Saturday Oct 20, 2007

GHC: goodbye

It's about time to go and finish packing and head to the airport.  I'm in Innovation Strategies: Finding the Big Idea, but I have to leave early and the session started late, so I'm not going to write anything up on this session - but Brittany is blogging this session right next to me, so it'll be covered :-)

Sponsor Night last night was incredible - got to talk to so many amazing women, meeting new people, reconnecting with friends and even bumped into a woman, Heather, that I went to Snider High School with in Fort Wayne, IN. Small world! 

This was such an amazing conference - I've got so many things to take away from this. So much to think about.  I'll try to write more thoughts on all of this later - but for now, I need to pack!

Valerie Fenwick

. You may comment on this blog by visiting the GHC Forum.

GHC: Entrepreneurship: The Fundamentals (and Fun) of Idea Generation

Entrepreneur Denise Brosseau led us through two exercise on idea generation.

The first was a bit hectic, as the assignment was not totally clear to everyone.  We all knew we were supposed to be talking about existing products, but many of us were coming up with new improvements/add-ons/etc for these already existing things - when we were actually supposed to be discussing other people's recent improvements to various technologies.  We learned techniques that worked and several that did not. We were under an extreme time crunch, which force us to keep moving and really focus, but didn't give us any time to flesh out ideas.  We also realized, too late, that our group was too large to communicate effectively.  These were all the concepts she wanted to get - and we had fun in the process!

Our second exercise was to come up with new ideas for computers in 8 categories, things like globalize, futurize, and expertise.  One of the women in my group quickly realized we had 16 people, so we then divided into brainstorming groups of 2.  We were able to get a lot more ideas out and could each focus on a specific area without being inadvertently constrained by the other minigroup's thought branches.

This was a lot of fun & gave me a lot of ideas about thinking out of the box.

Valerie Fenwick

. You may comment on this blog by visiting the GHC Forum.

Friday Oct 19, 2007

GHC: Panel: Outstanding Women in Computer Security

This panel had women from both industry and academia: Carol Taylor, Eastern Washington University; Rose Shumba, Indiana Univeristy of Pennsylvania; Kathy Jenks, Sun Microsystems, Inc.; Becky Bace, Infidel .  The moderator, Carrie Gates from Computer Associates, asked each woman to start out answering a few set questions.  I've captured a few of their answers and related ideas below.

Carol Taylor recommends having a multi-disciplinary background to be successful in computer security field, and she loves the field because there are never ending problems that are very socially oriented.

Rose Shumba said grants from NSF & Cisco really helped her to get involved in information assurance, as they wanted a security lab set up and to have security worked into their courses at IUP, so she really had to dive in and get hands on experience. She recommends that you attend as many conferences you can, including black hat conferences, in order to keep your skills sharp.

Kathy Jenks sort of morphed from an individual contributer developing software into a management role, which eventually led to being in a position to bring up an awesome team of security engineers for the Solaris operating system. (that's the group I'm a member of ;-)  To be successful, she recommends being curious, paying attention to the industry and discussing security from an objective perspective.

Becky Bace grew up in the south (North Alabama) and started her own company in 1998 (Infidel). She got into security on accident, by taking a job a friend recommended her for and suddenly found herself working on an early Intrusion Detection System.  Since then, she's written two books on security, funded security research programs (like CERIAS at Purdue) and companies, among many other major accomplishments in the industry.  Becky Bace mentioned again how important mentoring was to her career success (a repeated theme in this conference!)  She sees this as a great field for women, since it is still growing, is very dynamic and has great social implications.

This was a really cool panel - it was so neat to hear from successful women in the industry!

Valerie Fenwick

. You may comment on this blog by visiting the GHC Forum.


GHC: Split Session: At the Internet's Edge

RFID: IP Network Applications and Societal Implications - Monique Morrow

Monique gave a great overview of the technology, which was a bit of a repeat for me, since I attended the RFID talk yesterday, but she did cover different aspects - covering passive vs active RFID chips. Passive devices are lower cost, but have lower range & more expensive readers than active devices.

"Hybrid" RFIDs that contain bar code, for backwards compatibility, are likely going to be the most popular.  As this technology gains foothold in the world, we'll be able to get much larger & more accurate data about merchandise, pharmaceuticals, employees, etc.

By 2009, Monique is anticipating a significant share of network traffic with be RFID related (data, voice, video, RF, GPS).

