Tuesday, April 5, 2016

16 Steps to Preparing for a Conference

In March 2016 I attended the National Society of Black Engineers Convention in Boston. Since I attended as a collegiate member but also as an ambassador for 2 tech companies, I had to make sure that I prepared as much as I could pre-conference. 

For the NSBE convention specifically, my pre-planning resulted in; onsite interviews, networking event invitations, job offers, and presentation opportunities.

Comment below if there's a specific strategy that you use to prepare for conferences. 

  1.  Get the conference schedule as soon as possible and start to chart where you should invest your time. If you are attending a workshop, also put together productive questions to ask the presenter.
  2. Check on social media to see if anyone is posting about the conference ahead of time. This gives you a chance to network before you even get to the conference and therefore saving time! The conference most likely has a hashtag that you can check.  
  3.  Look for opportunities that you can pursue ahead of time. For example, submitting your resume to a company’s database (Many companies now tell students to apply online and don’t collect paper resumes so, save time and effort with this step), chances to schedule an interview for the conference, chances to self-promote, competitions, etc.
  4.  Take advantage of the free information online and do your research on attendees. Checking out someone’s site or twitter feed can give you insight that they are promoting a business opportunity you’ve been looking for or that they are interested in the same passions as you.
  5.  Stay up to date on relevant industry news. If you are attending a business conference, check out the sponsors recent news or stock activity. If you are attending an engineering conference, read up on the latest technology and any groundbreaking work that may be a great conversation started to show how involved you are in your industry.
  6. Do your research on the sponsors/recruiters so that you know who you do and don’t need to invest time in.
  7. Make sure you’ve taken care of your current work or to-do list. Try to complete everything and more since you’ll be devoting a lot of time to this event and will possibly even need to rest up post-conference.
  8. Update your online profiles because, after networking people will be looking you up and seeing what you're all about. You want to make sure your online presence is positive.
  9. If you are interested in networking or connecting, make that known. Tweet or post with the conference hashtag with a call to action. Like, “Hey #NSBE42! I’ll be at the Google networking event if you’re interested in connecting about Virtual Reality tech!”.
  10. Use TweetDeck to schedule strategic tweets. You want to be present during conference. Having your mind on your social media strategy takes away from the information and opportunities being presented to you at the conference.
  11. (The night before) Charge your back-up battery if you’ll be taking a lot of photos or using your phone for the conference app.
  12. Order relevant and fresh business cards. I was networking with a company that I was interviewing for and towards the end both recruiters wanted to give me business cards but, didn’t have any on them. I had mine and they were super impressed! Moreover, my cards were good quality and reflected me as a professional.
    Candid photo of Semirah presenting at the NSBE Fire Pit Business Competition and placing Top 3!
  13. If you have a presentation or pitch to give at the conference, practice practice practice! Conferences are usually where people come to see the best practices, network, and exchange advise/opportunities. You don’t want to be written off because you wasted everyone’s time with an unproductive presentation.
  14. If you see someone you want to network with, do it! There’s no time like the present. Also, if this is an event that people have to travel to, it’s going to be really hard to connect with someone you didn’t speak with post-conference. You don’t want to regret a missed connection. You will probably see them next year but, people and situations change so take advantage of the present.
  15. Plan your wardrobe. I brought all of my outfits for the NSBE convention from Banana Republic. It was such a time saver to just pull out a hanger from my wardrobe bag and have my outfit all ready and ironed. Even prepare your evening party outfits.
  16.  Research last year’s conference and the opportunities that may also be available this year. If Twitter hosted a hackathon last year with awesome prizes then, see if that is the case for this year as well.
Grammarly yours, SemirahD

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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Women Engineer in Training: BostonHacks 2015 Hackathon

BostonHacks was a hackathon that I attended October 2015. I've been a beta tester for Microsoft's Azure software ever since then and wanted to share my hackathon experience with you all. 

