The hackathon I founded last year, CommunityHack, took place Feb 5th - Feb 6th! It is always so rewarding being at the hackathon and seeing people have a truly enjoyable time. People outside of the Computer Science major decided to show up! The high school turnout was a lot better this year than it was last year.
We had a few companies sponsor the event - and by sponsor I mean a lot of them donated swag. Shapeways, Google, YikYak donated tons of swag. Visco software provided breakfast, Frenzy supplied lunch, Dyalog participated in the entire event teaching people APL, and Eevo presented on virtual reality.
This is the second year CommunityHack is alive, and I always just have such big dreams for it. I am hoping that next year a freshman or sophomore can help me organize it so that when I graduate, I can be sure that it can live on at Vassar. I also am going to make myself learn how to make really cool websites so that next year, communityhack.io can be a thing, and companies can actually have a place to find out what CommunityHack is about! Also I hope that next year more high school women and novice coders decide to attend.
Check out these articles about the event!
I haven't written something here for a few months. I've been having a hard time putting into words what I've been through and what I've felt this past semester. I had a pretty rough semester. I lost myself and lost some of my motivation, which slowed me down and caused me to waste many opportunities. I am now dealing with the consequences of my actions, or lack of actions. Basically, I burned out pretty early in the semester because of how over-committed I was, but this time, backing out of a few commitments didn't help. My mind was already exhausted and craving a break. By mid October, I was ready for the semester to be over. The rest of the semester I spent dragging myself around campus. I felt heavy and drained. I felt like I was drowning and no matter how hard I tried to push myself to get a gasp of air, I couldn't. That's when my health problems started.
For two months I had an invisible health problem that caused me to oversleep, have trouble staying awake, and basically just made me tired all the time. It was a problem that my school didn't think was serious enough, so every time I went to get checked up, they would just send me back to my dorm saying "sorry, without a fever we can't do anything."
There was nothing I was able to do for myself. Now that I've made it and am on the other side, I feel frustrated with everything I missed out on because of my desire to sleep 24/7.
I realize there is no use in kicking myself for the rough semester. There is nothing that can be done about it now. "There is no use in crying over spilt milk." All I can do is move forward, clear my head, and make sure I am excited for the new semester. I took precautions so that I can have time to focus on my technical, personal, and musical goals for the semester.
Wish me luck!
About 7 years ago, a taxi driver in Colombia told me that the biggest thing I would ever struggle with is my huge ambition and trying to focus it.
Flash forward to when I went to Vassar thinking I would be a music major.
That thought has defined the rest of my college experience. When I discovered I wanted to do Comp. Sci, I tried to juggle a double major between CS and Music. I convinced myself it was possible to take 9-10 classes a semester plus extra curriculars, yet I quickly discovered how thinly stretched I became trying to have the best of both worlds. After constant internal debate, a year ago, I decided to drop my music major to a minor.
Slowly, I became dissatisfied with the classes I was taking for the music minor and also just with the politics within the music department - giving the study of classical music priority over any other academic opportunity. I was punished by my music professors for missing class to present my research at different conferences. (I always let them know when those conferences were). Yet I stuck with it saying to myself "only X classes left for the minor."
This semester, I was taking the second to last class needed for my music theory minor. At this point, I've already learned music theory concepts three years in a row. Everything was becoming monotonous and time consuming. I've been stressed out by all the items piling on my to-do list and the lack of time to contribute to knocking things off of the list. The things on my to-do list are almost all exclusively about my career in CS - things like, finishing up the online iOS and Python courses I started, studying and practicing for technical interviews, applying for summer internships, scheduling interviews. I kept asking myself "why am I even a music minor when there is so much I haven't yet done with my CS major?!" Yet I felt a sort of debt to my pre-college self, excited to go to Vassar for their music program.
