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Grace Hopper Celebration 2010 : Day 4 (1 October)

The last day of the conference!

I spent the morning filling out job applications and reading through the immense stacks of pamphlets I had collected over the past three days. Lunch was mostly spent with a friend who showed me a game called Minecraft, which looked like a lot of fun. Too bad my laptop was not fancy enough to run it very well!

After lunch was Cloud Computing – Architecting the Warehouse Behind the Cloud. It seemed mostly geared towards people who already were somewhat familiar with cloud computing (which I was not), but it sounds like cloud computing is essentially when one company or organization creates electronic storage space that multiple people can access and utilize for applications, or for whatever else they’d want a server for. Clouds are useful in that consumers can develop applications that rely on servers without having to shell out the money to buy their own server system; this, along with the time saved from being able to use someone else’s servers for one’s purpose, allow for faster development and faster innovation in various industries. For example, it is because of the cloud that Norton was able to win an award for technological innovation; Norton uses cloud computing to patch and update virus definitions on their users’ computers, so that the user’s computer neither has to save all that information physically on their machine (either in memory or on the hard-drive), and so that the software has a central location to check for definitions, rather than having to rely on local copies on the user’s machine.

But with all these benefits do come some drawbacks; some enterprises have been hesitant to fully shift to clouds because there are close to no standards about how a cloud may be used, and thus no guarantees about a number of different issues, such as how secure the information may be and how the cloud company is allowed to use the information. For example, whether or not a cloud provider would be forced to release data in their cloud in the event of a lawsuit, or whether the cloud provider holds the right to choose to present data in the cloud as evidence in a court of law, are both heavy concerns that are keeping some businesses from putting vast quantities of data into clouds. Other issues to consider are the fact that not all information even needs to be on a cloud, whether or not information should be put in public or private cloud (and how to make transitioning from either seamless and painless), and whether foreign enterprises that use a domestic cloud are privy to U.S. privacy or copyright laws (or vice-versa).

For more information on cloud computing and on how to choose a cloud for a particular project, we were advised to check out Amazon, who has a lot of information on their cloud and about cloud computing in general. While cloud computing is not something I’ve been particularly interested in, I think it was still a useful panel, that answered a lot of questions I had about the field and about where it’s headed.

Cloud Computing - Architecting the Warehouse Behind the Cloud

Cloud Computing - Architecting the Warehouse Behind the Cloud

Soon after was Imagine Cup Workshop, where we talked about some of the rules for Imagine Cup and got into groups to brainstorm. Imagine Cup was described as “The Olympics,” where the event has several sub-events of varying fame and glory. The game and software design events were the “swimming and gymnastics” of the event, and typically garnered the most interest and attention (though there are other subdivisions that have seen equally impressive contributions). The goal of all Imagine Cup events is to create something that works to solve some large global problem, such as hunger, gender inequality, and widespread disease. Participants only need to be over the age of 16 and students; one does not have to necessarily be a Computer Scientist in order to participate (in fact it would probably be in one’s best interest to have some variety, especially for the games division). Teams can have up to four people on them, and only one needs to be a citizen of the country that the team is entering in; all the team members can be from different schools, so even if no one else at one’s school wants to participate, one could still find a way to get involved. Teams that make it to the finals get free trips to the location of the final competition!

The first round ends in late October; by this time every team has to have submitted a proposal for what they plan on working on. No one is eliminated at this point, and no one is expected to have anything fully completed, so it is more of a commitment to participate and evidence that the team’s thinking about their submission. By November teams should have a prototype of their submission (but nothing has to be finished, per se, until the finals next year).

I’ve already jumped aboard a team; we hope to make some sort of game centered around promoting gender equality by detailing the lives of various female icons who faced adversity in their lives. Can’t release any more details yet!

Afterwards my friends and I hoped to check out World of Coca-Cola, but unfortunately the cut-off for getting into the museum was three minutes before we got directions to it. So instead we checked out the Activities That Attract 4th-12th Grade Girls and Women to Computing workshop, which had some open slots. The workshop was teaching participants about Alice and Scratch, along with Pleo robots and PicoCricket sets. Since education’s not really my thing, and since I already had experience with a lot of what was being taught, I did not find the workshop very interesting (though I’m sure it was helpful to those who actually planned on using some of these tools in classroom settings).

The night ended with Sponsor Night, which was held in the Aquarium. Google passed out flashing glasses and t-shirts, and Microsoft set up shop on the other side of the room with t-shirts of their own. I have to say, I think Microsoft won the t-shirt war…

My friends and I were somewhat disappointed that we couldn’t explore the entire aquarium, but there was a giant tank in the ballroom that offered us plenty of opportunities for pictures, so it wasn’t all bad. The marine biologist in me resurfaced once I got a picture of some sharks and manta rays, and I was giddy like a first-grader for a good half hour as I frantically snapped some pictures on my cell phone.