My Project Learning Outcomes from BostonHacks:

What did I do? My team and I worked on a textbased videogame integrated with the Microsoft band and with a Halloween creepy theme. 

My task was to work on the integration of the Microsoft Band to the game. The Microsoft band is a fitness wearable, similar to the Fitbit. So after playing around with the band, I went to a Microsoft Band workshop hosted by one of the Microsoft engineers to get an idea of how to get started and the band features. 

Here are some quick snapshots from the Intro to Microsoft Band workshop:

Microsoft Band

The Microsft Band is wearable tech with a touch screen displayand 10 sensors . Probably works similar to the Apple Watch.

Microsoft Band

The Microsoft Band does have the capabilty to connect to your phone (assuming phones with Windows or Andriod phones only?). So if you wanted an Apple Watch but you have the new Galaxy, then try out the Microsoft band. 

Microsoft Band

The slide above is a description of the 10 sensors that the band has.  If you want to do a route tracker (i.e. map my run) you need to use a mobile application (i.e. Runkeeper, etc.), because the band doesn’t have GPS capabilities. 

Microsoft Band

This final slide is a list of resources that I could use during the hackathon to be eligible for specific prizes but also complete my project. I ended up using Microsoft Azure and winning a prize for the site I created with Azure.

Notes about the Microsoft Band:

What is it? http://www.techradar.com/news/portable-devices/other-devices/microsoft-band-5-things-you-need-to-know-1271135

  • The main fuction of the band is to take in data and send out data.
  •  My team must build an app that runs on a PC to take advantage of all of the bands features. Building a web app would make it quicker to store data and finish front end development within the 24 hours of the hackathon.
  • Band runs on Bluetooth to connect with your device.
  • Data collected from the band can be analyzed and sent to cloud for later usage. My team wanted to optimize this feature, which is another reason to build a web app versus a mobile app... easier access to cloud storage.
  • The text based videogame can do vibrations (cool idea: Morse code messages or spurts of vibration to creep out players and connect with the Halloween theme)
  • Microsoft band application idea:
“MAN GPS”; Watch vibrates for men to know directions given from phone (1 vibrate = left, 2 vibrates= right). Men don’t ask for directions so, increase your masculinity by not even having to track a GPS on your phone. Look like a man that keeps track of time for his oh-so-important business schedule by, having a watch that guides you instead of a phone map. Map is connected to phone through Bluetooth.

My Halloween costume during the hackathon. AKA a random dress in my closet with a masquerade mask XOXO

One of my team mates and I with free web domains

Microsoft put together software development kits (SDK) for: ios, andriod, and windows. If you are interested in developing a web application, Microsoft has a cloud to store data in as well. 

However, I was surprised to find out that the band is not provided with gesture/movement sensors. Kind of like a Wii remote, the sensors that can track if the user is waving in a specific direction. To achieve such capabilities, I found a Stack overflow site (http://stackoverflow.com/questions/29829832/how-can-i-recognise-a-microsoft-band-gesture), this article will help you to:
  1. Recognize gesture on the Microsoft band
  2. Program the gestures ourselves
  3. Look up band SDKs and use sample code to get started
In the end, I had multiple complications with the Microsoft software development kits and was not able to connect the band to our game. However, this conclusion was made after seeking guidance from the Microsoft reps at BostonHacks and asking everyone at the hackathon, who was also using the Microsoft Band, if they were able to get anything work. It was easy to connect with all the teams because, there were only 10 bands being used and not one team could successfully implement the band. So, BostonHacks was a learning experience.

My BostonHacks Team, awesome ladies! When I go to hackathons, I always join teams with people that I don't know and thankfully, my experiences have been productive and positive! Quite frankly, also inspiring! An all-women hacking team...?! Women Engineers in Training!

Comment below: Do you use a fitbit, Microsoft Band, or Apple Watch? What's your fave feature?

