Category Archives: Events

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WomENcourage Conference, 1 March 2014

Ah, Manchester, the home of modern computing (and some of the best bands ever).  From the work of Alan Turing to the inception of The Baby and beyond, the city has given the world of technology many wonderful firsts.  The latest addition to this list is the inaugural ACM Women conference, WomENcourage.

ACM Women Europe supports, celebrates and advocates the full engagement of women across the EU in computing, providing programs and services to their members while working in the wider community to advance women’s technical contributions and careers in the field.

The first European WomEncourage conference took place at the University of Manchester in the Kilburn building (named after Jack Kilburn, one of the people responsible for The Baby), a very fitting venue for the event.  Aleksandra Wruk and myself attended as the Edinburgh Napier University contingent and I also exhibited a poster.

The day itself was absolutely jam packed with talks, panel events and activities.  Our keynote speaker was Professor Dame Wendy Hall, who gave a wonderfully engaging and rousing talk on her work, life and career and the difficulties she faced on her journey.  Wendy’s story was really empowering and she is a perfect role model for successful women in senior positions.  Sadly I didn’t really get to talk with her as she was always surrounded by other people, but when I did get a chance to have a quick chat she was really lovely.  It’s also not every day that you get to meet a dame and a Fellow of the Royal Society!  We also enjoyed two great panel sessions with representatives from the likes of Google, Intel, the University of Greenwich, Facebook, Bloomberg, Microsoft and the University of Cambridge, which were both enlightening and tremendous fun.

My favourite part of the day was the Unconference, a completely new concept to me.  The idea of the Unconference was that everyone wrote an idea for discussion on a Post-It and we voted for the ideas we liked the most.  The votes were tallied up and we were then free to attend a discussion group of our choice and encouraged to attend as many groups as we wished.  I plumped for the cybersecurity group, where we discussed a wide range of topics from banking security to how much of our lives we are happy to share on the likes of Facebook.  It was great to be able to share ideas with folk from a wide range of academic and professional positions and listen to their thoughts and experiences regarding the subject matter.

Needless to say with such a packed schedule I was totally drained by the end of the day.  Thankfully the 8th Day Co-Op was still open so I ended up devouring a vegan pastie to refresh my batteries on the way to the train station.  We were kept so busy I didn’t really get much of a chance to network, however I really enjoyed myself, gained a new Twitter friend thanks to my poster and took a lot away from the conference.  The next WomENcourage conference is in Uppsala, Sweden in 2015, so I’ll have to get my thinking cap on for my next poster idea.

One more thing – if you’re ever in Manchester and fancy a proper pint, I can highly recommend the Port Street Beer House.  You can’t beat a proper beer served by staff who love their craft!

Ding ding, Year 2!

Ah, it’s really good to be back at uni and so lovely to catch up with friends.  It’s funny though how the summer months seem to drag, but once you get the first week of classes out of the way it feels like you never left.  For those of us working at the uni over the summer though, we’ve all commented on how weird it is that the corridors are full of fellow students again and appreciate how the permanent members of staff feel when we all start piling into the campus in September.

It still feels a bit weird to be a second year student, but I’m getting used to it.  Already I’m feeling the weights and responsibilities starting to dangle from above, so I’m determined to keep on top of things this year and keep the extra curricular stuff to a minimum – I have a real problem with saying “No” sometimes!  Saying that, there’s already so much going on I’ve decided to make a bullet list, at the very least to remind me of what I’m meant to be doing:

In addition to all this, I’ve also got to find time for my family and studies – who’d be a mature student!

Connect

Last week was Freshers week, which was busy but really enjoyable.  Maria (the engineering student champion) and I worked the Connect Stand at the Freshers Fair and were really pleased with the amount of women stopping by for a chat and some freebies.  We also heavily promoted the group’s Welcome Event on the 13th of September, which seemed to have worked quite well judging by the amount of women who came along.  It was so heartening to see lots of existing students mingling with the newcomers, proving that our wee network is definitely growing.  I’m really looking forward to the next event, which should be even more fun with our new members.

