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: 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!


About

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

Search

Archives
« April 2014
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
  
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
   
       
Today