Grammarly yours, SemirahD

HackUMass with the Oculus Rift videogame
JP Morgan Chase & Co Hackathon with Web Development
Harvard WeCode Hackathon

Monday, March 7, 2016

Women Engineer in Training: WeCode Harvard 2016

I am a campus ambassador for WeCode Harvard and as a 2nd year attendee, this year was special. From attending last year, I learned how to successfully maneuver the conference. 

The Harvard Women in CS committee made this year's conference different by implementing an innovation challenge instead of a conference wide challenge (which my group placed 3rd in last year). Since the main focus of the conference wasn't hacking any code, solving puzzles, or competing; I knew that I could focus my time on networking. 

You know those people that don't attend the workshops or miss keynote speakers because, they are having deep conversations in the hallways with sponsors? I used to think that was the most unproductive use of time at a conference, especially if you're paying a hefty price for the entry ticket. I thought that the workshops and speakers were the most valuable aspects of a conference but, sometimes you can pick your adventure.

I found out the deep conversation and inquisitive people are creating bonds, relationships, and connections that will benefit them after the conference. These are the people who probably don't struggle with that crucial 'follow up' aspect of networking. They have more material to use to connect with someone they conversed with for an hour compared to your handshake and fangirl photo (don't get me wrong, those are great too!). 
LOL speaking of fan girl photos: I have some more photos on my Instagram here

Get updates on Women engineers and me at Sound of Charm's facebook

Advice for college interns, co-ops, new hires... The relationship you will have amongst your team & co-workers will go from; service, respect, to trust - Michelle Luo (works at Google & second person from the right in the 1st photo). 

I'm currently experiencing this theory during my co-op at Johnson and Johnson. Starting off, your main reason for being hired is to work. You're being trained and are given (what I think are classified as:) "tester" assignments. As a new hire, your boss wants to see what you can do. Once you successfully deliver, you bump up to a respect relationship and then advance from their. 

Advice for freshman or new engineers... It's going to be hard and you're going to want to quit but don't, it builds character. 
(creds to: Product Manager WeCode workshop panel) 

If you need any tips or motivation, feel free to reach out to me! I have a Women Engineer in Training series to share my story and motivate other lady engineers so, join the party here.

XOXO Semirah
 +Semirah Dolan

And I know when that hotline bling
That can only mean one thing

Laura Butler and I
Laura is a Technical Fellow, Director of Engineering Windows Fundamentals at Microsoft

Here is some advice the Technical Goddess shared with us at WeCode Harvard 2016:

1. "Power is taken not given. 
You get authority by acting like you have it." 

AKA Fake it till you Make it. 

2. "I have world domination plans" 
When Laura said this my friend and I looked at each other and smiled in agreement because, we are both ambitious ladies with CEO domination plans. However, I don't have a dream board or physical plan, which I would like to create.

Tracy Chou and I
Software Engineer at Pinterest

 Julie Elberfeld from Capital One 
With Capitol One and Goldman Sachs being some the main sponsors, it's quite clear that the finance industry is RSVP'ing to the Techies Club. Big investment firms and banking companies are looking for engineers to bring innovation and tech to finance. Hmm... that explains why I attended a J.P. Morgan Chase and Co. hackathon in Florida last month! 

During WeCode, the sponsors hosted 'Lounges' and had a variety of activities. Capitol One had an ah-mazing lounge! They had DIY tassel keychains. I made two and I love them! Microsoft had a painting activity which, was great for slowing down from the hustle of workshops and events. Plus my friends and I got to network with some Microsoft ladies. 

One of my most productive lounge visits was with Goldman Sachs. I arrived early and ate breakfast with the Goldman Sachs team while building Lego structures. Little secret: the other attendees weren't aware that the sponsor lounges were open so my friends and I basically had an exclusive breakfast with the Goldman Sachs team. I greatly appreciated being able to introduce myself to their team and then hearing their engineering career stories. Goldman Sachs had a diverse team representing them at WeCode, with an industrial engineer, software developer, and more!