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I also helped out at Aberdeen College‘s Freshers Fair on the 4th of September, which was really fun.  We got talking to lots of lovely people and gathered some new members for the group, plus the sun actually came out!  In Aberdeen!  This is the stuff of legend, folks.

Once more into the breach

It’s just occurred to me as I get to this point in my post that I really am good at keeping myself busy!  I don’t care though; I enjoy being involved in so many things and if it complements my studies then that’s even better.

Time to dig out the old textbooks and do some work, now that Visual Studio has finally stopped updating; Microsoft has a lot to answer for sometimes!  I’m so glad we had that mini break in Blackpool at the weekend, I’m going to need all the energy I can muster…

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Girl Geek Scotland: Conversations with Silicon Valley and Summer Startup Party

I was lucky enough to get hold of a ticket for this event, which was held on the 30th of August (last Friday) at Summerhall in Edinburgh and hosted by Girl Geek Scotland.  The evening was split into two parts:  a panel discussion featuring some Silicon Valley heavyweights, dinner and then a good old fashioned party, all mixed up with the usual networking opportunities.  There was a great mix of people from students and postgrads to entrepreneurs, industry professionals and academics from a large variety of geeky disciplines.

The panel, hosted by Suzanne Doyle-Morris, featured Ann Winblad, Heidi Roizen, Wendy Lea and Karen White.  All five women are held in high regard in Silicon Valley and are involved in more prestigious companies than you can shake a memory stick at, but have also been friends for many years.  This friendship really came across in the panel discussion as they talked about the topics raised by Suzanne, which focused on how they came to be where they are today and any advice they could impart to the room.  I admit that what I know about investment and venture capital could fit onto a postage stamp, but the panel were fantastic at keeping things simple for us dafties and some of their anecdotes had us rolling in our seats.

However, the best part for me was the truly inspiring advice given by each panellist.  Heidi in particular really spoke to me and seemed to be the most popular speaker with many others; she has such a wonderful sense of humour and made us laugh a lot, but at the same time the advice she gave based on her life was really invaluable.  I had totally forgotten that she was the subject of the Heidi Roizen Case Study, which is a really insightful and thought provoking read into gender stereotypes and assumptions on women made by both sexes.

The main pieces of advice I took away from the panel are:

  • Failure is okay as long as you learn from your mistakes
  • Don’t be afraid to compromise without selling yourself out
  • Be proactive!  If you want something, go for it
  • Do what makes you happy, not what pleases someone else

In addition to the many companies in attendance, we were joined by representatives from Spraffl, which added an extra dimension to the evening via the power of anonymous, location based social media – it’s essentially Twitter without the usernames.  Some of the comments that came through on the big screens were typical of an Edinburgh audience – one user commented on the delay of dinner by suggesting that the trams would be up and running before we got fed – but it was also a great opportunity for people to spraff (post) their thoughts on the panel discussions.  Sadly half of the room was alienated as it’s currently only available for iOS; I’m an Android user and I won’t bore you with my thoughts on this, but it really does grind my gears when we’re second fiddle to the hipsters, grr.

After dinner, we moved to the Anatomy Room (for those unfamiliar with Summerhall, it’s an old, venerable campus used by Edinburgh University’s veterinary school and still boasts many original features) for some pictures.  We then decamped to the Dissection Room for the party (no animals were harmed by the revellers), complete with DJ and bar.  I met some lovely people – Yasmin, if you’re reading I’d like to say thank you for the drink! – and am also considering taking part in Byte Night, a fundraiser night where people sleep rough in the Meadows in Edinburgh to raise funds for Shelter.  This will depend on if I am in America or not; more on that later, if I win a sponsorship place!