Manta Ray!

Manta Ray!

Mystery Shark (Can you tell me what species it is?)

Mystery Shark (Can you tell me what species it is?)

Whale Shark!

Whale Shark!

The food was great, and it was a very relaxed end to a life-changing conference. I met so many new and interesting people, and interacted with so many companies that I had never thought of working for, and I feel it was completely worth missing classes and work for a week, if only to have the chance to learn more about what my field offers me, and to join other women in celebration of our gender and our presence in a male-dominated field. It was an experience I will keep with me forever, and I will be sure to convince as many lower-classmen as possible to go next year.

Thank you Grace Hopper Celebration 2010; it’s been a blast!

P.S. I think I earned the title of Longest Ribbon Chain.

 

15 Total Ribbons

15 Total Ribbons

 

Even the ones that don't apply to me still apply to me.

Even the ones that don't apply to me still apply to me.

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Grace Hopper Celebration 2010 : Day 3 (30 September)

Today was more or less a day to regroup, to make sure I’d gotten all the free stuff I had wanted, to make sure I had talked to every company and grad school I had interest in, and do some of the homework I was supposed to have done by the end of the day.

In the morning I went to the 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Career, where a panel of professional women gave us all advice on what not to do while we figured out what we wanted to do with our lives. The take-home messages were:

  • Go to informational interviews before deciding to accept an offer; ask about the company culture, etc
  • Don’t choose your first offer out of fear that it will be your only one — this is likely to end in misery
  • Follow up with contacts with various companies, and don’t forget to use your network!
  • Try to get a mentor/someone who will help you out and teach you the ropes early in your career
  • Take a vacation before starting! It will probably be the last chance you get to take a long holiday.
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate your salary
  • Think about how much you’d be willing to travel (some jobs will have you traveling every day)
  • Make sure that both you and your significant other are happy with your career choice — discuss things such as salary differences, whether they are comfortable with you having a high-security job, etc

It was very interesting to hear each of the panelists talk a bit about their lives, and I definitely learned a bit about how to handle my own job search.

After that I explored the world outside the hotel for a bit with one of my friends in order to enter the Geocache raffle hosted by the USAA. It was the first time I’d left the hotel in awhile, so it was a nice change to get out and explore some of Atlanta.

 

One of the USAA challenge clues

One of the USAA challenge clues

Next, we went to a lunch sponsored by CRA-W for all the DREU students who worked this past summer. It was at Il Mulino, a very fancy Italian restaurant which was happy to make some vegan alternatives to their usual menu. The food was delicious; this was easily one of the best meals of the conference!

Later came Codeathon for Humanity; being largely unfamiliar with the particular project, I decided to try and contribute by helping with documentation; unfortunately it was rather unclear as to what we needed to help document, and by the time the general reception rolled along the inhabitants of the Documentation table decided that a food break would serve us best.

After dinner was a very fun and spirited keynote speech by Carol Bartz, who spoke about what Computer Science had been like when she had started out, and how different the field is now, and how different it is likely to be in the future. The CEO of Yahoo! did not disappoint!

Then came the DJ Dance Party, which I attended for about ten minutes before deciding I was too tired to dance, and instead I hung out with a few friends who were mutually uninterested in dancing.

 

DJ Dance Partay

DJ Dance Partay

All in all another action-packed day. :]

Grace Hopper Celebration 2010 : Day 2 (29 September)

This morning I obtained a Poken (this little USB device that acts as an electronic business card when you match it with another Poken) and filled out my profile a bit.

My Vampire Poken

My Vampire Poken

I also went to the New Investigations #1 presentations, which were on a lot of interesting subjects (music, collaborative learning, games, and nursing). The first presentation was about using computers to generate song accompaniment, in the same vein as Microsoft Songsmith. The presentation began with an overview of the difficulties in doing this (for example, trying to figure out the correct chord progressions to use and figuring out the tone of the song and the genre of the song through analysis of the vocals), and the presenter showed a humorous comparison of an original song clip and a Microsoft Songmith rendition of the same song based solely on a vocal track to demonstrate how this is not a trivial task. She then explained how her work involved analyzing the chords that a particular artist tends to use, generating all the possible chord types, and teaching her system about how to choose the best chords to use at particular parts of the song, by training it with other songs that the artist has produced. She was actually able to test this system by choosing a song off an artist’s album, training the system with the other songs on the album, and generating accompaniment that, while being different from the original, fit the vocals just as well as the original accompaniment. It was really impressive!