Wireless Security Best Practices Guidelines - Nancy Cam-Winget

Wireless LANS are everywhere now - touching all of our lives, whether you know it or not.

These are so popular because they are cheaper and easier to deploy than traditional wired networks, and lead to increased productivity for employees. What's not to like?

It's harder to secure - the network goes beyond the walls ("open air"), uses a very standard protocol that anyone can use and understand - or their readily available inexpensive devices will.

Most common threats:
Accidental rogue access points
ad-hoc wireless networks
denial of service attacks
client mis-association

WEP was designed with out much (any?) input from knowledgeable security folks.

By the time the committee realized this, there were already millions of units deployed.  So, they needed to come up with something to not immediately break those units.  

So, a new standard was created (WPA2), but still needs to be backwards compatible for some time.  This protects against man-in-the-middle attacks, but not if you still allow people to use WEP. It does not protect against rogue networks, though. She cautions that new deployments must not be done with WEP.

New technology for doing rogue detection & confinement is becoming available, so there is light at the end of the tunnel.

This was a very interesting talk, considering we have a WEP network here at Grace Hopper...

Valerie Fenwick

. You may comment on this blog by visiting the GHC Forum.

GHC: Technical to Management: Expect the Unexpected - A synopsis of two women's first years experiences

Jessica R Eidem and Tara G Pelletier, both from IBM, went over their initial experiences - pros & cons - of leaving the technical track and going for management.

Jessica talked about how difficult it was giving up her technical role - she had to purposefully stop making technical decisions, to avoid micromanaging her team.  This is a something I've thought about a lot in the past, and that is the main reasons I've stayed technical. I'd like to advance my career, and sometimes management seems to be the only path - but I enjoy the technical aspects of my job so much, I can't let go.

They both agreed that they get a lot of intangible benefits from helping their employees grow their careers, through training or giving them challenging opportunities.

They state how important it is to set expectations up front and acknowledge the work of employees to the correct people.  They made it very clear that folks should make sure they really want to go into management, because the work they do will greatly impact peoples lives.

This was an outstanding overview of the pros and cons of making this large career change.

At this point the presentation turned into a panel, adding Bev Crair from Cisco and Susan Miller from Sun, two women who have been in management for many years.

The panel was truly a delight to listen too, full of good advice about MBAs, gender diversity, managing career and life balance and why they went into management in the first place.

Bev reiterated how important it was to not pursue an MBA directly after completing a bachelors degree - the work experience you get is invaluable to understanding the course work in an MBA program. She also recommends taking an MBA program aligned with your own life - for example, if you're working full time, don't try to pursue an MBA full time. It's too much work and you won't be with students in the same mind frame of yours.

All of the women on the panel do have an MBA, and they all seem to believe it's really helped them with their work.

This was a very valuable panel - I really wish they could've been given more time!


Valerie Fenwick

. You may comment on this blog by visiting the GHC Forum.

GHC: Helping Businesses Invent the Future: Improving Engagement among Women in High Tech

Heather Foust-Cummings from Catalyst, Inc, gave a fun and deeply interesting talk on attempting to expand opportunities for women & business.  She notes that while women make up 46.3% of the workforce, they only make up 15.6% of Fortune 500 corporate officers, and only 6.7% of Fortune 500 top earners.  Wow. So it's not just our imagination that we make less than men.

Catalyst, Inc has been doing more and more studies of women in technology and science, most recently they did a study with an online survey in January-February 2007. The survey was not random, more of a "convenient" sample, but they found the respondents were from a variety of backgrounds.

Women in technology gave these barriers for lack of career advancement:

  • Lack of similar role models
  • Lack of a mentor/champion who makes accomplishments known
  • Exclusion from important networks of key decision makers

According to Heather this is not unique to women in tech - women in other professional jobs have the same problems. Bummer! 

She went on to go into great detail of her yet to be published survey results (so we were asked to not publish them yet), ways individual women can improve their  chances of career advancement, and things managers can do to get a good balance and make sure they don't overlook the women in their organization.

Valerie Fenwick

. You may comment on this blog by visiting the GHC Forum.


GHC: PhD Forum: Algorithms

Jo-Anne Ting started us out with her presentation on Automatic Bayesian Learning Methods. Her goal is to help systems that need to learn, learn on the fly. For example, robots or automaton cars. Her research is focused on finding the most suitable algorithm that can do this with limited memory and in real time, that doesn't get confused with with outliers.