I’d like to thank Girl Geek Scotland for a fun, educational evening and look forward to attending many more.  One thing though – someone might want to tell the caterers that vegetarians and vegans don’t appreciate being served a plate of salad for dinner 😉

BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium, 4 April 2013

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Thursday saw fellow student Aga Banach and myself representing Edinburgh Napier University at this year’s Colloquium at Nottingham University.  I’ve spoken a lot about this event recently so I’ll keep the descriptions to a minimum, but the Aberystwyth University run event is a great opportunity for female computing students from across the UK to get together and meet industry professionals, academics and employers whilst mingling with their peers.  There is also a poster competition, with very generous prizes provided by the sponsors.

Aga and I were selected as finalists in the poster competition so the main sponsor, Google, very kindly paid for our travel expenses and accommodation.  Aga’s poster covered the digital matte painting process while I went for a poster detailing my journey through university:

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We arrived in Nottingham the day before and spent an enjoyable evening wandering around and taking in the sights.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper trip to Nottingham if this guy isn’t mentioned at some point:

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Aga and I then retired to our accommodation, which was surprisingly nice for student digs!  I spent the evening working on my pitch for my poster while drinking tea and watching Netflix, my new favourite thing ever.

The event kicked off at 10 am, before which those of us who stayed overnight got to know each other over breakfeast.  After the welcome speech and inital tech talks we broke for lunch, where afterwards we set up our stands and spoke about our posters to the judges and other attendees.  There was a prize for each year plus a People’s Choice award, so Aga and I got an opportunity to take a look at the competition and vote for our favourite.  The range of subjects covered was huge, with a lot of brilliant projects and ideas on show.

I got a lot of positive responses from my poster and spent the afternoon chatting about what it’s like to be the only female networking student in my year and the support I get from the groups I’m involved with.  I had an especially lovely chat with one of the Google student recruiters about the cloud and big data, discussing our love for Dropbox (who very generously gave me 50GB of space when I bought my Galaxy S3) and how to manage listening to Google Music with mobile data allowances.  I’m with 3 so no data caps for me, huzzah!

I was also approached by Ann Danylkiw, who was there to make a documentary about the Colloquium and the experiences of women in tech.  I agreed to take part and had a lovely time chatting with another student on camera about our experiences, which were surprisingly very different but made for good subject matter.

Afterwards we had some more technical talks and the prizegiving.  Unfortunately Aga and I didn’t win anything, although we were very pleased for those who did as several were from Scottish universities – well done, Scottish winners!  Aga and I did spot a couple of factual inaccuracies in one of the winning posters (not sour grapes, just good old pedantry – honest!), however the standards were generally excellent and I have some ideas to think about for next year’s poster.

I enjoyed myself thoroughly at the Lovelace Colloquium and will definitely be attending again next year.  I would like to once again thank the organisers, in particular the lovely Hannah Dee, who worked so hard to put on a great event.

Here’s to next year!

Edinburgh Napier Applicants Day 2013

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Saturday saw me spending a very enjoyable – if freezing cold – morning helping to man (woman?) the Scottish Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (SRC) stand at Edinburgh Napier University’s Applicants Day.

For the uninitiated, the SRC runs Connect, the Napier branch of Interconnect, a national networking group for female STEM students.  We set up our stand with the aim to speak with as many potential female students as possible and tell them all about our experiences with the group.

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In addition to applicants getting the opportunity to speak with us fabulous reps about how much fun we have being members of Connect, we laid on lots of information and freebies (the mind maps were designed by schoolkids for a sister project).  These babies went down rather well too:

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Engineering sweeties!  Oh yeah!

All in all it was a pretty successful day, with lots of applicants and staff alike stopping by for a chat and a lemon flavoured spanner.  The women we spoke with were mainly engineers so I didn’t get much of a chance to sell the School of Computing, however we all had a great time discussing why groups like Connect are so beneficial for female STEM students.  The main thing that came out of the discussions we had with applicants is that we all enjoy being part of such a lovely, friendly and resourceful network of women from lots of different disciplines.  After all, who can argue with cake, coffee and a good old moan about coding?

