Thursday, December 17, 2015

Hour of Code 2015

Today and yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending my day at Lu's awesome Boston Public School, the Philbrick, teaching the Hour of Code. Thanks to my employer EMC for making this opportunity happen with volunteer days and for their generous grant of $5,000 for technology to support learning at the school. I also want to thank our amazing science teacher Erin Flynn for allowing me to spend time in her classroom.

Kids as young as age 3 up through 5th grade enjoyed the challenge at their own ability level. This year, the kids had the choice to code using Star Wars, Minecraft, or Frozen. See last year's writeup for details about Blockly, the graphical language the kids learned to code in.

With the new movie coming out, the Star Wars game was a big hit.

Minecraft was very popular with all of the classes.



Last year's favorite, Frozen, made a special guest appearance in science class.

The games really were fun and neat. But the kids' concentration and focus, especially in the lower grades, astounded me!


The hour of code has quickly become my favorite STEM outreach activity. Technology is so fundamental to our, and especially our children's lives, that being exposed to it at a young age is crucial. I urge you to give it a try in your local school or community. It's quick, easy, fun, and so rewarding! Please check out the hour of code's website to get started.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

11th Annual MA Conference for Women

This was my second trip to the MA Conference for Women, the largest Massachusetts-based women's conference. It was a misty, grey day but the weather did not dampen the enthusiasm within the convention center.

First up were morning keynotes. EMC's Erin McSweeny, EVP of HR, helped kick off the day. We started with an entertaining panel of Tim Gunn of Project Runway and Sophia Amoruse (who was refreshingly authentic and unscripted). I really enjoyed hearing Adam Grant's take on givers and takers, including specific tips on how givers can get ahead. Specifically I appreciated hearing his idea that you should block your giving time in your calendar so it does not overtake the rest of your schedule. He emphasized the importance of givers taking care of themselves too.

Mayor Marty Walsh spoke about his commitment to compensation equity.

Next were the breakout sessions. Panelists Jody Adams, Melody Lee, Anita Santos, and Kathryn Schoenborn-Sobolewski spoke about courage and innovation. They gave examples of when they stood up for themselves in their careers despite obstacles.

Next I attended a session that included EMC's ML Krakauer, EVP of business development. I've benefited greatly from ML's leadership at EMC, and was very interested in hearing about lessons she learned early in her career. She related an inspiring story when she taught several assembly line workers to read and add to enable them to adopt a program she wrote. What an excellent lesson that she took the extra time to investigate why her program was not having the desired effect, and then enabled her team to be successful.

Next was a lunch with 10,000 of my closest friends.

During lunch I had the opportunity to hear from Shonda Rhimes. As a Grey's Anatomy fan, this was definitely a highlight. I was surprised to hear her advice to turn your phone off between 7 pm and 7 am. If Shonda can do it, so can I!

I was excited to see in the program that a local mom blogger I know, Casey Carey-Brown, was going to be speaking. I attended her session and picked up some expert Instagramming tips. Instragram is just for photos, folks: keep the contests on Facebook! And also don't insta-share, go in and re-share your photos manually to Twitter and Facebook to increase their visibility. Casey also recommends not using a scheduler and just live posting your photos. But not 10 or more at once, spread them out.

I ended the day with an excellent, and did I mention free, coaching session that confirmed that my life's is heading in the direction I want it to go in for 2016! Here's to new adventures.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

STEM education for the win!

I just received some very exciting news! My employer EMC recently awarded several community service awards. I applied for one for my daughter's school, Philbrick Elementary in Roslindale, a neighborhood of Boston. They routinely face budget cuts and do not have a technology budget. So I was thrilled to hear that EMC has made a generous grant of $5,000 to support technology at the school! This will enable technical support for the teachers and staff, enabling the teachers to focus on learning rather than troubleshooting technology problems.

In addition, this grant will allow the Philbrick to purchase additional hardware to support parallel instruction in technology. Currently, the teachers do not have access to equipment if the laptops and iPads are being used in another classroom.

