Tuesday Oct 20, 2009

GHC09: Pictures and video!

Okay, I still haven't downloaded my pictures off of my camera (if only I had more hours in the day...), but fortunately Terri Oda is more on the ball and she put this gem up on flikr:

That's me, Terri, Kathryn, Stormy, Sandy and Teresa!

Ed and Ashley have been busy as well, putting up these interviews of Sun women that attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing:


Deirdre Straughan and Teresa Giacomini are interviewed about community development!

Me getting interviewed about Open Source, OpenSolaris and my work at Sun Microsystems!


Monday Oct 12, 2009

GHC09: What a fantastic conference!

I knew in advance that the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing had sold out, but that did not prepare me for what I encountered once I arrived: the largest, most diverse, most intelligent gathering of women I've ever been surrounded by. The women were students, industry luminaries, open source hackers, coders, program managers, managers, CEOs, directors, mothers, and everything in between.  I swear the age range of attendees was probably 16 to 80.  I met more women from Africa during that conference than had ever in my life before. Several from Nigeria and Kenya, in particular.

The conference schedule, as always, was intense. There just are not enough hours in the day for all of the stuff we all wanted to do.

I attended a full day of sessions Wednesday, each room just as packed as the last, even though official conference launch wasn't until 7PM that evening.  I met with most of my panelists on Wednesday night, which did mean I missed most of the poster session, which was disappointing - but I had so much fun talking to the interesting women that were going to present with me on Thursday, that I couldn't see any other choice!  The conference was off to a fantastic start!

On Thursday, I was lucky to catch up with Dr. Susanne Hambrusch and the students she had brought from the Purdue Computer Science Department. As a graduate of that great university, it is always so rewarding to meet these ambitious and intelligent students. For some of us, we have met at other Grace Hopper Celebrations - others, it was our first time. We all had so much to talk about and I really could've spent a lot more time with them, too! 

You can see my blogs for most of the sessions I attended for the rest of the week, but I just wanted to say something about both receptions.

Thursday night's dancing was deejayed in the style of 80's Wedding Dance Party, but sometimes it's a lot of fun to just get out and dance to those old silly songs! He did mix in some fun Indian and Arabic music to mix it up, and I've never before seen a woman dancing the Macarena with a baby strapped to her front in a snuggly. Dancing with hundreds of women with total abandon is good for the soul!

Friday night was sponsor night! Thank you Microsoft, Google and Intel for the delicious dinner, t-shirts and additional opportunities to meet and talk with amazing women from all over the world.  This evening's deejay was playing much more current music, and you could see the college students dancing like there was no tomorrow.  Well, as this was the last evening of the conference, that did kind of fit the bill...

I was very impressed with the technical support staff in the conference center at the JW Marriot Starr Pass Resort. One of their staff members followed tons of women at the conference on Twitter, so he (or was it a she?) knew instantly if there were networking or temperature issues and they were addressed so quickly! Everything just worked and help was always a tweet away.  The resort itself was lovely with lots of nice dining choices, and even free tequila shots on the patio every evening.  I was very impressed with all of the staff and would attend another conference here in a heartbeat.

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is more than just a professional skills and technical conference. It is a place where I can reconnect with old friends and companions from industry and academia. I get to meet so many interesting women, that every one of them inspires me in some way.

This year, I even got to meet a lot of the women I follow on Twitter right there at the conference!

I've seen a lot of blogs and tweets lately on Women in Technology vs Women Who Do Technology. Personally, as a women who designs and developers software, I am happy having women around me in any capacity.  Yes, it is very nice to have technical conversations with other women, which I find often focus more on how a solution to a problem was found instead of what the final solution was, but at least knowing I'm not alone in the organization or on my team is worth something, too.  I'm lucky, I know. I work with several women who are also developers on my team, as well as females on the management team. The last project I was on, 2 out of 3 developers were women. :-) I met lots of women at the celebration who are not so fortunate.

I am thankful for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing that it brings me closer to my peers and more women like me. I've been inspired to try to start an affinity group for Women in OpenSolaris, and to try to inspire younger women to investigate technology careers. Any suggestions or any one that wants to help, please share or let me know!


