Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Wonders of Social Networking

This post was written by Opportunities Officer Laura Mutu.

Last Tuesday I attended a CU-WISE speaker event focused on Social Media presented by Natasha D’Souza. I felt that I should attend since I am interested in exposing myself to good techniques of keeping oneself image in the virtual space, being at the verge of getting into the work force in my field.

Companies have marketing offices and human resources, but each individual only has 24 hours a day, and each of us needs to know a little bit of everything in the end to be able manage ourselves better. A lot of the communication today takes place online, and even if you think you know what it’s about, you never really understand all the consequences or all the opportunities.

What I found neat during the presentation was Natasha’s way of twisting the usual usage of a social tool, or just revamping some old technology, underused in the present.

Then, although I took good notes during her speech (without knowing I will end up writing a blog using them; you can imagine my happiness for finding them now heh), I also found the slides and a summary of her speech online.

Why I found that as neat? Well, I have a short spanning memory and it often happens that I go to workshops and create mental notes on the speaker’s slides, but then I can’t come back to review them, hence I take written notes. All that in the hopes that these talks will contribute to my growth and that it won’t just be an attended session, a check mark in my agenda, but I’ll make sure to actually absorb and check what the person was talking about.

Now, we’ll take a look at what I took out from the session, and hopefully, it will be useful for you as well.

When it comes to social bookmarking, a new way of keeping track of interesting links online, also adopted by a few of the girls present at the workshop, Natasha suggests Diigo.

I personally use Google bookmarks, just because I like how simple and slick Google is.

As a general rule, whenever you save something, remember to register a few key words that might help you decrypt what the link/fact/person/picture was all about. We know we all think we will remember that something later, but as programmers know, it’s possible to work on heavy programs for months and then not remember anything about that little piece of code from the beginning. So, take those few more precious seconds and throw in the right words that will save you some grief later in times of need.

Some of the rules for right tagging:
  • should be searchable online, if public
  • create own standard of how to use it will take a while, like a couple of years, so start now!
  • make documents (scientific or pdfs) relevant to target audience

Natasha encouraged us to use RSS feeds to keep up to date with events or people’s blogs that we find interesting. On the reverse note, anyone maintaining a website should consider adding social buttons so that if visitors find certain info on your website worth sharing, they can do so right away. In fact, the presence of social buttons can just click a reminder in the person’s mind that your page is available for sharing, so they get an incentive to do so.

Alongside the popular blogs and Facebook notes, why don’t you try contributing to a Wikipedia page? It’s a great activity anyone can take on actually. MediaWiki has a few tags that you need to get accustomed in the beginning, but then it’s just your speedy fingers contributing content to the international community and the wealth of knowledge. Doesn’t it look great on your resume?
Especially if you are passionate about the subject you are contributing to, it shows that you are ready to go the extra mile; that you are also a giver, not just a taker; that you can share and give back.

If you are a little software inclined, even better, because wiki itself is getting quite old and looks like it would need some review to become more automated. So, get out there and see how you can volunteer in the development of this amazing website each and one of us keeps coming back to.

Blogs are available everywhere for you to share your passions, but it’s not as easy as you thought, is it? It takes discipline and goal setting; and about a year to define your style and get comfortable to writing for the masses. As strange at it may seem in this informational boom, it seems that there are not so many Canadian tech female bloggers. So start participating, find your own pace and rhythm, your inner voice, and give HR personnel something you want them to read about you.

Also in blog formats, e-newsletters can be tag-able and provide a conversation medium. Flipping the coin on the other side, they are great opportunities for you to start conversations online about things that interest you. You can give people an idea of who you are as a person and so, generate good, professional information beyond parties for other to grasp in the cloud.

Amongst the questions of the evening there was one that kept in creeping up: “Do you use LinkedIn?”

The reason is that LinkedIn is a very powerful tool if you keep your profile up-to-date since it is feature rich ( you can add Amazon books you like, your blog, twitter, website) and you can use it to participate and generate discussions, to demonstrate your expertise and differentiate yourself in job market. Recruiters and potential employers use it, so why don’t you? Found that event interesting, go ahead and give your two cents on why you think that is so. Provide feedback to your contact database and keep in mind that any person needs to meet another person six times before they remember each other.

Hmm, wondering how Facebook can be used besides sharing pictures and checking out your friends’ friends? Why don’t you start looking for something that is really important for you, like that company you like. You can become a fan of it and even start a discussion and share your views.