This grant will greatly enhance technical learning at the Philbrick. The staff, students, and parents at the Philbrick would like to thank EMC for this generous gift that will have a lasting impact for our students.

Facilitating the hour of code at the Philbrick last year

I'll be donating 2 volunteer days next week to teach the Hour of Code to the entire school. Come back on the 18th for a new blog post on that topic!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Little Ms. Crate: gift idea for kids

If you read my blog, you know I'm an active supporter of STEM education, especially when it comes to girls. As a girl, it never occurred to me that working in technology was an option for me because I did not see any women role models. I fell into this field that I love in my mid-20s, but I wish I'd found it sooner. So one of my biggest volunteer missions is to be an active volunteer in my community so girls see that they, too could have a career in tech if they so choose.

Today, I want to share a new crate subscription that was launched recently on Kickstarter.

The service, Little Ms. Crate, introduces young girls to a new career in STEM or leadership each month, and spotlights female role models in the featured field. Crates samples are Little Ms. CEO, Little Ms. Digital Animator, Little Ms. Scientist, etc.

I think it's a great idea and I have supported it. If the venture is funded, then Lu will get a Little Miss CEO kit for Christmas. If you'd like to support the venture, here's a link to the Kickstarter page.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Moms as Mentors Building Bridges workshop

It's been a hectic few weeks at work trying to launch 2 marketing websites, complete with new links and assets. But when I read on my local moms' forum that Moms as Mentors was hosting a STEM mom/daughter bonding event, I decided to take the day off and go with Lucinda. I'm so glad we went.

It was a dreary day as we trudged out to Uncle Chris's prized Saab wagon, a loaner while my reliable-but-worn 10 year-old Camry was in the shop, courtesy of Uncle Chris. After a struggle with locks and a fight with the umbrella (who lost), we were on our way to Dedham.

We were the first participants to arrive, and Lucy made me a lovely name tag.

We visited the amazing science room at the Dedham Country Day School and its classroom pets, turtles. We ran into another JPmom Hillary and her daughter, who brought a friend.

We started the session with a big circle. The organizer kicked off the event with a fun activity where she asked questions such as "who has a purple toothbrush?" and if you fit the description, you ran into the middle of the circle. Then the daughters introduced their moms to everyone in the room.

Our main activity was pairing off with our daughter to build roller coasters for marbles using foam tubing, cardboard, masking tape, and some cardboard. The activity progressed in difficulty. The first challenge was to build a roller coaster that included a hill. Then we were to add a loop. Finally, we tried to incorporate both a hill and a loop.

We got right to work and Lucy started brainstorming. She surprised me with how many creative ideas she offered, and how easy it was to work together on this project. I noticed no resistance, only enthusiasm, as we worked through the various obstacles of the activity.

We finished the hill challenge quickly and set about the loop. We had a few failed attempts, wherein I held the tubing and Lucy let the marble go and she would retrieve it from across the room. I think I impressed her by introducing new vocabulary such as minimum viable product, beta, and testing phase.

On about the 5th or 6th run, we got the loop working. We spent the remainder of our time securing the loop with tape, cardboard, and trying to repeat our early success. Lucy was overjoyed when she got the whole thing working!

I was struck by how fun loving yet determined Lucy was throughout the morning. It struck me, as a scholar of Amy Cuddy and her research on power poses, how after each success, Lucy automatically threw her hands over her head, beaming and exclaiming. I use the power pose and a pep talk as part of my interview preparation, and it is very effective.

We had the chance to recreate the victory pose after we finished our third challenge.

Then we had a few minutes to walk around and admire the other teams' work.

For our final, much shorter, activity, we made bracelets for each other. Each bead was intended to signify something we appreciated in our relative.

At the end of the activity, we filled out surveys and a few participants offered observations. I shared that I was impressed by Lucy's patience. She told the group that she thought I was good at angles. and engineering.

