Friday, February 21, 2014

You gotta learn to program....

A friend of mine, a dance major, once asked me what I do.  And I said, I program.  And she thought I worked as a telephone switchboard operator (this was about 15 years ago).

I was thinking about this a few days ago and realized that if I spoke to her now, she would know EXACTLY what I do, without me having to do much explaining and napkin-drawing etc.

And that is pretty much what happened the other day when I did speak to her :).

And she wants to learn programming :) - at a very high level.  

I'm delighted - and realized that no matter what field you are in, whether you are good at math or science or not, whether you want to wear a lab coat or hard hat or stay up all night,  whether you have a family or not, whether you are mainstream or alternative or whatever-the-new-buzz-word-is-these-days....

The fundamental concepts of Computer Science apply to all fields and backgrounds.  All you need is interest, patience and an open mind.   And the concepts that encompass algorithms, structures, applications and computation are applicable in each and every context of life and any field of work.

I hope the next generation of education encompasses curriculums for this category of people - they are the ones that are the most creative and, I think, it will be fantastic to see what they can do with the constructs and knowledge that they might learn from Computer Science fundamentals.

How and what am I going to teach my dancer friend about programming, I wonder.  It is a good problem to think about... :)

Saturday, February 01, 2014

IEEE EAB Awards ceremony

Last year, I was nominated for the IEEE Educational Activities Board Award for Meritorious Achievement in Informal Education.

And I received news about my acceptance via email on the very day that I arrived in Hobart, Tasmania after a grueling journey, to speak at PyCon Australia.   I was a bit stunned since I really wasn't expecting it - I figured I was just a small factor in a rather large field of impressive candidates.  Boy, was I thrilled, scared and humbled.

With Professors Lightner and Ramesh - what an honor!

Well, I got to go to the the Award ceremony and I found out the day before that I had to give a 2-3 minute speech when I was on stage.  Eek.

So, on the morning of the ceremony, I was sitting my hotel room, pulling out my hair trying to figure out what to say.  I had never been in a position where I would be in front of 400 people from all parts of the world and with backgrounds ranging from professors at Ivy League colleges, industry leaders to students.  And I was expected to say something pithy.

In the end, I decided, I just want to say why I started CodeChix and how I hope the organization inspires and helps women pursue technical careers in industry and academia.  And that took up the 3 min that were allotted.