There is also, of course, the universe of the microblogs, such as Twitter, where you can quickly update people on cool projects and ideas. You can also try Youtube and contribute to video sharing and make Carleton, for example, more interesting with your own input, something authentic and original that would easy the marketing’s task, and improve your image in the public community’s eyes.

Other sites mentioned included meet-up and bringITon.

In conclusion, you need to realize that this is a new world we’re living in and you can’t control everything, and need to take things into perspective. If you put anything out there, it will be there forever, so if you don’t want your boss to read it, don’t post it. Everything is out there for the world, regardless your false sense of privacy, and people will always judge you. In the end, you need to take the time and figure out and try to see what is good for you.

Natasha was also kind enough to invite us to “Connect the Dots” Ottawa, an event where the various women organizations of Ottawa come together, and where she was to speak in a few days. I got to the opening evening which was really interesting and fun and all the women had a story to tell, I would highly recommend attending if you have the opportunity. You can read a lot more details about the event on their website and also on Natasha’s website:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From the WISE Guy: YOU could be a female black belt

This guest post is from one of CU-WISE's best male allies, Jeff Gordon.

I'm a big believer of healthy living with the aim of maintaining a good work and life balance. You probably spend a lot of time in front of a computer, a notepad, or a textbook. So, getting enough exercise is an important part of that balance. CU-WISE has presented yoga events in the past. It's a great way to improve your strength, balance, and flexibility. I'm an active practitioner of power yoga, so I can definitely vouch for its benefits. But my primary source of exercise comes from martial arts. I absolutely love it and you might too.

Martial arts are really a full body workout which not only works you physically but mentally. For anyone with an active brain, it's an incredibly stimulating activity that can challenge you in many ways. It's also a lot of FUN! You find yourself doing things you probably would never do anywhere else. In fact, martial arts skills are probably the closest thing I'll ever have to a super power. Not everyone can jump, spin 360 degrees, and break a board with their foot or drop down into the splits. Always useful if you need a party trick!

One of the biggest benefits of martial arts is an improvement of self-confidence. Even the strongest person (woman or man) has some self-confidence issues and martial arts can often address these in unexpected ways. It forces you to come out of your shell but in a comfortable friendly environment. A lot of martial arts involve working with a partner and these interpersonal skills are important to working with classmates, co-workers, and in a relationship!

There's TONS of literature out there on how to choose a martial art. And really, it's a personal choice. I study Taekwondo which shares many similarities with karate (and some similarities with kung fu). These are striking arts which focus on strikes with your hands and feet to an opponent from a distance. It's in these styles you'll see kicking, board breaking, as well as choreographed sequences of patterns or katas. If the idea of wrestling or flipping interests you, then you may want to consider the grappling arts such as jiu-jitsu, judo, and aikido. These styles involve using locks, holds, and throws to force an opponent to submit on the ground. Jiu-jitsu especially is the bread and butter of mixed martial arts and UFC.

While martial arts remains a male dominated sport, woman can and do excel at all styles of martial arts. I encourage women to give martial arts a try and apply the same resilience you have in science and engineering towards something completely different but equally as rewarding. Many successful women have achieved black belts including former U of O Dean of Engineering Dr. Tyseer Aboulnasr, Dr. Laura Schlessinger and actresses Lucy Liu, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kelly Hu, Tina Majorino, Evan Rachel Wood, Taryn Manning, Laura Vandervoort, and Brenda Song. Also CU-WISE itself has a number of woman martial artists among its membership.

Just like science and technology, I'm always very encouraged and impressed when women take part in an area that is predominantly guys. It's why I support initiatives like WISE. And if I've grabbed your interest in martial arts, I highly recommend giving martial arts a try. It could be the activity for you. Even if you tried it as a kid, consider giving it a second look or try a different martial art. I hated martial arts when I tried it at six years old but I gave it another go at 20 and I was hooked. So give it a try and see what happens. And if you do go to a class and some guys make you feel unwelcome, I will personally show you HOW to kick their butts!

Carleton offers programs in Aikido, Jiu Jitsu, Karate and Kung Fu on campus. Taekwondo is offered at private schools nearby campus and at the University of Ottawa campus. So now, go kick some butt! *bows*

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Connecting with my feminine side at Connect the Dots PJ Party

I had the opportunity to attend the Connect the Dots PJ Party on Thursday, November 12th and I’m glad I grabbed it. According to the website, Connect the Dots “is designed to connect all leading women’s networking groups in the Ottawa Region and provide an opportunity to NETWORK, COLLABORATE, BE INSPIRED and GET MOTIVATED”. The event kicked off with the PJ party on Thursday night (yes most of us were wearing pyjamas) as an alternative to a traditional networking event, and the conference workshops were scheduled for the Friday. I was not able to attend the conference on Friday, so I went into Thursday’s event expecting to network with other women’s groups in an informal setting and get some perks on the side, but I found that I was so busy with all the activities going on, that I didn't have much time to network except through an old friend I bumped into and enjoyed catching up with. As it turned out, I didn’t run into many people in the science and tech fields anyway, and most of the participants seemed to have come as groups of friends and weren’t really there to network, so that was a bit of a disappointment, but otherwise it was lots of fun.

