Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Grace Hopper Conference 2014

Below is a blog post by Kate Miller and Bethany Davis on their experience at the Grace Hopper Conference in Phoenix:

Bethany Davis and I had the tremendous opportunity to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix early October. For three days, thousands of women across the country gathered to talk about the state of the software industry, the rich history of women like Naval Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (who developed the first compiler) and where were going as individuals and colleagues.

Grace Hopper Celebration 2014

There were too many incredible sessions for us to attend them all, but we both gained a lot from it. I attended the international release of the documentary, “The Big Dream,” which follows several young women from different backgrounds including the Comp Sci sisters in Iowa, the homeless computer animator in San Francisco, and a military-minded freshman who had just lost her mother to cancer (her mother was also an engineer). 
I also did technical interview practice questions with fellow nervous interviewees and learned about the effect of body language on negotiations. 

We heard many positive remarks at this confernce -- a social change award recipient, Ruthe Farmer, encouraged HR reps at software companies to start increasing their payroll budgets, “because there are a lot of young women headed your way who are going to negotiate their salaries!” However, not everyone was so positive -- CEO Satya Nadella encourage women not to negotiate, but rather to “trust the system” (an inflammatory statement as Microsoft has only 17% female employees). He apologized for remarks shortly after, but the firestorm is still burning on tech blogs. 

Controversy aside, some exciting developments came out of it: I had several interviews during the conference and even received an internship offer on the first day! We even ran into an old friend: we went out to dinner with Michele at Culinary Dropout. I am happy to report that she is as fabulously successful as ever, and is enjoying her new pool. (Its not too late to come back to Penn, though!)  
Kate, Michele and Bethany

A note on swag: I think if more young women knew about the corporate giveaways at technology conferences, the talent pipeline would overflow. The networking and knowledge gained are of course the most valuable piece of the conference, but my suitcase was filled to the brim with portable chargers, headphones, t-shirts, flip books, nail polish, and much more (most of which I passed along to my little sister, a high school freshman. Im essentially bribing her to become an engineer). 
A slightly more serious note: Though I believe that Penn does an excellent job in its efforts to recruit and retain women in engineering, the fact remains that only about 10% of Computer Science majors are women, and that can feel isolating. The fact that a community like the one that came together at Grace Hopper exists is inspirational, and Im excited to continue to build that network of support at Penn through AWE.
Our lovely Kate and Bethany

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Senior Year: Part 1 of 2

Coming back to campus this fall, I was excited to see what the year would have in store - but for a different reason than most of my class of 2015 peers. For them, it is the first of many lasts—the last first day of classes, the last course registrations, the last summer before real life happens. I normally do things a little differently and have recently decided that I would take five years to finish my undergraduate degrees instead of the normal four. It was a bittersweet moment when I met with advisers to officially change my academic status to a 2016 graduation date. Even though I’ll have a different experience this year during my senior year, part 1 of 2, I’ll be able to actually live my life instead of just surviving the rest of the days trying to get through all of my classes.
After transferring in to The Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology at the end of freshman year, I had a quite a few additional classes to catch up on to complete my bioengineering and my Wharton degrees. I thoroughly enjoy both sides of my academic experience at Penn and wanted to fully pursue both sides with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) degree instead of a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) degree along with Wharton concentrations in finance and management. I came to Penn not wanting to have to choose between business or engineering, so instead I chose to do both and have loved it ever since!

Cathryn and her dog Zoey
I also realized there was more that I wanted to experience in college rather than racing through my classes and giving up other activities that I love like Chi Omega Sorority, SWE Educational Outreach, AWE Advisory Board, club volleyball, and running among other things. Although I am constantly learning through my classes, I feel I have learned the most through these other activities because there isn’t a textbook to learn from or a professor to ask for help during office hours. Instead, you are forced to learn as you go. Failure is only a failure if you don’t learn from it! Whether it is solving Chi Omega’s tax issue with the IRS or piloting a new SWE Educational Outreach mentoring program, I am constantly challenged outside of the classroom to become a better leader and a smarter student. I couldn’t justify giving up these experiences and giving up what I wanted to explore in college.

Friday, September 12, 2014

My Summer Internship

Here's Bianca Pham's summer internship experience in a small startup tech company:

My summer internship in the creative industry

            As a Networked & Social Systems engineering student, I had the option of going into software, consulting, product management, etc. just like the other kids in my major. However, I wanted to build up skills that would allow me to be more creative and allow more room for design thinking. Thus, I interviewed for a small creative digital agency in New York called Ivory Digital.
Ivory Digital

            Ivory Digital is made up of a small team of entrepreneurs who build products they love for small brands that matter. As a production assistant, I helped the production team on every facet of a digital project: from business and web development to the creation of a business class website; from collecting project requirements to creating design presentations; from browser-troubleshooting to producing HTML markup; I experienced the full cycle of crafting websites for a wide array of client sites Ivory Digital currently maintains. In short summary, many of my projects consisted of giving a “fashion makeover” for a company’s website. Although I had mostly only technical skills, my boss was willing to take the time to teach me design skills such as Photoshop and InDesign because I was in a small startup company.  

            Typically when I start my project, I would first meet with the clients to understand their brand goals and objectives for their new website. I would then strategize content, website features, and plan the architecture of the new website. Once that was approved, I got to the fun part which was putting together mood boards and concept designs for the new website based on inspiring themes. After my clients approve all of the steps above, we would code up our newly designed website and Voila!

Bianca and her coworkers
            At this internship, I found out both that I have a creative side as well as the value of being a Penn Engineering student. I had the skills to talk to clients, understand the coding behind the website and figure out what the developers wanted out of the final product. With these various skills, I was able to act as a middle-man between the various departments and translate the needs of each department to one another. It was difficult to find a balance between all of the departments, but I had the power to pick and choose what elements made sense to put together to build our final product. Thus, I really encourage students develop new skills that you have always wanted to develop and try working in a startup environment, because there, you can learn a lot about yourself and learn from the people around you.

Questions for Bianca? You can contact her at phamb@seas.upenn.edu