Don't get me wrong, I love music. I love singing in choir, playing piano, singing with my a cappella group, thinking about how to make a piece sound better through musicianship, yet I was becoming unhappy with my lack of focus on the one thing I've been trying to dedicate more time to: my major. A week ago, I made the decision to drop my minor. Sometimes I wish I came into school not knowing what to do and stumbling into CS, just so I could have solely focused on CS and my extra curriculars. But at the same time, this process, of realizing what my priorities are, has helped me learn what is important to me and knowing that sometimes my ambition will be greater than my ability...and that's okay. Music will always be a part of my life. Dropping the minor does not mean that I will suddenly never interact with music again, it just means that I'm starting to focus on the aspects of music I truly enjoy while allowing me to focus my self-growth on CS. I'm hoping that starting now, I'll have the time to dedicate to my CS extra curricular activities. I already feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
A year ago, I didn't even know what a technical interview was. With no career fairs at my school to give me the opportunity to practice interviewing, my first technical interview was for an internship I REALLY wanted...except not only did I bomb the interview, I also just had a very negative interview experience. With no experience on how to handle the situation, I lied to my recruiter, the person I now know is there for me throughout the process, about how I thought the interview went and did not mention even mention the extremely rude and condescending interviewer, the fact that I could not think through my nerves, etc. Looking back, the bad first interview experience completely traumatized me for the rest of the year. I bombed every single interview after that for the fear that the first experience would repeat itself. At the 2015 TAPIA conference, I had an interview scheduled during my time there, I bombed an interview yet again. Except this interview culminated in a breakdown, "I'm not good enough to intern at challenging companies", "How can I get experience if no company wants to even consider me?" "Why am I at a school that doesn't teach me efficient coding?" I ran into my recruiter for my first interview, and without even thinking about it, told her about my awful experience interviewing for her company was and that I didn't know I was allowed to tell her about it when it first happened. I regret telling her that day though, because I put her on the spot and it just wasn't the right place or time to have that conversation. If she ever reads this, I just want her to know I'm very sorry for that. I was in a horrible place. Needless to say, I was devastated, destroyed, and taking my lack of success in interviews way too personally.
A few weeks later, a dear friend of mine told me "the key to interviews is confidence." Even though I kept a calm disposition, I was FURIOUS at this comment because my friend did not know the experiences I've had to go through. I've always had to study and practice way more than my peers in order to get results so I felt like I needed to devote even more time to practicing interview questions, going through every. single. practice interview book, etc. I thought to myself, "what good will confidence do me if I can't even answer the question?"
You know, it's hard to put into words how upsetting my experiences were last year. Looking back at it now, I see how much I let one negative interview experience define the rest of the year for me. I set myself up to fail every single interview because I spent all my energy leading up to the interview worried that I was going to do horribly only to let my nerves take over during the actual interview.
Over the summer, I learned to respect myself and be proud of the work I do. So this year, I'm starting on a clean slate. Like I said before, I've been incredibly grateful and fortunate that companies are interested in me based on my experiences on paper. Except this year, I'm focusing more on the interviews as opportunities for me to grow as a coder, thinker, student. Sure, interviews will not always go well, or I may think they go well and don't move on in the process, but at the end of the day, those interviews do NOT define who I am or my ability to work. Hopefully one of the interviews this year will land me a summer experience that I will love and enjoy and want to go back to for when I graduate.
In the meantime, I'm going to do my part to study for interviews, but not beat myself down for messing up. I'll do my best to show interviewers my thought process and also learn from the questions themselves. So far, this mentality has worked! I've had positive interview experiences - still no offers, yet I'm managing to answer questions, have conversations with the interviewers, talk to the recruiter, and also just feel more and more confident on my ability to answer interview questions.
I know it's cliché, but it's comforting to think that at the end of the day, I'll end up at the place I'm meant to be!
AHHH! So literally the one thing I said that I missed from high school was playing in a band. So I was actually recruited into a funk-band and I am incredibly thrilled. I'll be playing the keyboard which is such a challenge since even though I play the piano, I've always played classical music. This is going to be so much fun! I've always had an appreciation for the pianists who play non-classical music so to get the opportunity to push myself and perform funk music is spectacular.
I'm also loving my Hispanic Studies class - Latin American Culture Through Music. The professor is so funny yet she mentioned something that bothered me a tad ("My husband tells me I have the skills of a woman in technology - I'm happy if it works"). It just showed me that there are still people out there who though they may not realize, underestimate the numerous female technicians who are AMAZING at coding, engineering, experimenting, researching, etc. Other than that, I'm looking forward to the opportunity to practice my Spanish! I've only ever practiced speaking at home with my parents, so it's nice to finally be able to interact with Spanish in an academic environment. I taught myself how to read and write Spanish at a young age, so this class should help me strengthen my reading/writing skills! :)
My professor for my Algorithms class is my FAVORITE professor of all time. I'm also TAing for one of her classes so I'm very much looking forward to talking with her more often. On the contrary, my Networks class is completely outdated. It seems like we'll be learning web development with Java? I find it ridiculous. Our professor even acknowledged the fact that we should be learning PHP. I'm going to try to talk to the professor soon to see if there's a way to learn PHP and other relevant languages for web development. Hopefully that works out!