Friday Oct 02, 2009

GHC09: Open Source Community Development: A Moderator's Perspective

I was so nervous yesterday hosting my first panel at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. I had put off writing my introduction until arriving at the conference, thinking I'd have plenty of time to do it... not realizing that I would be reconnecting with friends that have moved across country or students I met last year or just this year. Time, suddenly, didn't exist, so I ended up skipping the plenary session on path to executive leadership so I could take the introducion I'd written in my head & put it on paper to make sure I wasn't missing anything nor was my introduction going to take up too  much time.  Sure enough I had to do a couple of edits to get it right, so while I was sorry to miss out on that session, I'm glad I took the time to do so.

When I got to the room, it was a bigger space than I expected, but at least everyone could have a seat :)  My OpenSolaris laptop worked right away with the projector, which made me very happy.  The technician setting up the room recommended I set my computer so the screen saver wouldn't come on. I thought I'd done that before... so I didn't bother checking. Stupid hubris.

I only had two slides - which are on the GHC wiki - the first with the name of the talk and the second had the names of each panelist, in the order she was sitting, with their affiliation. After the session finished, I got a lot of positive feedback on that - it's good to know I'm not the only person that can't keep track of all of the panelists (particularly when we all seem to have last minute changes in our panel lineups).

As I started introducing each of the panelists, I had all of the advice on running a panel running through my head - terrified that I'd screw something up: mispronounce a name or affiliation, stutter or knock my paper list of intros on the floor.  Fortunately, none of those things happened in the first few minutes :)  I did step on Stormy's self-introduction a bit, but she forgave me and made sure she was heard.

One piece of advice I had read, which was really counterintuitive for me given my melodrama training at the Gaslighter Theatre, was to not look at your panelists when they are talking. In melodrama, you say your lines straight to the audience, then turn and face the next speaker. This draws the audience's eyes to the speaker.  But, I found as I did this, just as the advice said would happen, the panelists looked at me instead of at the audience. As rude as it felt, I had to force myself to turn my gaze back to the audience. It worked!

I was so happy with how each woman on the panel had prepared their introduction and had thought about the questions from our proposal, though I was surprised when they didn't naturally follow-on to each other at first. I think this was because I said I didn't want more than 2 women answering any one question, so we could keep the flow going. :-)

About ten minutes into the talk... my screen saver started to kick in. \*d'oh\* I wiggled the mouse. Something happened and the display "flipped out" - it started flashing and was filled with horizontal bars.  I couldn't get the console to respond, so just rebooted... which took us to a brief OpenSolaris advertisement as the system happily restarted. Thank goodness for the fast boot, though!

I did finally stop shaking about a third of the way through the panel and was able to replace my forced smile with a natural one, as I could finally relax and enjoy the panelists.

I was very impressed with what some of the other communities have done to encourage women to join their community and that got me thinking about doing something for OpenSolaris. We're such a big thing - with many sub communities - any suggestions for doing this?

I was so happy with all of my panelists: Stormy Peters, Kathryn Vandiver, Sandy Payette, Teresa Giacomini and Terri Oda! Thank you, ladies!

GHC09: Susan Landau: Bits and Bytes: Explaining Communications Security (and Insecurity) in Washington and Brussels

Susan Landau started out giving us her history about how she went from a theoretical computer science faculty member at a university to someone working at Sun Microsystems on public policy. A path she said she wasn't working towards, but feel she must've been just a little bit, or she wouldn't have ended up where she is.

The US first started doing wire tapping during the Civil War! Wow!  Apparently we didn't slow down - not only did the US use wire tapping to watch criminals, but they were also doing it on congress people and supreme court judges! In particular, a congress person could be talking about the FBI budget and the FBI would be listening in! Clearly a conflict of interest!

Congress didn't like this and put in a law to regulate this - requiring wire taps to only be for a specific person at a specific number

In 1994 a US law was passed that required all digitally switched telephones to be built wire tapped enabled!  The equipment was to be designed by the FBI, much to the chagrin of telephony providers.