Wei Ding gave us an overview of her research with correlation of spacial data, starting out with an example of the cholera outbreak in London in 1854, and how the outbreak was only stopped once proper analysis of the spatial data was done. She gave a good overview of how she's applied her research to analyzing problems with water wells (arsenic) in Texas & finding water on Mars.  Her research results are supporting expected troubled areas in Texas - cool!

Wow - one of the folks asking a question on this paper is one of my friends from the Bay Area (Kelly), who a couple years back moved to Virginia to be a professor. I didn't know she was at this conference. Neat!

Our final presenter is Michelle L. Crane talked about her research on slicing the 3 layer architecture of UML. Her goal is to map actions to a symantec domain.  I'm not familiar with UML, but I still found the discussion quite interesting.

Valerie Fenwick

. You may comment on this blog by visiting the GHC Forum.

Thursday Oct 18, 2007

GHC: Keynote speaker

It was tough getting up this morning, the caffeine kept me up (shaking) til about 2:30 or 3AM, but I"m glad I drug myself out of bed (and so happy that Jen toasted a bagel for me).

Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College, had a lot of interesting points about why women have problems following up with a career in computer science. A big thing they are doing at Harvey Mudd is making their introduction to computer science class as exciting as the careers students will be able to do once they graduate.

She noted another interesting thing that I can really relate to: lots of women students think they must be in the wrong field, because they don't spend their evenings trolling, or writing more code just for fun.  It turns out, you can love your field, and still have hobbies outside of your career.

Another interesting tidbit - apparently parents & school counselors are telling high school students that there are no longer any careers in computer science, since the dot-com bust - that it's a dead field. Weird - we're all still using computers, aren't we?  We certainly aren't still buying systems and operating systems from 1999 are we?

I can't agree with her more - computer scientists do have an image problem. It really is a fun career, and does allow you the flexibility to pursue many different careers and still leaves room to have hobbies.

Valerie Fenwick

. You may comment on this blog by visiting the GHC Forum.


GHC: Neat things!

Wow, what a fun day!

I had a total blast at the banquet - it was great hearing about all the awesome accomplishments of all those magnificient women!  I was so happy to be a part of their celebration! All presenters were asked to give 20 words of advice, but since I didn't have my laptop, I didn't capture any of them. I do hope someone posts them, though!  One of the best pieces of advice that I do remember (and agree with!) is read every email you send at least twice before sending.  :-)  I just wish I had the time to do that! I have over 3000 mails in my inbox - and I've removed myself from most email aliases, so most of this is not junk.  So, I find myself between a rock & a hard place sometimes: annoy people because I haven't responded to their mail, or annoy them because I have too terse of a response.  Hrm.  Have any of you come up with good strategies for handling that? If so, please leave a comment on my actual blog and not on the Grace Hopper site (so I can see it). (for those of you reading this via my actual blog, just click on the comments link below this entry.)

Cool things from today:

  • talking to students about their research in networking & security
  • meeting up with folks from Purdue
  • getting a special Purdue Computer Science shirt made specially for this conference!
  • working at the Sun recruiting booth and getting to talk to lots of fascinating women
  • attending excellent sessions all day long! I can't wait until tomorrow!
  • DANCING with 100s of women

Odd things from today:

  • Head waiter insisting: "There is no tuna at this table" when 5 of us had indeed been served tuna, vs the mahi mahi other folks were eating.  I might not be able to tell the difference between mahi mahi and cod, but tuna is unmistakable.  I don't care what the chef or head waiter claimed - we were eating tuna.
  • Waiter saying "Yeah, this is decaf"... and it wasn't. "I am Cornholio! I need TP for my..."well, you know where that is going, and my normally uncaffeinated body was a bit spastic with the regular coffee at 8PM.  Not sure if I'll get to sleep tonight or not! Poor Jen - nobody wants to hang out with Cornholio.

Valerie Fenwick

. You may comment on this blog by visiting the GHC Forum.


GHC: Working with a Virtual Team in a Global Company

This is a birds of feather session that started out a bit strangely - with no introductions or structure, per se. I guess I was expecting something more like a panel, but with less structure - not the hanging out the panelists were apparently expecting.  They wanted to avoid too much duplication with their earlier session, which I was unable to attend as I was working at the Sun recruiting booth.