This month I'll be attending Unhackathon and HackNY. I will totally talk more about those once I experience them. It'll be my first time attending a hackathon. The one I planned last year I didn't get the chance to participate in since I was running around making sure everyone was having a great time. It will also give me a chance to see what else I could include this coming year.
THIS SEMESTER IS GOING TO BE INCREDIBLE!!
This past summer was a chance to learn and to grow. More importantly, it helped me define the goals I want to set for this coming school year.
I want to make these goals public so I can be held accountable to all of these tasks. I'm thrilled for the opportunities this year will bring and the chance to continue to develop. :D
"After experiencing the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix, I was inspired to attend even more technical conferences. When I got home I immediately connected to the Anita Borg Institute’s Facebook page.That’s where I learned about the first ever GHC/1, a one-day conference hosted by ABI.New York, similar to the grander GHC, but only a 25-minute bus ride away in New York City.
On Wednesday, March 18th, I grabbed my backpack, notebook and pen and headed gleefully on the 166T bus from Palisades Park to the Time & Life building in NYC. I got there just in time to pick up my conference badge and hear Colin Bodell welcome all the attendees to the Time & Life building.
Overall, the conference had a lovely set up. The “Technology Innovation in the Big Apple” panel was a chance for students, professors and industry professionals to hear about the different projects and roles throughout New York —from learning what the role of a SquareSpace evangelist was, to plans that would put kiosks around NYC for tourists to interact with. The career fair stationed in the main area provided me and the other attendees with the great opportunity to see the participating companies that are based in NYC.
I think I learned the most from attending the networking panel. The panelists spoke about knowing when it’s appropriate to introduce yourself, add someone on LinkedIn, what to do in meetings, etc. Since then, I’ve been working hard to apply what I learned from that panel to my experience as an intern. During the panel, we were told two hard truths:
I am an introvert and this advice has helped me become incredibly self-aware: I’ve started noticing the very slight sexism (from both men and women) that manifests itself both in the workplace and in school. I’ve noticed how hard it is to speak up in a room full of men for fear of suggesting something dumb and being judged. But I’ve also noticed how rewarding it is to step out of my comfort zone, have people accept my ideas respect me when I show confidence in abilities. While I do occasionally get frustrated with my desire to keep to myself, I have gained an abundance of knowledge and experience from listening to the advice I got at ABI.New York’s GHC/1 networking panel.
Thanks to the panels I attended, the people I met and the opportunities I’ve unlocked through GHC/1, I have not only grown as a computer scientist, but also as a person. I’ve also taken the incredible opportunity to get involved in the Latinas in Computing community! People ask me why I like computer science and technology, and in addition to my usual answer that “it’s incredibly creative and challenging,” I now also add that it makes me a better person by challenging me daily to be confident in my abilities, to speak up and suggest new features for projects I’m working on and to try to meet at least one new person a month.
I am incredibly fortunate that all I have to do to access such a supportive community of women in computing is take a bus across the Hudson River. ABI.New York’s GHC/1 event acted like an affinity space for me — we are all tri-state area women techmakers coming together to share our joys and woes of being involved in an industry that is run predominantly by men. I now have the tools and community to help me get through the next two years and prepare myself for a career in technology. Hopefully three years from now, I’ll be able to attend one of the GHC/1 conferences, not as a student, but as a professional, with the opportunity to share my experiences, give advice and possibly even mentor a young woman who has the same goals that I have now.
— Laura Barreto, rising junior computer science major at Vassar College."
So here it is, my first blog post. There's not much to say besides the fact that it is 5:25 am sitting in the Austin, TX airport waiting to board my flight back home. I've been up since 3 am. I am on my way back from attending the Student Professional Development Workshop organized by CMD-iT. It was such an incredible opportunity to get to meet students who have gone through similar experiences.