We went to lunch afterward and shared the meanings behind the bracelets we'd made for each other. I told her that hers meant she was a true friend, excellent leader, loved the water, was a princess, had true love and kindness in her heart, and was a hard worker. Her bracelet for me had all sorts of holiday symbolism, and told me I was beautiful, kind, and loving, and a leader.

Don't worry if you missed this event! There's another one right around the corner this Saturday 11/14 in Boston.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Grace Hopper conference reflections

Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Grace Hopper conference in Houston, Texas. I first attended this energizing, motivating event in 2010. I spent that week in Atlanta, Georgia with 3,000 technical women, and meeting so many outstanding female colleagues inspired me to further my education. Three years later, I earned my high tech MBA with high honors from the D'Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University.

2015's Grace Hopper event quadrupled in size to 12,000. It was a fast-paced event with many wonderful sessions and keynotes.

Leaving Boston, I smiled to see my neighborhood represented in this poster at Logan airport.

After I arrived in Houston, I checked into my hotel and ensured that I was organized and ready to go. The George Brown Convention Center is a quarter-mile long from end to end, and I walked it several times daily.
I hope I packed enough shoes!

The view of downtown Houston from the elevator of the Hyatt Regency, where I had dinner with EMC Distinguished Engineer and friend Helen Raizen

On Wednesday afternoon, October 14, I watched Clara Shih, founder of Hearsay Social, deliver an opening keynote. I admired her tenacity and composure in the face of discrimination. Here's an article summarizing her tech startup experiences.
Clara Shih, founder of Hearsay Social

I attended 2 interactive workshops on Wednesday, Showcase Your Work: How to Give Your First Lightning Talk and Build your brand as an emerging leader or technical expert. These sessions offered a fantastic opportunity to get to know some women working in tech and share my experiences. I mentioned my favorite way of sharing my personal brand with the world, a twesume: a 140-character version of your resume that you can tweet. 
I also had a chance to pop over to Helen Raizen's session. At an interactive student lab, she was sharing her 4 decades of experience in the tech industry to an eager crowd of students.

On Thursday, Hadi Partovi, founder of the Hour of Code, spoke to the crowd and encouraged all of us to participate. I do as well; it's a really amazing volunteer opportunity! Please read about my experiences here.

I attended a cool session, Driving Success Through Innovation & Change, that got you out of your technical mindset and into a problem solving way of thinking. I went with a new friend Jenny I met in the coffee line. She's an entrepreneur from Dallas. We became fast friends and have been keeping in touch after the conference via text. I love how a chance meeting at an event like this can present you with professional contacts or personal friends, or both!

Learning strategies for adapting to quickly changing circumstances
Not surprisingly, this tech conference came with an app. It integrated with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and allowed you to post status updates. I really enjoyed using it, and was able to connect to lots of attendees in this way.
A post with Ashley Trotman, also from Boston

Finally, what would Grace Hopper be without the parties?! I attended a reception Cisco hosted and landed the coolest swag, an LED fiber optic barrette that my 6 year-old daughter quickly absconded with.

At the EMC reception (photo credit Laura Tenney)

Google's TechMakers event had these cool, frequently changing lights they called sugarcubes

Sucarcubes from further away

Here are some photos from the ending reception held at Minute Maid Park.
With my new friend Lisa
With new friends Jenny, Alex, and Alon
Dance party

Here are some other memorable moments.

 Sheryl Sandberg's keynote (photo credit Laura Tenney)

Adding my contribution to the pride wall: "I am most proud of my daughter"
Shuttle selfie at the end of the conference
Please check out the Grace Hopper wiki for access to most of the conference material. The group Systers, a technical listserve, maintains it. Definitely sign up if you are a technical woman; they have many interesting discussions. Additionally,here is a link to download some PPT slides from the event

My heartfelt thanks goes to my manager Jay Chitnis for supporting my professional development and giving me the chance to share the unique qualities and culture of EMC with so many new colleagues and friends.