This is problematic - in 2004-2005, it was discovered that some non US diplomats had been wiretapped - but not by a government entity! (at least not officially.) This was discovered when there was some problems with text messaging on one of these phones. They found the switch in Greece, which had been bought from a US company with the wire tapping software disabled - so no auditing software was enabled.  Someone very knowledgeable with the switch used a rootkit to get in, turn on the wire tapping software and then targeted these diplomats! With no auditing software enabled, the Greek phone company had no idea this was happening until there were problems with the text messages! Once this illegal wire tap was discovered, the phones that were listening in suddenly went dark and the perpetrators were never found. Very scary stuff!

This is a clear example of how software made to "protect" us can actually be used to spy on innocent people - terrifying indeed!

All of this gets much more complicated with technology like VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) where people do not have a set phone number, it is done with the IP address which will vary every time you reconnect your laptop or mobile device to the network. What this means is it is very hard to pinpoint the caller - one of the risks here is that the wrong person will be eavesdropped upon.

Landau knows it is very important for society to have secure communications - to enable conversations with first responders, for example, and we need to have the technology to do this.

Landau continues on about how much more devastating natural disasters are than terrorist attacks, yet for some reason they don't get nearly as much news and political coverage as a terrorist attack. I wonder if we all feel we're more protected from a random natural disaster? Or if we are fascinated with how evil someone would have to be to purposefully hurt another human? hrm.

President Bush apparently authorized warrantless wire tapping in 2001 - and this was relatively unknown and undiscovered until 2007. She wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post on this topic, and next thing she knew, she was the expert on privacy. This is good, in that she now has Washington's ears, but she realized she needed to find more people to help support her in this and she was happy to find many intelligent, bright and like minded folks.

Now she's been working on reviewing public policy - basically doing law reviews. Landau jokes that she feels she's in training to be a lawyer.

If you want to get into public policy, you need to learn their stuff: "laws, policies, motives", to speak well, write well and have great courage.  She believes these are all the traits that a good engineer should have as well, so perhaps it's a career path after all. :-)

GHC09: Denice Denton Emerging Leader Award Winner: Nadya Mason

This award is given to an emerging non-tenured leader in academia that is under 40. Nadya Mason received this award for her work encouraging woman and minorities in academia, and it turns out she's a minority at this conference: she's a physicist! :-)

Her research deals with a lot of things that are very small - nanotech - and what happens to things when you shrink them that small, specifically around chips and quantum computing. She told us about some of the interesting things she's working with: a nanotube! It is super small in diameter, yet it can be long, which allows you to actually hold it in your hands. neat.

Mason has some wonderful pictures that show how nanotubes are grown - in a 900C oven with a carbon source, gas and an iron catalyst. She clearly loves her work and her enthusiasm shows and makes this the most interesting talk I've ever seen on nanotech.

Mason credits a lot of her success with support and inspiration she's gotten from family, peers and conferences like Grace Hopper.  She said she was very fortunate to get scholarships targeted to women of color for math and science related work.  This let her know that people were interested in her as a person and in her work, and just opened so many doors.

Mason puts a lot of focus on her work, but notes that it's critical to her that she saves time to give back. She does this by actually scheduling time for research as well as time to do outreach. She does all she can to encourage women in the sciences by taking every event and interaction seriously. She knows that just adding one more woman to the field can actually make a big difference in the percentage.

Happily, Mason shares a lot of advice with us on being successful in our own careers

  • don't underestimate yourself: work hard and you'll know you deserve to be where you are
  • you'll still be underestimated by others: do your work, stay professional and find outside support
  • you might be lonely: combat this by seeking outside support and realize you're not the only person that feels alone in your field.
  • Find balance for family & career: set limits on work hours - for example, no work between 5:30-8:30PM or on Saturdays, think about your priorities.

There were a lot of questions from people in the audience about how Mason \*knew\* she was in the right field. Obviously, her passion for her work is so evident and I think a lot of the students here want to make sure they find that passion in their own work.  She is a big proponent of doing internships so you can get real world experience in a job without a long term commitment.

This was a great and inspiring talk and I'm so glad I came!

