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

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