Monday, March 23, 2015

2015-03-23: 2015 Capital Region Celebration of Women in Computing (CAPWIC)

On February 27-28, I attended the 2015 Capital Region Celebration of Women in Computing (CAPWIC) in Harrisonburg, VA on the campus of James Madison University.  Two of our graduating Masters students, Apeksha Barhanpur (ACM president) and Kayla Henneman (ACM-W president) attended with me.

With the snow that had blanketed the Hampton Roads region, we were lucky to get out of town on Friday morning.  We were also lucky that Harrisonburg had their foot of snow over the previous weekend so that there was plenty of time for all of the roads to be cleared.  We had some lovely scenery to view along the way.

We arrived a little late on Friday afternoon, but Apeksha and Kayla were able to attend "How to Get a Tech Job" by Ann Lewis, Director of Engineering at Pedago.  This talk focused on how each student has to pick the right field of technology for their career. The speaker presented some basic information on the different fields of technology and different levels of job positions and companies. The speaker also mentioned the "Because Software is Awesome" Google Group, which is a private group for students seeking information on programming languages and career development.

While they attended the talk, I caught up with ODU alum and JMU assistant professor, Samy El-Tawab.

After a break, I put on my Graduate Program Director hat and gave a talk titled "What's Grad School All About?"

I got to reminisce about my grad school days, share experiences of encountering the imposter syndrome, and discuss the differences between the MS and PhD degrees in computer science.

After my talk, we set up for the College and Career Fair.  ODU served as an academic sponsor, meaning that we got a table where were able to talk with several women interested in graduate school.  Apeksha and Kayla also got to pass out their resumes to the companies that were represented.

I also got to show off my deck of Notable Women in Computing playing cards.  (You can get your own deck at

Our dinner keynote, "Technology and Why Diversity Matters," was given by Sydney Klein, VP for Information Security and Risk Management at Capital One. (Capital One had a huge presence at the conference.) One thing she emphasized is that Capital One now sees itself as more of a technology company than a bank. Klein spoke about the importance of women in technology and the percentages of women that are represented in the field at various levels. She also mentioned various opportunities present within the market for women.

After dinner, we had a ice breaker/contest where everyone was divided into groups with the task of creating a flag representing the group and their relation with the field of computer science. Apeksha was on the winning team!  Their flag represented the theme of the conference and how they were connected to the field of technology, “Women make the world work”. Apeksha noted that this was a great experience to work with a group of women from different regions around the world.

On Saturday morning, Apekska and Kayla attended the "Byte of Pi" talk given by Tejaswini Nerayanan and Courtney Christensen from FireEye. They demonstrated programming using the Raspberry Pi device, a single board computer.  The students were given a small demonstration on writing code and building projects.

Later Saturday, my grad school buddy, Mave Houston arrived for her talk.  Mave is the Founder and Head of USERLabs and User Research Strategy at Capital One. Mave gave a great talk, titled "Freedom to Fail". She also talked about using "stepping stones on the way to success." She let us play with Play-Doh, figuring out how to make a better toothbrush. My partner, a graduate student at Virginia State University, heard me talk about trying to get my kids interested in brushing their teeth and came up with a great idea for a toothbrush with buttons that would let them play games and give instructions while they brushed. Another group wanted to add a sensor that would tell people where they needed to focus their brushing.

We ended Saturday with a panel on graduate school that both Mave and I helped with and hopefully encouraged some of the students attending to continue their studies.


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