Thursday Oct 01, 2009

GHC09: Imposter Panel

Last year's Imposter Panel  was overwhelmingly popular, and I'm sitting here in the Star Circle Pavillion looking at five very talented women from industry that have convinced themselves time and time again that they had somehow ended up above their level, somewhere they didn't belong.

The moderator, Shamsi T Iqbal from Microsoft, started us off with a fun video that explains the imposter syndrome - hopefully it will end up on the gracehopper.org wiki! It was interesting, though, that even she feels like she doesn't deserve to be leading this panel of women (I can relate, I'm still so nervous about my panel this afternoon at 3:15 that I'm moderating!)

Rachel Weinstein Petterson, Google, has had quite an illustrious career with ILM and Google, as well as having worked in a great research group at Stanford, yet she still doesn't feel like she's where she deserves to be.

Someone in the audience asked about when the panelists first felt they were imposters. Rachel said it was when she got a part in a school play - she was convinced someone else must've been sick or screwed up their audition - there was no way, in her head, that she deserved the role.  Another panelist, Jennifer Tour Chayes of Microsoft, said she didn't have this as a child, but started getting it in grad school after she started hitting brick walls, such as advisors not wanting her as a student, because her husband was also in the PhD program and they were convinced they couldn't \*both\* get jobs, so they shouldn't spend time with her.

Chayes noted, though, that she and her husband worked so very hard to prove they could do this together and they got tenure in just 4 years.  Unfortunately, their personal lives suffered irreparable damage.

Tanzeem Choudury from Dartmouth explains that she began to feel like an imposter when she started getting rejected for grants and having papers dismissed from publications. Instead of letting it roll off of her like water on a duck's back, she took all of these rejections and negative comments very personally. This made it seem like everything she did win or get right, that it wasn't really deserved. For example, she really thinks that some of her awards are simply because she is a woman of colour and that the organization must want to look "diverse".

Her advice is that you need to keep in mind that you can't fool everyone all the time, so if you are successful, you likely really deserve it.

Nancy Amato, again another super qualified woman, talked about she doesn't feel like she deserves to have an assistant or even fly in first class.  In fact, this uncertainty has led gate agents to question her when she got in the boarding line for first class and others got confused about whether or not the woman she was mentioning was her assistant or not.

Another question from the audience brought up the "old boys club" feeling many of us get. Amato noted that on one business trip, she went out to dinner with all of the colleagues and then realized during dinner that she had put a fly in the ointment for their normal after dinner plans... While she wasn't interested in that activity, she is well aware that the business conversations and decisions would still be going on well into the night, yet she didn't belong. That can reinforce the feeling of being an imposter.

Chayes got us all to laugh when she answered the question on how best to cope with the feeling of being an imposter: talk about it on a panel in a conference. :-)

Another wonderful panel this year!


GHC09: Technical Track: E-voting & privacy with health records

This session started out with a fun talk on electronic voting by Dr. Kathy S Faggiani, though it's unfortunate that she seemed to be preaching to the choir. It's not her fault - it seems only people really interested in security of voting and wary of the existing digital voting machines came to the room.

She did a fun experiment with her son that was inspired by California's Secretary of State, Debra Bown who had stated that she had to de-certify California's electronic voting machines because of all the mistakes they made that a first year computer science student wouldn't do.  As her son was in his second year, he went and wrote a voting system... turns out his also wasn't as secure as it should've been :-)

Electronic voting is really tricky, though, as you all know. We, as individuals, want to know that our vote counted - but if we're given a receipt that shows how we voted (or with a number where we can look up later on the internet who our vote was cast for),  you would be susceptible to vote coercion. This is also why I do not like absentee voting, and am saddened by the state of California's push to force us to do this by taking away polling places and "reminding" you about three times a year to sign up for permanent absentee voting status.

I've read too many stories about voter fraud and simply cannot trust our society to do the right thing in their own homes. I've already heard stories about ballots being stolen from mail boxes. \*sigh\*

Faggiani mentioned that Hawaii did "successfully" run an all electronic election, managed by Everyone Counts.  While it was deemed a success, the voter turnout in this already low-voter state dropped by 83%.  Seems like a disaster to me.  Clearly the voting was not as accessible to all of the voting public as they thought it would be - since it was all done by cell phone or Internet.

