into Hiding…

I went into hiding at this point, as I wanted to preserve my voice for my History of Women in Tech talk.  This talk has an awful aura around it, where I’ve almost always either been on the downswing or upswing of laryngitis.  Thankfully, this time proved to be an exception.

As for hiding… I thought it’d be safe to hide in the speaker room.  What could possibly go wrong? 🙂  There were a lot of other speakers in there, preparing for their talks as well.  From seeing old friends to making new ones in there… *sigh* Needless to say, I didn’t do a good job of staying quiet.  Kalahari kept spiting me too – I really had to work to find hot tea. However, after I found a source of hot water (thanks to Jordan Kasper), I downed two cups of hot tea to keep my voice relaxed.

History of Women in Tech

This was my last session on day 1 of conference talks.  As my friend Jennifer pointed out, there were at least 26 men in my audience.  There were also a handful of women in my audience too!  I was scheduled against some powerful talks, so I was thankful that I had some attendees in my talk.

Before my talk even started, I ran some trivia slides, as there are more women in tech than I can fit in an hour long time slot.  You can find my trivia slides on SlideShare.

Of course, my talk included familiar super stars such as Ada Lovelace, the ladies of the ENIAC, and Grace Murray Hopper.  It also includes some other names such as Barbara Liskov, Fran Allen, and Mary Lou Jepsen.  The latest addition – Hedy Kiesler Markey – brought quite a reaction.  Who knew that the famous and gorgeous Hedy Lamarr was more than just a talented actress?!  You can find my History of Women in Tech slides on SlideShare.

Conclusion of CodeMash 2015, Conference Talks Day 1

Overall, I had a ton of fun on CodeMash 2015, Conference Talks Day 1.  I gave talks I really enjoy giving to audiences that were great.  I was able to catch a few talks that really struck chords with me personally.  I also had great conversations with all sorts of people, including one that will lead to a possibly controversial blog post after these CodeMash recap posts.  I’m very happy that I had the chance to speak at CodeMash and network with such a talented group of techies.

CodeMash 2015 Recap, Part 1: Pre-Compiler on Self-Publishing

This week, I had the joys of speaking at CodeMash v2.0.1.5.  I also managed to catch a few sessions while around.  The next 3 posts are some of the highlights from my latest CodeMash experience.

How to Write and Self-Publish a Financially Successful Tech Book with W. Jason Gilmore

In May 2011, I had the privilege to have a book published – Automating Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 with Windows PowerShell 2.0. Throughout that adventure, I learned what it’s like to work with a publisher, copy editor, and technical editor.  I wore double hats – technical editor for Matt Hester‘s main chapters on the IT side and then author of the developer parts in the appendix.  We had the distinguished Dick Margulis as our copy editor, and he worked well with the wicked sense of humor that Matt and I share.  Jay Wren was my tech editor, and I’m glad I had him on my team.  Our acquisition editor at Sybex was helpful as well throughout the publishing process.

However, there were some things that took the fun out of it.  There was the math behind royalties and advances. (I can do math, but just because I’m good at numbers doesn’t necessarily mean I like them.)  The Kindle layout of the book is atrocious from what my readers are telling me – I have no control over that, unfortunately.  We had to estimate page counts and then stick to those estimates – as someone who writes from her heart and her experiences, I despise page count estimates.  I either felt like I was adding fluff or trimming material to make page count estimates.

Jason’s pre-compiler on self-publishing gave me another perspective of publishing.  He shared his own experiences as well as some case studies that have been wildly successful.  It got me thinking a bit, and when I write my next book, it will be self-published.  While royalty math is still screwy, it’s a little less complicated.  Those page count estimates that I didn’t like – I don’t need those in self-publishing!  When self-publishing, I’ll have more control over the Kindle layout, which makes me happy.  There are a lot more options and things open to me.  One of the biggest advantages to self-publishing is having more control over the book and its publishing process.  While that means more work on my part, it’ll be good to reap those rewards.

My goal is to have my first self-published book come out by the end of 2015.  Jason gave us a bunch of tips and tricks for how to have a successful tech book, and I look forward to employing those techniques for this next book.

If there’s anything that Jason’s pre-compiler taught me, it’s that… “There’s no money in writing tech books.” is truly a myth.  Now to tackle that statement, add some personal truth to it, and maybe reap other rewards (such as the experience overall).

Upcoming Talks at CodeMash 2015

This is the week of white death, winter storms, and snowpacolypse.  Once again, someone invited an awesome snow storm to our area to join us at CodeMash, but I’m not going to let that stop me.

This year, I am honored to be giving two of my favorite talks at CodeMash.  Here’s a sneak peek at what I’m talking about….

The UX Toolbelt for Developers
Thursday, January 8, 2015 in Nile at 8:00am

The basic premise of this talk is that most UX talks I’ve seen are given by designers or UX specialists.  However, as a developer, I’ve found that their talks seem to lack a strong connection to the development world.  So this talk was created to bridge that gap.  This talk is given by a developer for developers, in hopes that the developers learn how to work with the business better and more efficiently, and in the process of doing that, the development process becomes a bit happier and easier.

The actual abstract is…

When people hear the term user experience (UX), many automatically assume it’s a thing for only designers to understand. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Throughout the development of a product – be it an application or a website, it is important to keep the end users in mind. In the beginning, identify the target users and bond with them. Empathy for the end user goes a long way in development, as this talk will show. Interviewing, personas, usability testing, and refactoring are some of the tools that developers can wield while crafting solutions. “The UX Toolbelt for Developers” will show developers how to take advantage of these UX concepts to become better developers.

The History of Women in Tech
Thursday, January 8, 2015 in Sagewood/Zebrawood at 3:30pm

Long ago, in my dorm room at the University of Toledo, I wondered about female role models in the computing realm.  Even though I was active in ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery), I still didn’t find a lot of resources for female role models.  It wouldn’t be until after I graduated where I started to identify women in tech, and the more I looked, the more I found.  This talk will show many of the significant contributions in tech from some of the popular ladies in the past to some surprises.

This talk was originally delivered at Strangeloop 2013 at the Peabody Opera House, center stage during lunch.  It has been given at many conferences since then, and this particular version has at least a half dozen more ladies than the ones mentioned in the abstract on the CodeMash site.  This talk has been revamped specifically for CodeMash 2015, with an interesting road ahead.

Special Thanks

I have no idea who for sure is on the speaker selection committee, but whoever was on it this year… thanks for the opportunities to give these talks.  I’m looking forward to the drive through the snowpacolypse to deliver these fun talks!

Sadukie’s 2015 Weekly Blogging Challenge

Let’s keep things real, simple, and really simple here…

In 2014, I became a 2nd-time mom, which means that there were a lot of sleepless nights that caused all sorts of trouble.

In 2015, as things settle down here personally, I am hoping to blog more here.  So I’m starting 2015 with a challenge… try to blog at least once a week.  It may be something about my adventures with the tech community – like how I’m speaking at CodeMash this week or looking forward to Stir Trek.  It may be an answer to a question from the apprentices at the Software Craftsmanship Guild.  Or maybe it’s just something that’s on my mind.

Let’s see if I can do this!