The PJ Party theme, IGNITE your inner GODDESS, was about relaxing and getting pampered through booths set up from local businesses (spas, caterers, etc), presentations by a comedian and a sex therapist, a pole dancing lesson, and lots of door prizes. For me, the night turned out to be more about connecting with my feminine side than connecting with others, and I experienced several things for the first time: I had my first facial, my first hand massage, and my first pole dancing lesson. It was amazing to see successful business women and entrepreneurs jumping into character and strutting their stuff as soon as they got near that pole. My feelings of total embarrassment and inadequacy did not stop me from giving it a try. Talk about feeling like an impostor! As I’m a bit of a tomboy, sometimes I wonder if I’m more comfortable emerged in the male dominated science and tech world than the “girly” side of things that sometimes gets forgotten. I know I’m DEFINITELY more comfortable in my sweats and sports bra than in high heels and makeup, but every once in a while it’s fun to play dress up and hang out with the ladies, and that’s precisely what this night was for me.

While it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, I did have a lot of fun and I love the idea. I think this sort of event would make networking at the conference the next day a whole lot more fun. - ”Didn’t I see you swinging from a pole last night?... Why, yes you did, and I seem to recall you were the one with the gold pyjamas!”

I'd like to thank Natasha D'Souza, one of the speakers at the event and a CU-WISE presenter, for giving me this neat opportunity to participate in Ottawa's best girls' night out!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Female Entrepreneurs Connecting the Dots

After CU-WISE talk of "How to use Social Media to Benefit your Career", our speaker, Natasha D'Souza from Virtual Eye See generously sponsored some of the CU-WISE attendees for the Women's Networking Event Connect the Dots.

I was very happy to know I was one of the 4 students attending this event. However, I was a little surprised when I searched for the schedule and I saw that the first event was a PJ party :-) and I didn't know if it was literally a PJ party until I saw this video with Mary Cavanagh and Laura Brooker promoting the event. Mary was actually wearing her PJs on TV!

So, I prepared my PJs and arrived to the event. I have to say that in the last couple of year's as an executive of CU-WISE and WISE Ottawa I have been fortunate to participate in many networking events, but this one was out of the ordinary! Not only because we could be pampered with massages and facials, but also because you feel like being with girlfriends and honestly, once you're wearing your PJs, all communications barriers are down. I felt so comfortable talking to other people, not as frightening as business networking event seem to appear for WISE women. So, if you're organizing a networking event for women, I would suggest to follow this example.

You can see more pictures about this event at the event's Facebook page.

Next day was full of talks and more fun events. Although this event was focused for Female Entrepreneurs, most of the advice and suggestions given by speakers and panelists can be applied to all women pursuing a career.

One of the first speakers, Lisa Lajoie talked about listening to our intuition, what feels right, and what really raises a flag. As a scientist and engineer, sometimes I forget about it, so this was a nice reminder. She also mentioned how we can be our own enemies and we can be our worst enemies. This sounds very familiar to the impostor syndrome and that feeling of boicoting ourselves that we've discussed in previous posts. Some of the speakers also reminded us to be authentic, know what makes you unique and share your gifts with others.

Lorraine Mastersmith from Women Entrepreneurs of Canada announced the Ask Campaing which aims to ask women where they want them to be, we want to help provide women the tools to make the “Ask”. If you would like to contribute to this campaing, you can answer this poll. She suggested some tips to ask:
  • Do your homework and find the people whom you should ask.
  • Make the Ask in a say to secure the Answer you're looking for (make sure you propose a win-win deal). Don't ask, offer!
  • Go with a Big Ask.
We also had a social media showcase, where experts in social media (Facebook, Twitter, Forums, Newsletters) including Natasha D'Souza made a short introduction and went afterwards to separate tables to show how your company (or your career) can benefit from social media. Every now and then, Maryse Senecal from Myo-precision would remember us how we can take breaks of 5-10 minutest to strech and release tension in our upper body. Some simple movements can go a long way when you're 8-10 hours in front of the computer. I have now programmed a reminder to do some excercises every 2 hours and I can feel the difference.

