Monday, April 6, 2015

The Grace Hopper Celebration: A Conference Not to Miss!

The Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women in Computing is the world's largest conference gathering of women technologists. If you are in computing, you definitely need to attend this conference at least once in your life! 

Last year, we were six Carleton students to attend GHC in Phoenix, AZ. It was epic! You can read about last year's conference here:

The Grace Hopper Celebration features multiple tracks including invited technical speakers, academic, industry, student, and career tracks. Keynote speakers are usually well known leading women in tech (e.g. Sheryl Sandberg, Maria Klawe, Mary Lou JepsenArati Prabhakar) who are greatly inspiring. There are also sessions for students (undergraduate and graduate) and mentoring opportunities. You get to hear from women who went through the same path and also advise younger ones. It is an awesome networking occasion. Plus, if you are interested in getting a job, GHC has a career fair with great companies, and instant interviews possibilities.

The 2015 edition, themed "Our Time To Lead", will be held in Houston, Texas. If you have been reading our newsletter lately, you probably know that applications for GHC Scholarship Grants will be opened until April 15. For more information, read here. I highly recommend you to submit an application if you would like to attend GHC this year. This post is full of good tips about applying to opportunities for women in STEM (Feel free to send me an email as well). And, stay tuned for upcoming GHC info sessions! It is our time to lead!

Stay great! 

Daniella is a Master's student in Electrical and Computer Engineering. One of her dreams is to inspire more women to embrace STEM careers and unleash their full potential. Although she is hardworking and can be very serious, she enjoys comedy and dancing, has a big sense of humour, and believes that a little kindness goes a long way!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Building Your Own Legacy

The 2015 edition of the WISE National Conference took place last weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This year's theme was "Build Your Own Legacy". Many speakers shared their insights about this topic. In this post, I will share one of the fireside chats given by Caroline Charter about how to build your legacy.

Let's first start with Caroline's brief bio. Caroline is currently a Microsoft's Operations General Manager. Prior to Microsoft, she was VP within Worldwide Alliance & Channels Operations at Oracle Corporation. She was one of the 2013 Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the Corporate Executive Category. Caroline was also a 2014 Colleges Ontario Premier's Award Nominee.

Caroline started by sharing her own story and lessons learned from her experiences. Her very first job was as a McDonald's Fry Girl, and she quickly made her way up the ladder and got a position in management. After graduation, she moved to Ireland and got a position at Gateway. Unfortunately, the company ended up cutting jobs, and the announcement was made the day of the September 11 attacks. These events put her life in perspective. It was also a life lesson: no matter what day you are having, it could be worse! She also learned that no matter what you have done, you will have to earn your stripes over again. Caroline got another position but the working conditions were quite hard. She decided to find another job that would allow her to transfer back home. Oracle hired her. Caroline ultimately got transferred to Canada. Her career really took off when she decided to exploit a niche that hasn't been looked at. Colleagues told her that it was a dead-end, and nothing would come of it. But, Caroline trusted her gut and made it happen: She led the integration of Sun Microsystems into existing Oracle's existing business in 2011, by designing and launching a partner store that supports $3 billion in annual revenue (You can read more details here). Caroline was offered a position at Microsoft last year.

After sharing her story, Caroline addressed four topics for building one's legacy: what is legacy and why does it matter, filing emotions and managing voices, where to start (action vs impact), and finally calling time out.

From the Leadership Freak blog
  • What is legacy & why does it matter?
Your legacy becomes your brand and reputation. And, they are known to people before they meet you [You know how it has become standard to google someone before meeting in person. Well, employers do that.]. It becomes part of your internal identity. You should also be aware that there is a difference between what you think you are and the way you are perceived. The great takeaway from this part was that actions should back up/project what you aspire to be. Everything you do, whether on social media or elsewhere, is going to be there. So, why don't you make sure it serves your future?
  • Filing your emotions and Managing the voices
This point is quite essential. We have all been caught in a swirl of emotions, or met someone who was. It's definitely not pretty when emotions take us over and negatively affect the work we are doing. The advice was to check your baggage before going to work. Make sure you do some prework and identify which emotions are appropriate for each situation. Don't let everybody have a bad day at work just because you are having a bad one. At the same time, be aware that it's not always about you. It's not personal. You will probably meet people who will yell at you not because you are terrible, but just because  they feel like yelling. You have to be confident in who you are and what you know. Always come with data, and facts. Finally, humanize everyone. Your colleagues/managers are human beings too. Treat them like yourself or friends.