Interconnect field trip

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending my first Interconnect outing, where we spent the day at the offices of Selex ES.

 

Selex

 

Around a dozen STEM students from various universities across Scotland spent a very enjoyable day hearing from several female engineers, who talked about their backgrounds and work with the company.  Selex is still very male dominated, but they are very focused on getting more women to work for the company and there are so many great opportunities for engineering and computing graduates.  It’s so heartening to hear the stories of women overcoming the prejudices and discrimination, even in university, and their subsequent success stories of sticking in, working hard and being recognised for their talents rather than their gender.

We also got a tour of the facilities, taking in areas such as the climate lab and manufacturing section.  My personal favourite was the section containing the near field and far field rooms, where they conduct various radar and antennae tests.  The staff who showed us round were clearly very enthusiastic about their work, showing us the equipment they work with and the various pieces of radar equipment they make.  A good amount of manufacturing is also done on site, although sadly we had to settle for looking through the windows when it came to the plant tour.  Everyone was very happy to answer our questions, of which we had plenty!

The only downside of the day came from one of the ladies looking after us.  After asking me what I’m studying (Computer Systems and Networks), she then assumed that I would be looking for an IT support job for a financial services firm after graduation.  Cue the Jackie Chan meme:

Jackie Chan

Alright, so maybe they want software engineers and mathematicians more, but to categorise me like that without even bothering to ask anything specific about my degree is downright insulting.  I mumbled something along the lines of “there’s more to my degree than that”, as I was so taken aback by her assumption, but by then she’d moved on.  Obviously the fact I study networking and found the antennae work really interesting means nothing to some people!

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Selex and loved the tour of the facilities in particular.  Their graduate scheme does look pretty good (the benefits are fantastic) and I would recommend you take a look.

BCS Women 2013 Kickoff

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As a new BCS member I was really pleased and excited to be invited to the second BCS Women Scotland Kickoff event,  held at IBM’s Edinburgh office.  The evening was attended by women from many professional and academic disciplines, including my very own university, and so we kicked off with some speed networking before settling down to the evening’s  guest speaker, Sharon Wallace.

Sharon has forged a successful career for herself in sales through direct selling company The Pampered Chef and delivered a really inspiring and lively speech on women in leadership.  She talked about her own experiences in the workplace and how she learned from them, good and bad, to set up and run her own business after starting a family.  She is quite rightly proud of her achievements as she has worked hard towards her goals despite the prejudice (some men just don’t seem to understand why a woman would ever want to continue her career after having kids *rolls eyes*), referencing McKinsey’s thought provoking Women Matter research and Simon Sinek’s great TED Talk on leadership.  I remember watching Simon’s talk on Youtube a while back and it always gives me a lovely glow when someone references a video or paper I’ve previously encountered myself!

After a yummy supper we were treated to a talk on the development of the smart city, in particular Glasgow’s fuel poverty (or “affordable warmth”) project by our host Sharon Moore, who works for IBM as an industry architect.  After watching a video of a little girl called Paige showing us around her damp infested flat in a BBC documentary, Sharon spoke of IBM’s involvement in the project, discussing the obstacles in reaching as many affected people as possible in both the affluent and poorer ares of Glasgow and the technology and techniques used to overcome these obstacles.  The project recently won £24m of investment from the government which is a welcome financial boost to the project.  It was interesting to see how the idea of the Internet of Things (I know it’s a Wikipedia link but it’s a good article, I promise!) helped to develop this project in particular.

The talk was followed by cake and networking, where I got chatting to Chelsea Sievewright, who as it turns out was also at November’s Target Jobs event and remembered me from the queue for the toilets, of all places!  I even swapped my business cards with a few folks and made several good contacts.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and highly recommend you go along to the next BCS Women event held in your area.