The second was a presentation on some ongoing research involving collaborative learning through the use of computers, with the intent of facilitating collaboration between students from different schools, states, countries, etc, and of demonstrating the value of collaborative learning (versus typical solitary computer science learning experiences). In order to do all this they are developing a game based on the regional education requirements in which elementary school students would have tasks which would require them to complete quests and learn about ecosystems and landforms through collaborate both with other students and with non-player characters (NPCs). The NPCs would hopefully, through working with the students in the game, both inspire the students’ curiosity and give them motivation to learn more about the science, while working with other students (by dividing up responsibilities for particular quests) would hopefully also improve the learning experiences of all students involved. I’m very curious to see the results of this study.

The third project was on studying trends among different groups of people and why they enjoy the games they play; participants were given a game where they could customize levels, avatars, and could play the levels they created, and the researchers documented what participants spent more time on based on a number of factors, such as their gender and their gaming experiences. For example, female participants were the most likely to do any sort of customization and the least likely to actually play the levels (a trend that, though slightly diminished, still stood with female gamers). 44% of female participants and 52% of male participants were described as “strategic” designers (in other words, they actively tried to create a story with their level, and had specific reasons for designing the levels they created. There were also differences between participants who had experience playing more involved games such as RPGs and participants who had experience with less involved games such as online social games, or participants who played board games. RPG gamers tended to revise their levels more often but tended to use less items in the levels themselves; other gamers and non-gamers tended to revise their levels less frequently, but tended to stick more into their levels.

The last presentation was made by a graduate student who had been creating ways of making the lives of nurses easier by consolidating the information they have to know throughout the day, giving them newer technology such as Smart boards and voice communication systems, and by allowing for remote access of patient information. She had received a lot of positive feedback about how having one program that nurses could access data from was extremely helpful for their jobs. The research was more straight-forward than some of the other presentations, and was a great end to the session.

After NI#1, I visited all the companies I did not have a chance to chat with last night, visited some graduate school tables, and then went to lunch. Lunch was interesting; as a vegan I was given tofu seasoned with paprika, salt, and oregano, what tasted like sweet and sour soba noodles, and fresh spinach. There were waiters carrying plates to and from the tables, and it felt like I was in a fancy restaurant. After this did an interview, and overwhelmed myself with the amount of free stuff I had come across. I definitely should have brought a suitcase with me, rather than just a backpack and laptop bag…I have also attempted to collect as many ribbons as possible during my stay at the conference. I have eleven so far! Soon came the Job Search Part 1 Panel and the Defense Career Panels, which gave me a lot of good insight on how to apply for jobs and what Defense jobs are available and what they involve.

Soon came dinner and the poster presentations, which were rather interesting; many were about getting more girls interested in computer science early and many were about educational games, but there were also quite a few about more mathematical and theoretical concepts. After this I hung out with a few of my friends, did some homework, and got ready for another exciting day of Grace Hopper.

Grace Hopper Celebration 2010: Day 1 (28 September)

After traveling for seven hours I finally made it to Atlanta! The Hyatt Regency is both gigantic and beautiful, and when I walked in I could not help but feel even more grateful about the fact that I received the scholarship to come to Grace Hopper, and that my hotel bill was included in that scholarship.

Hyatt Regency Atlanta

Hyatt Regency Atlanta

Hyatt Regency Atlanta : Where the conference was held

Hyatt Regency Atlanta: Where the conference was held

Registration started at 3, and they gave us nametags and bags containing a vast variety of goodies, including a water bottle, three lip balm/gloss, plenty of pens, screwdrivers, post-its, a flashlight, two flash drives, and an assortment of information packets about various programs.

Later I went to the Resume Clinic, where a representative from Microsoft offered me advice on how to improve my resume. The most significant advice he gave me was not to be afraid to expand my resume to two, or maybe even three, pages. From here I went to an interview for Barclays Capital, and then onto the Career Fair. The Big Three were there (Apple, Microsoft, and Google), along with Intel, IBM, HP, Yahoo!, MIT Lincoln Lab, NSA, and a number of other companies. They all asked for copies of my résumé, so it was a good thing I decided to print a few copies before coming to the conference! One of the HP representatives, after discussing my résumé at the booth, allowed me to talk further with a recent hire (Tyelisa Shields), who gave me a lot of useful information about HP and about the other companies she passed over in her job search. It was easily one of the most informative discussions I’ve had about careers so far, and I’m glad I stopped by the table!

The Google Booth

The Google Booth

The Microsoft Booth

The Microsoft Booth

The Intel, Intuit, and NSA Booths

The Intel, Intuit, and NSA Booths

The Salesforce Booth

The Salesforce Booth

By the time I had made my rounds the fair was coming to a close, so I went back to my room to sort through all the fancy souvenirs I had obtained. Can’t wait for the rest of the week!

I’m a Grace Hopper Blogger!

I am excited to have found out that I have been chosen as a community blogger for the Grace Hopper Conference! I will make an enthusiastic effort to make the community proud. :]

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