In general, they are recommending using tools and technology to make working with remote team members more productive.  Some obvious things, like sharing information in advance so everyone can be on the same page, speaking slowly on the phone & pausing to give the international folks time to speak up (as there is often a delay on the line).

Everyone had great ideas to share - biggest seemed to be being organized, following through, and learning to communicate with out visual cues.  One of the speakers noted that with our global community, we can't count on the visual cues we've all learned growing up anyways - even when we are face to face.

One of the women, who is a manager, said that when she holds meetings with her global team, she has all people call in - even if some folks are local. She wants a "level playing field", though with most conference call management companies charging by per line dialing in, I imagine it is tricky decision to make.

Valerie Fenwick

. You may comment on this blog by visiting the GHC Forum.

GHC: Business Innovation through accurate, high-volume data capture: Using RFID to shed light on the dark corners of the enterprise

Deirdre Athaide may be from IBM, but she's promising that we won't be getting an hour long sales pitch. She started out with a good solid background on RFID software (Radio Frequency ID software), using an ongoing example of book store inventory.

After having done inventory at National Record Mart many years in a row, which involved working til 2-3AM with clueless contractors who would completely mess up our alphabetizing, and miss entire sections of product, which would result in weeks of recounting efforts on the part of management...which unfortunately involved me.  We had to use contractors, because the entire point of doing inventory was to check for loss - caused by customers and staff.  That is a nightmare - and RFID can be the perfect solution for that.  Of course, it requires total compliance by all record merchandisers, employee training, and installation of servers/readers.

She also covered how money can be saved in the pharmaceuticals industry, by allowing manufacturers to track individual bottles of drugs through the supply chain until they reach consumers. She explained the complicated "chargeback" processes between manufacturers, wholesalers & retailers that currently leads to  $40 billion a year lost in sales due to theft and diversion!  An additional $40 billion a year is lost in counterfeit drugs.  The proposal is that the unique chip ID and EPC# for each RFID tag makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit, and very easy to track (you can "see" the contents of a box w/out actually opening it.)

Then her laptop died (apparently the power strip she had plugged into was not actually plugged into a power source....), but good for her - she has her presentation memorized!  It took a few minutes for a gentleman to show up with a long extension cord to bring her power!

She noted how this is also used for knowing where which employees are when, particularly for hazardous jobs. 

Deirdre then did a brief spiel on how important privacy is to IBM and that the technology is neutral, the security and privacy issues are around how the technology is used.

I asked her about more specific issues on privacy, for example, I don't want someone driving by my house to know all of the books/cds/prescription drugs I have in my house.  She mentioned there is are new tags that can have their antennas clipped  after you purchase the item, though that just limits the range - it doesn't actually stop it from working.

So I can see the huge benefits for this technology, but am concerned that it could be rife for abuse.

Valerie Fenwick

. You may comment on this blog by visiting the GHC Forum.

GHC: Split Session: Interplay of Life & Work

What a fun session! Three very diverse women presenting here gave lots of different perspectives on how they balanced life & work!

Cecilia Aragon, Computer Scientist, grew up in a small town in IN, feling she was good at nothing, but after getting out of her small town she has had quite a successful career, obtaining a PhD in computer science & moving forward with an exciting life. She's an aerobatic pilot - quite a task, considering she was afraid of heights and flying and much smaller than the standard man the cockpit of most planes was designed for! She had to get special shoes cobbled with thick soles, a booster seat & 40 pounds of weights.

Barbara-Ann Fox, Technologist - grew up a tom boy and has found the best role models for her professional career were men.  She ran her own "personal workshop" asking herself these questions: Who am I? What do I want? Where do I find Satisfaction? How do I operate most effectively? Her beest advice: Trust yourself. Reengergize yourself, be human, design your life. (Don't evolve: sometimes you need to start over from scratch). She realizes that she'll never be the expert, but it's not part of her requirement path so it doesn't stress her out. She recommends doing things you think are impossible - because you may surprise yourself!

Robin Wilensky, Solution Architect, hasn't been afraid of reinventing herself as needed. Once she joined Sun, she started making her own niche. This was good, because she could do what she loved - but troublesome as people didn't know what to do with her.  She makes personal & professional goals, and balances the issues together. Working 'til 1 AM every day is not conducive to good social life, which she wanted, so that had to stop.  She was surprised to find she was still productive, got a lot of work done & nobody was really requiring her to work those crazy hours! Robin has a slightly different perspective on being expert: if you talk about something enough, you will eventually become an expert!