I will definitely be an annual attendee of this conference until I graduate. 

Grammarly yours, SemirahD

P.S. Check out my engineering internship interview on my school's official website: 

Here is last year's WeCode post:  http://soundofcharm.blogspot.com/2015/02/a-women-engineer-in-training-wecode.html

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Wellenstyn Winter Jacket Review

As a farewell to winter, here is a shoutout and review to Wellenstyn. A toast to the best, 5 star jacket on the market. Enjoy some pictures of my brother in his Wellenstyn jacket. He loves and flaunts this jacket. The large amount of pockets for storing things and the warmness. It's so toasty inside!

Peep the sharpness and structure of the material. He could blend in doing anything from walking the red carpet, attending a winter wedding, or running some errands out in town.  

+Gizmodo thought that they found the "Ultimate Urban Winter Jacket"... well obvious that status needs to be updated with the introduction of the +Wellensteyn jackets to the New England market.

Men: I'm not sure what you care to know about in a jacket. But from what my brother and friends rave about, I can definitely share that this jacket is well worth the splurge! The quality is over the top ah-mazing, it's low maintenance, (with such high quality) it's bound to work for years, and it's super convenient.

And ladies: Wellenstyn also has uber adorable styles for us. The same benefits that the men have in their Wellenstyn jackets, we get and more. Meaning... we get cute colors, extra fluff, and additional adorableness to make walking around in fluffy winter jackets less 'snowman like' and more 'runway model like'.

Grammarly yours, SemirahD

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I Learned Web Development in 24 Hours

As some of you may know from my previous post, I attended a hackathon in Tampa that was sponsored by J.P. Morgan Chase and Co. This blog post is a more indepth tale about how it happened and what happened during my experience. Enjoy...!

How did it happen?

1. I APPLIED: One of my mentors emailed me an opportunity to attend a 24 hour hackathon competition sponsored by J.P. Morgan Chase and Co. in Florida and they would potentially cover travel and expenses.
2. I GOT ACCEPTED: I received the acceptance letter at work and did the happy dance with my boss and co-workers. 
3. I PREPARED: I received my flight confirmation and packed my bags for sunny Florida. When attending a hackathon, your must-bring items start with your laptop, all necessary charging cords, and toiletries. 
4. I ARRIVED: Upon touching down in Tampa, I did the happy dance to be in 80 degree weather and headed straight to Chick-fil-A THEN I taxied over to the J.P. Morgan headquarters. I was the furthest attending participant so everyone knew who I was and greeted me with questions like: Are you liking our weather? How was your flight? Is it snowing up there? Etc.

I arrived a few hours early which gave me the chance to tour the grounds. Their campus had a swamp/small hiking trail in the backyard and was such a pleasure to explore! 

I am used to really big hackathons with upwards of 500+ attendees. This corporate sponsored hackathon only accepted 50 participants (made me feel super special to be selected out of all the applicants). 

Finally my team arrived and J.P. Morgan had a small snack set up for us to get acquainted with our teams (when I say small snack I mean, a chef came out and did a spread of mini burgers, appetizers and such… no big deal… but actually a big deal). We received our challenge, matching book bag/sweater/shirt and headed to the open ceremony. After all of the festivities the challenge finally begins. 

Now here is where WE GOT TO WORK:
My group and I brainstormed about what type of app we could make to aid the paralysis community, which was our given challenge. None of us had prior experience of building an app from scratch and the J.P. Morgan mentors advised against trying to learn and accomplish such a feat in 24 hours so, we settled on a web application. Now my team set out to learn html and web development in 3 hours. The most useful tools for us were: Brackets 1.6 and bootstrap. Feel free to check out those sights for your own web development purposes (not an endorsement).

I can proudly say that my team finished our app and had one of the best presentations of the entire competition. I would totally attend another J.P. Morgan sponsored event and grateful to have had this opportunity.