When it comes to managing stressful situations, you get what you put in. So,
  1. Approach with an embrace vs a defense: Don't assume it's personal until someone tells you it's a problem.
  2. Inspire those around you: Act assertively, calculatively and logically without taking it out on others.
  3. Lead by example: Be genuine, be human, be invested.
  4. What's the worst that can happen? Ask yourself: Am I projecting my paradigms onto this situation? If your biggest fear is to forget your speech when you are on stage, and it happens. The audience will not kick you out. So, breathe!
Now, about managing the voices [The voices in our head. It sounds a little bit creepy but it refers to whatever you hear/feel when you take decisions for example]: You have to identify who they are, why they are there, and what triggers them. You need to deal especially with the negative ones. Are they qualified to take up time in your head? If no, prove them wrong. If yes, who says they are qualified and why? Deal with both, and again prove them wrong.
  • Where to start (Action vs Impact)
Today is DAY 1! Always remember that. Plus, examine your activities, and determine if there is real impact or if you are just "busy". If you are doing 20 projects at the same time and only 4 have an impact, go for the 4. You will feel better. 

  • Calling Time Out
Calling time out might be particularly helpful to:
  1. Distance yourself from a bad/difficult situation
  2. Review a situation and circumstances objectively and logically
  3. Determine what you should be
  4. Identify key barriers and hurdles
  5. Make your plan

Reflect on the previous topics and create your own future. Determine what you should be. If you had a blank piece of paper, what would you be? How do you want to feel? Today is DAY 1.

Stay great! 

Daniella is a Master's student in Electrical and Computer Engineering. One of her dreams is to inspire more women to embrace STEM careers and unleash their full potential. Although she is hardworking and can be very serious, she enjoys comedy and dancing, has a big sense of humour, and believes that a little kindness goes a long way!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lunch and Lecture with Dr. Angelica Lim

I don’t know much about robotics. I thought it was still a very futuristic thought, only to be seen in science fiction. I recently attended the lecture Lunch and Learn with Dr. Angelica Lim. Dr. Lim is a fascinating woman, who greatly represents women in science and technology. Dr. Lim discussed the robotics field, and what is being done to progress into the future. Dr. Lim showed us the robots that are currently being sold to the public in Japan, Pepper the robot. Pepper is a companion robot, who socializes with people who may have trouble interacting with others. I didn't realize how sophisticated the robots we have are, I imagined a very skeletal form, so this was eye opening for me.

 Picture of Pepper the robot, taken from Aldebaran
 The topic Dr. Lim talked mostly about was how her team was trying to teach robots emotional intelligence. They want to create robots that can be expressive, so being “robotic” doesn't mean “lack emotion”. One way they are accomplishing this is by using similar techniques that mothers use to teach their babies. The other topic that was discussed was how Dr. Lim ended up in this field. She never thought of herself going into robotics initially. Then she did a Co-op term in Nice designing water robots. She also participated in exchange research project in Japan. For more information about the exchange in Japan, Click Here. This lecture was really informative for me. I found out that we are farther along in robotics than I initially thought. Dr. Lim has also taught me that you never know where you will end up in your career.

Bronwyn is a second year Software Engineering student. When she isn't studying, she is either reading books or playing video games. She loves Star Wars.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Feel Good Tips and Tricks

Hey everyone!

I hope you are all surviving your midterms. The “Feel Good” week we had early this February (along with my own battle with the sudden flood of midterms and labs and assignments) has inspired me to do a little segment here on mental health. Hopefully my experiences and advice I have received will give you some ideas on how to keep a positive mental health and de-stress a bit with the university lifestyle.
 So here are my tips on how to keep feeling good and managing the stress of your hectic life:

1) Think positive!

 For me this is definitely the most important advice I can give myself in regard to maintaining great mental health. It is so easy to get swept up in all the negatives. If you are anything like me, you are constantly thinking about what you have to do when you get home and how you have all these deadlines piling up and you realize one day that the only conversations you have had this week were competitions with your friends about who is the busiest. And once you’re in this dark hole, it can be hard to get out. But try to focus on the little things, like how pretty icicles are when the sun shines through them, or the fact that your prof wears colourful patterned socks every day. If you can’t think of any, try looking at Neil Pasricha’s blog of 100 awesome things to get the mental ball rolling. Try to frame your thoughts in a positive light and remember that all of your hard work here at Carleton is getting you an amazing education that you will one day use to change the world!

2) Do something you enjoy doing.

For me, it’s ballet. I definitely feel better after every ballet class. Pick something that you really enjoy doing, no matter what it is (even if it is weird, like yodeling). Do something that makes you feel absolutely alive every time you do it. And I know, you’re busy, but try to take an hour or two a week. You will be doing what you love and helping your mental health at the same time! Hint: if you find a club or society that does what you love, you can be doing something you enjoy for you and your mental health AND beefing up your co-curricular record or meeting your semesterly quota for school involvement.

 3) Get moving!

We all know we need to exercise and that exercise helps us maintain our physical health. But there has been a tone of research done recently that shows that physical activity is crucial for good mental health as well! Exercise helps relieve your body of all the stress hormones it’s been building up. And who doesn’t want the totally amazing endorphin high you get after a good workout? (It’s like drugs but legal! And free!) If you didn’t get a change to go to our CUWISE Commit to Me super fun fitness classes, you can ask our very own Alicia Gal for some cool exercises you can do at home any time. On top of keeping you fit, regular exercise helps you sleep better, focus more, and gives you an outlet for all of your stress and energy.