We got to hear more from Cecilia Aragon after the panel, when she showed us a cool video of her in her specially built plane,  She went into detail about how somehow being an aerobatic pilot was somehow less scary than getting a PhD in computer science! (she does all of this while working full time and raising a family with the help of her husband)  

Valerie Fenwick

. You may comment on this blog by visiting the GHC Forum.

Grace Hopper Welcome Session and Keynote

The wireless is down, so I'll be writing down my thoughts using "vi" for now, and attempt to jam this into my blog editor later on! Hopefully this will cut & paste in fine later. Please let me know if any of the links are broken - there's no way to check right now!

Telle Whitney, co-founder of the Grace Hopper conference, gave a fantastic overview of the sponsors, the purpose of them, and why we're all here. She let us know that this year's conferencer is SOLD OUT! Cool!

Stu Feldman, President, ACM, told us about an investigation of lack of women in computing that ACM is doing. They have a wiki where they want suggestions.

Jeanette Wing, National Science Foundation, talked about her grand vision for computing - that everyone will be using computational thinking by the middle of the 21st century. Much of her talk focused around thinking out of the box when considering the question: What is computable?

Donna Dubinsky, all things Numenta (founder, CEO, Board Chair), Palm, Computer History Museum, etc - wow! "Thinking about Thinking" covered the background of Numenta - a company founded to build a new computing platform based on the human brain. What a complicated problem - brains are so flexible, and computers are not!

She used the example of vision & pattern recognition and how it can be very useful in other areas like car safety (cars are now very safe, they need to protect now against bad/unsafe human behaviours) and pharmecutical (what drugs realy work for whom). For example, our eyes take in lots of data & passes it on to our brain, and we can always recognize things like... a cat, regardless of how odd the cat is (odd color, mising tail, missing foot, etc). Numenta's goal is to teach computers how to do that. Fascinating!

Valerie Fenwick

. You may comment on this blog by visiting the GHC Forum.

Wednesday Oct 17, 2007

Made it to Florida! Newcomers Session and Poster Session

So after two long flights, Jen & I made it to Florida yesterday. It's unbelievably hot here, even in the evenings. I know, I know... it's not the heat, it's the humidity. I grew up in the midwest, but California has totally softened me to this type of weather.

We got to wander around Downtown Disney a bit last night, though we tried to get to bed early to help get over our jet lag. That didn't happen, but I did get up before 9 so I'm exhausted now. Hopefully I can get up even earlier tomorrow - I don't want to miss any sessions!

I attended the Newcomers session tonight, even though this is not my first Hopper - I haven't attended a Hopper conference since 1997, so I felt I was due for a refresher. There was a nice overview of who Grace Hopper and Anita Borg were, though I was oddly left craving more information. Like, why was this conference started in the first place? What was Hopper's famous nanosecond wire? What happened to Anita Borg? (I know the answers... linked above! :-)

The opening reception and poster session was very interesting.  I wish students had business cards with their name and session title on it, as I'm afraid I've forgotten many things.  I do remember some very interesting presentations on gender and social networking sites, the science behind online dating,  as well as a neat talk on routing protocol optimization.  The women whose names and talks I did get were Lin Chao on terascale computing, Graciela Perera on doing Diffie-Hellman key exchanges using images, and Dana Zhang had a fascinating poster on automating definition of roles for Role Based Access Control (RBAC).

Everyone really had something interesting to contribute!  I only wish there had been more cake ;-)

Well, I should try to get some sleep for my early start!

Valerie Fenwick

.  You may comment on this blog by visiting the GHC Forum

Friday Oct 12, 2007

Grace Hopper Conference 2007

I'm totally excited about the Grace Hopper Conference next week in Florida!  I've been chosen as an official blogger, so the Grace Hopper website will be picking up this blog for the next week - so the format of my entries will be slightly different than normal (including signing my name to to my entries).  All the attendees here from Sun met today to discuss who would be doing what when. I have an incredibly busy schedule for Thursday, starting with an 8AM bloggers meeting! Those of you who know me well know I am not a morning person, so that combined with the jetlag will make for a tricky 8AM start. Yikes!

Looking forward to meeting you all next week in person!

Valerie Fenwick


Valerie's former weblog. The new one can be found at


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