The panel of Ottawa’s Million Dollar Women in Business included Heather MacLachlan (Business Women of the Year 2007), Lisa Larter from Group which encompasses Parlez Wireless, an Authorized TELUS Dealership, and Lisa Larter Consulting. They shared that ont their own experience, is not about the numbers, or the million dollar in revenue, but doing things you're passionate about, giving back to the community and satisfying your standars, and not only your client's standards.

I would like to finish with some of the principles shared by Mary Cavanagh, Leslie Eisener and Cara Rose-Brown from Ignite Potentials:
  • Balance: there's never a right or wrong, seek the balance in all things.
  • Evolution: evolution happens between order and chaos, find the gift in the chaos.
  • Interconnectedness.
  • Focus.
  • Purpose.
  • Gratitude.
For more blog posts about this event, you can check out the official Connect the Dots blog.

It was nurturing and empowering to meet all these women that shared her experience and advice with us. If you are thinking about being an Entrepreneur, I would encourage you to attend Connect the Dots 2010, which will take place in the Hotel Crowne Plaza in Ottawa and check out some of the Women's Newtorking Groups participating.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Being Smart Around Campus

As a university student I don’t usually look for bed bugs or bogey monsters anymore. But being little more than five foot and if I’m honest not as strong as I’d like to think, it does sometimes occur to me when I’m wandering around by myself in the dark that it might not be the smartest move I’ve ever made. The following three programs are ones that not many students either know about or realise are free to use and in place for you to use just to get rid of those nagging feelings.

Foot Patrol and Safe Walks

I always felt like I wasn’t going far enough for it to be worth calling or that I’d be bothering them. But last year I joined up as a patroller and realised just how wrong I had been. Patrollers aren’t getting paid so you’re not wasting anyone’s money that could have been spent elsewhere and as volunteers they are there because they want to be. Not because they feel the need to defend people from the horrors of campus after dark fall, they sign up because it’ll be a nicer way to get some exercise or volunteer hours then running on a treadmill or cutting grass.

They stay because they find it’s a great way to meet new people and genuinely enjoy doing it. You never have to give anyone your name or identify yourself to the patrollers, even though many will give you their names. The only records kept are of the date and time of the safe walk and the locations. And if you are being dropped off at a house off campus the patrollers only report the street names of an intersection a few blocks away so even the dispatcher can’t discover your address.

Patrollers sign up in advance for a three hour shift so regardless of how many calls they get they’ll still be spending that time walking around campus. And honestly I always found it far more enjoyable on nights with more safe walks rather than just patrolling circles around campus.

Safe walks are available 6 pm-midnight Monday to Friday by calling office at 613-520-4066. If you know you’re going to be leaving at a certain time you can even call to book in advance so you don’t have to wait for the patrol to get there. You can also show up at the office on the fourth floor of the university centre or flag a patrol as they go by (they always wear bright blue vests or navy coats that are clearly labelled so you can recognize them).

Late Night Program

For people who are working alone after normal hours this service is a good way to let someone know where you are, just in case anything should happen. By making Campus Safety aware of your location they are able to check in with you on their rounds throughout the evening. You can also get an emergency assistance button so that you can instantly alert safety if you need to.

Arrange by calling University Safety at 613-520-3612

Rape Aggression Defence Program

Another program run by campus safety, R.A.D. is a women’s only awareness, prevention, risk reduction, risk avoidance program. It also includes an optional basic hands-on physical defence training session. Not only is this a free program, participants are also allowed to attend any future sessions free of charge for refreshers.

Upcoming dates: November 21, February 10, March 20, April 24.

Register online for R.A.D.

I’ll post a larger list of other campus services that are nice to know about in a few days.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How to Use Social Media to Benefit Your Career

I attended the CU-WISE November speaker event on Tuesday and wrote about it in my blog. It was about how you can use social media to benefit your career. I hope we'll find several posts about reactions to the event here on the CU-WISE blog as event attendees become motivated to start creating their online image. :)
Carleton's Women in Science and Engineering's November guest speaker event last night was about How to Use Social Media to Benefit Your Career. With a general theme of "just do it," our guest speaker Natasha D'Souza of VirtualEyeSee explained how to get our names out on the social web, and why we should care.
Read the entire post here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Teach Yourself to Program

While there are definitely computer science and engineering students in CU-WISE, not all of us know how to program super well (or at all). I ran into a nice little article from Life Hacker called Programmer 101: Teach Yourself How to Code, which gives a few tips on how you can get started.