 4) Stay social

 Being around others always helps me feel better after a long night of studying. And spending time with my best friend or my boyfriend gives me a chance to have a laugh, unwind, and forget about school for a little bit. You could be surprised at how much good a monthly girls’ night out can do. What fun is university if you don’t go to the occasional party and dance it up?

 5) Go outside

I know its winter. And some days its so cold I lose feeling in my face within two minutes of being outside, but leaving the tunnels for a few hours at a time could be really great for you. Tip: study somewhere with lots of windows and LOTS of sun. It is finally starting to get sunny again, so grab your books and head over to somewhere on campus with a great view of the river (like the Timmies in River. Haha). It has been shown that spending even a couple of minutes in nature increases people’s positivity and decreased their stress levels. So go take a minute out of your day and look at trees. It’s also really cool to see how the water flows through the half-frozen –over river next to campus.

 I know some of these points have been obvious, but it is always good to remind ourselves of what we can do to keep ourselves happy, healthy, and stress-free.

 Hint: to get the most mental wellness bang for your buck (and by buck I mean time), combine a few of the tips above into one great activity! For example, I use ballet to work my body, and do something for myself that I love doing. Or you can do yoga and meditation to get moving and to bring yourself to a more positive mental state. Whatever it is that you do, remember that it is just important to maintain our mental health as it is to keep ourselves in good physical health. ANY effort towards a less stressed you is great.

And don’t forget to HAVE FUN!


Sarah is a second year student in Carleton's Neuroscience program. When she's not cramming all of science into her brain she likes to watch cartoons and YouTube videos of people playing weird video games.

Monday, February 9, 2015

About Tech Interviews

If you are interested in working for top tech companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, or Facebook [Don’t you dare to say that you are not good enough!], you will probably have to go through a technical interview [ Read here why Technical Interviews Matter]. On another note, the good news for us women is: the majority of companies are interested in increasing diversity and recruiting women! So, go for it! 

Now, the very first step (before getting to the tech interview) is usually the screening interview where you talk about your previous experiences, points mentioned in your resume, and your goals. If you want to get to this step, I would advise you to make sure your LinkedIn profile is always updated [An outdated profile might scream that you are not interested], check out hiring events happening next to you, always have a resume if you are going to conferences or similar events …. In few words: put yourself out there and give recruiters the chance to find you (or go after them)! The Google Resume by Gayle Laakmann McDowell [An online version is available via Carleton Library] is a good resource to refine your resume. You should also consider the Co-Op and Career Services [They have an interesting blog too]. 

From Palantir - The Coding Interview

Once you pass the screening interview, a first technical interview will be scheduled. The number of rounds of technical interviews varies depending on the company you are applying for. The following resources are among the most recommended:
These books cover the must-knows and provide examples. They basically go through behavioral questions (these are more general and about you as a person) and coding/technical questions. 

Here are few advices I got from my own experiences and from people who had tech interviews: 

  • Prepare Prepare Prepare ….Study Hard! [If you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail!] In fact, you should start preparing way before hand, as soon as you know you want to work in a top tech company.
  • Practice writing code on a paper or a whiteboard [It’s harder than you think! We become so used to IDEs that we don’t realize how much we rely on them]. So write your code on paper, then type it in your IDE and see if your program compiles. 
  • Find lots of practice interview questions and solve them [The above resources are a very good start]. Don’t memorize common examples, make sure you understand them. 
  • Review relevant course materials. It might be Digital Systems Design, Data Structures, OO, … 
  • Don’t panic! Remain calm during the interview and solve the problems you are given. The interviewers are not against you, they want you to succeed and want a pleasant interaction. So, be genuine. If it’s a phone interview, tell your interviewers everything you are doing and your thought process. 

Be sure to check out CareerCup and GlassDoor to know what previous interviewees have experienced, and what kind of questions they got. 

Now, here comes the bad news: Studies show that there are subconscious, unintended biases - all else being equal, on average men will get a higher rating. On the Feminine / Masculine communication style, women are likely to show less confidence and understate achievements. Be aware of that! 

Also, know that if you fail, it’s not the end of the world! Get up, analyze where and why you failed, and be busy getting better. Failure is an option, but fear is not! Some people even turn their failures in interesting blog posts. Here is an example that unexpectedly turned out well after failing the interview. On the other hand, if you succeed, it’s great! Get ready for the next round, do a retrospective of your first interview and work on your weaknesses.

Stay great! 

Daniella is a Master's student in Electrical and Computer Engineering. One of her dreams is to inspire more women to embrace STEM careers and unleash their full potential. Although she is hardworking and can be very serious, she enjoys comedy and dancing, has a big sense of humour, and believes that a little kindness goes a long way!