If your company hosts events or you know of any STEM or tech opportunities please feel free to send them my way! Semirah.dolan@gmail.com or tweet me

I am very eager to learn as much as I can about my industry as a mechanical engineer but also tech enthusiast. 

Grammarly yours, SemirahD

J.P. Morgan Chase and Co. Code For Good Tampa
More Sound of Charm Women In Tech Post

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Do you know your bias "Blind Spot"?

Title: Fixing Your Blind Spot - The Science Behind Making Better Decisions

Professor Mahzarin Banaji

Workshop Snippet That Says "Hey! You should come to this": 

Did you know that how our brains work may be preventing us from being great leaders, building the best teams and making the best decisions? Did you know there is research and data that shows what these barriers are and how to overcome these hidden biases? Do you want to unleash your full potential as well as unlock the potential of your teams?

More info about the speaker: 

For more than 30 years, Harvard Professor Mahzarin Banaji has been researching how our minds operate and make decisions.  The science behind her groundbreaking work on implicit associations demonstrates how unconscious bias affects many of our decisions in the workplace.  

A Resume Tip That Might Help You:

Presenting good information before other sections of your resume helps!

For example , what if I told you that this person was evil then listed their resume OR what if I gave you the resume then said that the person was evil

For the person that I said was evil after listing off a great resume…You would compensate for the evilness with their good resume, whereas, you would automatically judge someone and disregarded everything I said if I told you they were evil before giving their resume. (Does that make sense? Say it out loud or digest that slowly, it took me a while to understand the message was: sugar coating does make your resume sweeter…)

“Our discrimination comes in who we help” - Professor Banaji

Who do you help with their career? Who do you take out to lunch?

Not to say that I would say yes to everything but, this piece of knowledge made me reflect on the people I’ve helped or rejected. I’ve made some pretty biased decisions and am now cognizant about an updated, less biased, process of decision making.

If you don’t give people a chance, how will they improve?

P.S. Any college student seeking a job has this written all across their face during that post-graduation job search.

I really enjoy going to events, meeting inspirational figures, and hearing other people's perspectives on relevant topics. It's a great way to meet like-minded individuals and dig deeper into your own morals and boundaries.

Grammarly yours, SemirahD

Tags: Harvard, professor, johnson and johnson, workshop, psychology, research, studies, racism, bias, women in tech, #ilooklikeanengineer, medical, knee surgery, undergrad, recruiter, recruiting  

Monday, February 8, 2016

New England International Auto Show 2016 Recap

The New England International Auto Show was my first large scale automobile event. I've been to derbies, car races, etcetera etcetera. So being surrounded by high profile cars and interactively experiencing the cars was super fun! The auto show had test drives available for certain models of cars.  

Now that I know that this event is local to me and an annual occurrence, I know where to go when I'm buying my next BMW or Aston Martin. My plan: 1) Test drive at New England International Auto Show 2) Intense research on best buying period 3) Drive off the dealers lot in style.

Here's a great conversation about auto shows, new car buying, and teen driving safety that you could follow on twitter:https://twitter.com/SemirahD/status/688438109504172037

Follow me for more New England fun here

Before attending this show I vaguely knew what questions to ask when purchasing or what made a car a "good car".

1) It all depends on your auto needs
2) Other variables are considered like; budget, lifestyle, etc.
3) The car chooses you more than you choose the car. (think about it... what compels you to walk towards certain cars on the lot?)

To look at more in-depth tips and tricks check out SheBuysCars for more articles.

Grammarly yours, SemirahD

P.S. Add me on snapchat! @SemirahD I am currently (2/8/16)  jammin on the beach in Florida so come join the fun and send me snaps of your day *Smileyyy face & Convincing winky face*
OR Tweet me a screenshot of your snapchat screen and I'll add you!

Thank you SheBuysCars, Scotty Reis, #ChevyBoston, and everyone else involved for sponsoring this post and sending me to the New England International Auto Show. 

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