I'm a geekette who enjoys playing with new technology for software developers. I work as a Developer Evangelist for Microsoft. My current focus is on Windows Store development for Windows 8.
On February 26-27, I was honored to participate in the Kentucky Celebration of Women in Computing (KYWIC). It was held at the beautiful Kentucky Dam Village State Park in Gilbertsville, KY.
Some background on the conference: Every year, there is a big “Women in Technology” conference for female university students called the Grace Hopper Conference. It is an amazing experience – rockstar technical women from both academia and industry (including Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Intel, etc.) participate, to inspire and support the female students and each other. It is held in a different US city each year (the 2010 conference is scheduled for Atlanta, GA). However, not everyone can afford to travel to it, so a number of smaller, regional “Celebration of Women in Computing” conferences have been organized by some fabulous women to bring the Grace Hopper experience closer to home.
The conference began with a poster session, showcasing some of the impressive research done by the university students. The top graduate and the top undergraduate poster won a scholarship to the Grace Hopper Conference in fall 2010.
Then, Dr. Julie Adams from Vanderbilt University delivered the keynote, an inspiring speech about her personal journey entitled “The Country Mouse & the Computer Mouse”. Dr. Adams was originally poised to take over her family’s maple syrup business, but found a path into computing. She is currently the most senior woman on the tenure track at Vanderbilt, and her research is on human-robot interaction, developing capabilities for humans to supervise and task large, distributed robot teams in real-time, mission deployments.
Deanna Kosaraju followed with an excellent talk on networking. Deanna is seriously one of the most impressive networkers that I know. My favorite tip of hers: she keeps a list of the contacts that she makes, and every week, she picks one at random and sends them an email to catch up. Making a concerted effort to keep in touch like that can bring lots of opportunities your way!
Then we split into groups for “Birds of a Feather” talks. I was speaking during this time slot, so I missed hearing some of these other interesting topics.
For those who attended, here are some resources from the “Cool Research from Microsoft” talk that I gave:
DeepZoom: http://memo.hardrock.com – Do you remember where the Beatle figurines are hidden? :)
Windows 7: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/default.aspx – I talked about multitouch and sensor support.
Project Natal: http://blogs.msdn.com/jennifer/archive/2009/06/18/xbox-project-natal.aspx – This post contains links to the videos that I showed.
Finally, we ended Friday evening with a fun activity – making geek jewelry! We could make earrings and pins, from an assortment of beads and old keyboard keys. There were some very creative ideas: I saw earrings with the keyboard keys 0 and 1, two Windows keys, and the left and right arrow keys (pointing towards her face). I made earrings with a “Ctrl” key and a “B” key…a very bold fashion statement! Hee hee.
On Saturday, we began the day with special interest talks. Dr. Anne Bracy from Intel gave a talk on careers in research, I gave a talk on careers in industry, and Dr. Lecia Barker gave a talk on retaining women in CS (for faculty).
These were followed by two parallel tracks of lightning talks. There were so many interesting topics.
* If you are interested in downloading the WIT Kit, you can access it from http://womenintechnology.groups.live.com. Request access to join the group, and I’ll approve you. You will need a Windows Live ID, which is free.
We next held a panel discussion with Q&A. There were some great questions asked and some inspiring stories shared. I am still impressed every time I hear a story of a woman who worked all through college in addition to taking classes (and sometimes was pregnant on top of that!), or a woman who was strongly discouraged from pursuing a math/science/computing-related field and, despite that lack of support, emerged triumphant.
Finally, we ended with a career fair. If you are interested in a job with Microsoft, you can always submit your resume to http://careers.microsoft.com/.
Huge thanks to Dr. Brenda Wilson and her amazing team that organized this conference! I came home feeling invigorated by all of the excitement around me.
If you ever have a “Celebration of Women in Computing” conference in your area, I strongly recommend that you attend. I’ve now participated in events in Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky, and they have all been absolutely inspiring. You go, girls! :)