Why learn programming if you don't need to? I can think of a few reasons:
  • It's a fun challenge.
  • It helps exercise the logic part of your brain.
  • You can work on your problem-solving abilities.
  • You can use your new skills to make a game, website, or other fun project.
  • When you create a program that does something cool, you can show your family!
  • You might need to know some basics in a future job. For example, scientists and mathematicians sometimes need to use programs like Matlab, and knowing how to write code can make your Matlab lives so much easier!
If the suggestions of learning a real programming language is daunting at first, try Scratch and then move on to something like Python. You might be surprised at what you can do.

How does biology explain the low numbers of women in computer science? Hint: it doesn't.

We all know there's a huge gender gap in science and engineering. There are lots of theories that purport to explain this, but one I hear frustratingly often is that women score slightly lower on math tests. "Oh, it's statistically proven that women are worse in math than men, so that's why there aren't more women in computer science." Or engineering. Or technology. Or open source software.

It sounds like a compelling reason, and it gets a lot of play. Except, you know what? It’s a lie.

My first degree is in mathematics. So I looked up the studies. I did the math. And it just didn't add up. The research into biologically-linked ability is fascinating, but it simply isn't significant enough to explain the huge gender gap we see in the real world. I used to do this presentation on the back of a napkin for people who tried to spout this misconception to my face, and I finally put it online:

Love it? Hate it? Learn something? Catch the Mathnet reference? Let me know.

These slides have also been posted at my personal blog,, and GHCBloggers. They've been impressively popular on facebook and twitter too, and even got used recently in Kirrily Robert's keynote at ApacheCon. Please feel free to keep passing them on, and I'm sorry I didn't think to post them here sooner!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Upcoming Event on Social Media

I am happy to inform you that Natasha D'Souza has been invited by CU-WISE to speak about the use of social media as an effective tool in the professional world.

Since she has worked in this domain for the past six years, combined with her 13 years of hi-tech knowledge, her experience in marketing, project management, business development and sales and having worked for Fortune 500, mid-sized and start-up companies, it is no wonder why CU-WISE has invited her this Nov. 10th to speak to students about this hot subject.

She is also the founder of VirtualEyeSee , a Social Media Agency that handles all fields related to Social Media Campaigns. Their services encompass training, consulting, web development, PR, graphic design, copywriting and digital media services. These services are usually geared towards companies of all sizes to improve communications via the use of social media tools.

The exact theme to be discussed will be the following: "How to use Social Media to Benefit Your Career".

I find that this will be useful especially for students as we tend to use social media technologies with our friends and family members alike. As powerful as these are, it seems logical that we cannot use these same technologies in the same manner if we are to seriously consider continuing their use as we progress towards a professional career.

For example, you may not want to share every little detail of your private life with your coworkers or managers if you add them as friends to your social network. A lot of examples will be provided during the speech that will illustrate this interesting point.

As such, I encourage you to attend it. The event will take place Tuesday November 10th at 3165 Mackenzie, Carleton University and will start from 6 PM.

Hope to see you there.

Dot Diva: New Program to Improve Computing's Image to Girls

Some CU-WISE members had the opportunity to meet one of the women from the Dot Diva initiative while at Grace Hopper this year in Tucson. We met up for dinner the night before the conference kicked off and had a good discussion about the image of computing as young women see it. We all believed that changing this image would make a significant impact to the number of women considering computer science as a career. We need the CS equivalent to the forensic scientists in CSI!

ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, November 3, 2009.

Dot Diva: New Program to Improve Computing's Image to Girls
ACM Press Room, October 2009
Dot Diva, formerly known as New Image for Computing, is an initiative of ACM and the WGBH Educational Foundation to improve the image of computer science among college-bound high school girls. The Dot Diva program is inviting participation of students, faculty and interested others via recruiting, nominations and an active presence on Facebook and Twitter. Ignite Talks, a new component of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), recently included a presentation on Dot Diva to raise awareness of efforts aimed at improving the public perception of computing among women.

Through a national research survey, effective messages were identified and the next phase of research tested different branding concepts with girls, each based on different graphic treatments and variations of the messaging. Dot Diva emerged as the concept with the most powerful appeal. The overall messaging of the program is that “Dot Divas” are the new face of computing. They believe in the potential of computing to redesign the future and build a better world. They're young women with the power and passion to make a difference. The Dot Diva website recently highlighted the following announcements: registration for the She’s Geeky event in Washington, DC; nominations for 2010 Microsoft Research Faculty Fellows; and the launch of a new campus forum for women interested in math and science at the University of Richmond.
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