Wednesday Sep 30, 2009

Blog about to explode... in a good way...

In case you hadn't noticed yet, I'm in beautiful Tucson, AZ staying at the wonderful JW Marriot Starr Pass Resort for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. I'm an official blogger, plus I just like to use my blog as a way to take notes for sessions I'm not even the officially assigned blogger. What this means is that I'm about to have MANY posts over the next few days. The should all be under the GHC09 feed, and I'll try to start all the subjects with "GHC09" as well, in case you aren't interested. I should be back to irregularly scheduled and randomly themed blog posts by next week. :-)

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 28, 2009

OSCON, Women in FLOSS, me and a puppet named Jack Adams

A month ago, I was lucky enough to go to a few bits & pieces of OSCON in San Jose with my exhibit pass.

While there I got to meet a TON of really cool, really clued in folks at the OpenSolaris booth. This was a different experience than I've had at other conferences doing booth duty. First of all, our booth was right by the front door, was large with couches for lounging, and we had a lot of cool stuff to give a way.  Anyone that installed OpenSolaris (even just in a virtual box) on their laptop got a free t-shirt. We were also giving away install media and getting started guides, of course, as well as cool stickers for your laptop that said "Powered by OpenSolaris" (I got one myself!).  The people that approached the booth not only knew what Sun did already, but were at least relatively aware of Solaris. Some hadn't used the OS in awhile, some wanted to know the big differences between OpenSolaris and Solaris, others just had questions about very specific technologies.

I got to show my lack of skills at Guitar Hero as I was pitted against Microsoft's Sara Ford in a battle of the operating systems.  To be fair, I'd only played the game once before, and that was more than 18 months before. If it had been Tekken or even Wii Bowling, it would've been a different story, I tell ya!

(Photo by Pınar Özger)

I attended the Women of Free/Libre Open Source Software BoF (Birds of a Feather) session run by Kirrily Robert, which had an impressively large turnout - around 25 people, mostly women (the rest were "advocates" :). It was good to meet a lot of other women working in Open Source and just in technology in general. Like a sneak preview of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, though surprisingly few of these women were familiar with that conference.  We tried to keep it from turning into a venting session about some clueless and/or rude men we've all worked with in the past, and tried to give each other suggestions for things we've found has worked.  Kirrily then had us all go around the room to discuss our favorite woman themed book. Mine, of course, was Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide. I'm hoping she'll post the complete list soon, as I heard some very interesting titles come by!

Our Solaris Security BoF was just after that, so I couldn't stay for the entire Women in FLOSS BoF.  When I got to our BoF room, I was dismayed at discovering the facilities team had taken away our projector! I had checked everything out the night before, to make sure our OpenSolaris laptops would work with their projectors and even confirmed with the A/V guy that we would have the same equipment for our BoF on Friday. Everyone I asked that was working for the site said we'd have the equipment, but apparently not.  This started us off on a bad foot - but fortunately, many of us had brought laptops with the presentation on it that we were able to distribute through the small crowd so they could follow along.

I will admit, I was very disappointed by our small turnout we had at our BoF. The guys that were there (sorry, except for Sun staff, it was only male attendees) were very interested in our topics of discussion and asked a lot of great in depth questions. It was taped, so hopefully we'll have the video soon!

Speaking of videos, I was also able to help Jack Adams, a puppet, with his OpenSolaris security concerns and problems.  This came out well, considering the lack of script. All that improv training at the Gaslighter Theatre comes in handy, even for technical talks. Good job, Deirdre, for putting this together! Enjoy!

(though I really should've taken off my badge, so you could see my "I HEART OpenSolaris" shirt better :-)

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?

Friday Oct 03, 2008

GHC08: Unofficial blog: The Imposter Panel

I'm sitting in the Imposter Panel, though not an official blogger for this particular session, I am just overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in here. It's great to know thta I'm clearly not the only one that often feels like an imposter in various technical situations. These women on the panel, in addition to all being very funny, are all very insightful.  They are all so very accomplished, yet they al feel like (or have felt like) imposters at one time or another.

Dr. Williams made a great comment: "I am the creator of my own experience."

Essentially, nobody ever told her she was an imposter, she was telling herself she was. So, she decided to stop telling herself that, and her confidence gets better & better every day.

The entire panel was wonderful - I just wish there were more hours in the day to attend sessions at Grace Hopper. They all seem to end too soon.

My computer woes have gotten worse and worse - now my networking driver is failing to attach, the wired connection is working, so I assume this is an additional hardware issue. Oh, and the CPU is throwing errors now, too. So, that brand new laptop has become a very expensive, slow to boot, word processor (does "vi" count as word processing  software?).  One of the fanstastic Sun recruiters lent me her laptop, and I ran off to the imposter session, desperate to upload my last blog from my thumb drive.  Alas, this session was so crowded, I couldn't obtain an IP address! But, small wonders keep happening at this converence - a wonderful woman sitting next to me offered me her laptop, where I'm blogging from right now.

Valerie Fenwick

Thursday Oct 02, 2008

GHC08: Getting it Together: Empowering People through Information (Integration)

Laura Haas, from IBM, talked about how we have lots of information - but the problem is it is in lots of places.  There is a big challenge of integrating data so the right data is available to the correct people at the right time - and most importantly in a format they can understand.

This research has been going on for decades, but advances in technology are making easier to find the right information that needs to be collated together. 

She went on to describe how to use search, as well as "was this what you were looking for" type queries to better aggregate the data, and noted the problems with dirty data sets.

There are still a lot of problems to tackle - it still needs human input, and too much expertise to run.

Ms. Haas is very passionate about this subject and has a list as long as her arm of followon work. Definitely seems like there are a lot of opportunities in this area!


Valerie Fenwick


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

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