The next talk was on A Cryptographic Solution for Patient Privacy in Electronic Health Records by Melissa Chase.  Another area where we are very concerned with the integrity and privacy of the data, yet she pointed out many successful attacks on this information over the last few years.  One very egregious example was a doctor that was blogging about his patient's records without their consent. Who needs hackers when someone is giving away your private data for free? \*yikes\*

Chase covered problems with different encryption key schemes, including saving the private key on the primary server and escrow systems, and went on to propose a hierarchical encryption scheme which seems promising.

She is a strong advocate of making sure the patient is in control of the data and decides where it can go and which doctor can see the data.

This is a fascinating area of research, very important to all of us, and could revolutionize health care in industrialized nations, but there are still many issues to solve like how to handle emergencies when the patient may not be able to "unlock" their data.

GHC09: Welcome Session!

I'm in the Welcoming Session at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and just saw the coolest short video, "I am a Technical Woman" - how inspiring! Please check it out - it will only take a few minutes!

One of our opening speakers is Dame Wendy Hall! She just became a Dame this year as well as a Fellow of Royal Sciences.  Dame Hall got to sign her name, with a quill pen, in the same book that Charles the II and Isaac Newton did. Guess she had to be \*very\* careful not to smear anything :-)  I don't think I've ever seen a Dame in person before!

Our keynote speaker, Megan Smith, VP of New Business Development at Google! She's so full of energy - and at such an early hour! She has a really cool graphic that shows search queries around the globe (color coded by language). It's neat to see all the rays of color shooting out of Europe, but what's interesting is the complete lack of "light" coming out of Africa.  Africans, in general, just do not have access to the Internet - the infrastructure is just not there.  Seems hard to imagine, here I am complaining about the constant drops of my connection that is happening in this session, when entire countries would be thrilled to have this much access.

Smith shows us many examples of people using technology to better their lives - like using SMS in Kenya to manage banking, which before was rather inaccessible which came people from using banks in the past.  Building on that, she showed us a great picture of a march in Columbia against the FARC druglords that was organized solely on Facebook. Wow!


Wednesday Sep 30, 2009

GHC09: Jo Miller's Person of Influence: Another Perspective

I'm so glad I got here early! The tables filled up well before the 2:15 start time, a common theme at this year's sold out Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing! While I'm not the official blogger for this session, I want to take notes - so I figure I can type them into my blog edit window instead of a terminal window and share them with the world.

Jo Miller let us know from the top that unlike other presenters she's met, she's quite happy with people blogging and tweeting during her talk. Right on :)

Miller starts off strong: if you want to be a leader, you have to be a leader! Nobody will ever tap you on the shoulder and tell you they think you should be one - you have to take charge yourself.

She notes that power & influence can be used for evil manipulation, but it's obviously not her goal to send us out of here as her evil minions :)

Miller notes that if you want to become a person of influence, you need to make the impression from the get go that you are someone that has something to say and should be listened to. As an example, she says that at meetings you should arrive early, be prepared with talking points and sit near the main group. Your behaviour teaches people how to treat you.

We broke off into groups to discuss people we know who are influential and try to figure out why. Only one person at our table came up with a fully positive person of influence. The rest we came up with had negative aspects of their personality, but we knew they could get their way when they really wanted it.  This is distressing. I like to think of myself as a growing person of influence, but I don't want to be disliked for it.

Elements of Influence:

  • Positional Influence
    • This is the influence you get out of the gate simply by your job title and role in an organization.  What this tells me is that no matter what other people say, title really does matter, though Miller says title is not enough alone, you need a 30-second "commercial" for yourself:
      • Name, Job Title, "I am responsible for...a, b, c" and "Come directly to me when you need... x, y, z"
  • Expertise Influence
    • The influence that comes from you background, qualifications, experience and expertise.
    • Make sure you don't downplay yourself, don't defer questions to someone else not in the room if it's something you yourself can figure out, promote your accomplishments and set up presentations yourself to promote your expertise.
    • Miller quotes a Newsweek article that women underestimate their own intelligence and experience while men overestimate theirs, which may help explain the promotion disparity.
  • Resources Influence:
    • Having access to the resources you need to do your job well, knowing how to best use the ones you have and demonstrate that you can do so responsibly.
  • Informational Influence:
    • You've got to try to stay "on the pulse" of the business, both personnel and organizational issues, but you have to be able to filter out the noise and the gossip.  Doing this will help you make better business decisions and be able to change directions sooner when necessary.
  • Direct Influence:
    • You've got to be firm, professional and direct when you've encountered behaviour is detrimental to the team or organization.
    • BUT: this can't be how you run your team or organization or you will just have people that are afraid of you, don't like you, don't respect you and are demotivated.  Miller recommends doing this for only the 1% of the cases, doing it in private, being direct, giving specific examples and giving the individual a positive vision for how things will change for them if they change their behaviour.
  • Relationship Innfluence
    • Knowing who the key people are in your organization, profession and industry and building a network of them.

Jo Miller put the entire presentation on-line!


Grace Hopper: PhD Forum 4

Sitting in my second packed room of the Grace Hopper conference! Considering we're still before "official" launch time, I can't believe how many women are here and how packed every session is!  Here in my first session in the PhD series, I'm excited to see three PhD students present their research.

An n-gram Based Approach to the Classification of Web Pages by Genre: Jane E Mason, Dalhousie University:

Mason is looking for a novel approach to doing classification of web sites by actual genre - not just keywords. For example, searching for a health condition and only showing you information pages instead of pages by drug manufacturers attempting to sell you something.

Mason chose to use n-grams, because they are relatively insensitive to spelling errors, are language independent, and relatively easy to program.  She combines these and then processes them with the Keselj Distance Function, which is apparently "simple", but it has been awhile since I've been in Differential Equations :-)

Mason and her team have been looking at how to let some web pages have multiple genres, which means that some pages end up with no genre - noise! While it's easy for a human to identify a nonsense/useless web page, I think it's pretty cool to get a computer to do this for you, so you won't even see it in the search results!

Ant Colony Optimization: Theory, Algorithms and Applications: Sameena Shah, Institute of Technology Delhi:

I've never heard of this type of optimization, so this was very interesting for me. Shah chose to study this area of optimization because ants don't have centralized coordination and they  make great decisions based only on local information. She sees this as a great method to apply to distributed computing.  Now, how do we get computers to leave pheromones on the path of least resistance?

Other than the lack of pheromones, another problem she had to solve is that ants don't always find the shortest path - if enough ants have taken a longer path before the short path is discovered, all of the ants in the colony will use the longer path and ignore the short path. Obviously, she doesn't want that short coming in her algorithm :-)

Shah does have a slide in her presentation which shows the statistical "solution", but it's a much more complicated formula than I ever saw in my intro to statistics course at Purdue. :)

Using Layout Information to Enhance Security on the Web: Terri Oda, Carlton Univeristy:

Ms Oda is a woman after my own heart, starting her presentation with a xkcd comic :-)

She starts her talk out talking about different types of security, like secure networks between companies. Oda tells us about how the threat models are no longer obvious: those seemingly innocuous applications in facebook that have access to your private chats on the site and private emails, websites that don't properly protect passwords, and malicious users on the same forums. Her talk moved onto the types of threats she's actually trying to protect you against: cross-site scripting and previously good sites that have gone bad.

She makes an excellent point that most (all?) web pages are done by web designers (aka artists), NOT web security experts and with all their deadlines and basic functionality bugs, there is no time to even think about security. Is it any wonder we have so many attacks and vulnerabilities out there?

but how can we solve this? Schedules will never have enough padding and most people designing web sites did not receive a BS degree from Purdue (where we were told over & over again that security must be designed in from the beginning, not as an add-on)

She's looking at using heuristics to correctly identify different elements on a page so that it's visually evident which components on the page are from the site you're visiting or being served from an external site (like an ad).  I can't wait to see how her research turns out, and how much she can protect the user with a simple browser add-on!


Friday Sep 11, 2009

Preparing for my panel at Grace Hopper!

I'm moderating my first panel at a large conference at the upcoming Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing.  I've been on panels before. I've done entire hour long presentations before. But I've never moderated a panel.

Now, in just a couple of weeks, I will be moderating  "Open Source Community Development" where we'll be tackling issues about how Open Source communities grow, thrive, and possibly die or wither away. Interesting topics I hope we can explore will be about building trust and encouraging women to participate. All of these things I think will be helpful for the OpenSolaris community.

The question remains: how best to moderate? I know from personal experience that I appreciate a moderator who keeps the flow moving, knows when to take a discussion "off line", and keeps up a slide of all of the speakers' names so the audience doesn't have to remember. So, it's a given I'll do those things (and hopefully do them well).

But after reading several great "how to moderate a panel" blogs (thanks, Stormy, for the intitial link that got me started on this), I've gotten a lot of conflicting information, so I'm going to have to make some decisions myself. For example, several folks who have moderated other panels argue that the moderator must always introduce the panelists, while others suggest letting the panelists themselves do it.  Personally, I've always introduced myself, either while presenting alone or on a panel.

Some recommend assigning a few questions to certain panelists in advance and making sure you all meet as a complete group before the panel, while others say that doing so will ruin the spontaneity of the panel.  I believe that at least a short meeting before hand is warranted so we will at least have the name to face thing down.

All the advice is clear, though, I need to make sure I am personally familiar with all of the panelists' backgrounds and areas of expertise so I can direct questions appropriately. While I know a few of these women personally, or follow them on twitter, and clearly learned about them when we were proposing the panel, I still need to make sure I do all the appropriate research.

Do any of you have any advice in this area? After all, as the audience, you will be my customer!

Here are links to the advice I've been reading:

Wednesday Sep 09, 2009

Why I'm glad I went to the Grace Hopper Conference in '08 and can't wait for this year

Last year's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing was such an amazing experience for me, that I can't wait to attend again this year!

There is something almost magical about being surrounded by technical women. I didn't have to worry for one second about sounding too nerdy or about asking questions about something I didn't understand.  At this conference I felt an unparalleled sense of belonging.

I spent some time working at the Sun Microsystems' informational booth, which was an incredible way to connect with students and other women in the industry who were interested in the technologies I've worked so closely with over the last decade. I'll be around there again this year, so please stop by and hear about the work I've been doing in the field of computer security over the last year.

This conference has such a great balance of technical content and soft skills that I don't feel overwhelmed by either aspect at the end of the day. In fact, I can't wait to get together with other attendees in the evening to hear about sessions I missed and share my own experiences from the day.

Last year's conference was intense, educational and life changing, that I cannot imagine for one second missing this year's event. Hope to see you all there! I'll be the woman with the laptop...

oh, wait, unlike other conferences, that won't be enough to identify me by. :-)

Friday Aug 07, 2009

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing just around the corner!

Wow, I can't believe we're less than two months away from hundreds (thousands?) of technical women converging in Tuscon AZ for the next Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference!

I'm excited to be moderating a panel on Women in Open Source and being an official blogger again this year. I've been looking at the schedule and it is full of interesting talks! This is one conference I really have to set my schedule up for in advance, because once I get there, it's a flurry of activity and I really don't want to miss out on anything! This will also be my first year twittering at the conference (as an aside, I can't believe it took me so long to get on Twitter - I'm learning so much, meeting interesting people, and it takes so much less time than Facebook or LinkedIn).

I'll be arriving Tuesday night to make sure I don't miss out on any of the activities on Wednesday. I wish I could take part in the resume clinic on Wednesday, but that seems to completely overlap with the Becoming a Person of Influence workshop, which I don't want to miss.

Speaking of resumes, I hear there's a "new format" for them - it's probably time I did a complete update of mine. I hear plain text versions no longer suffice.  Hrm, perhaps even if I can't attend the clinic, I should still have one ready for women to give me feedback on them.

What are you looking forward to most?

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Valerie's former weblog. The new one can be found at http://bubbva.blogspot.com/

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