The first We Rise Women in Tech conference, June 23 – 24th was organized by Women Who Code Atlanta. I’m in my mid-fifties, and after a mid-life career reboot (second degree), and starting some of the organizations I felt were essential to my – and others’ success in the Birmingham metro region – was only now getting out to my first tech conference. I was looking forward to more of the welcoming environment that I had found at the first Women Who Code hackathon in July 2016. I had to work Friday (the first day), so was only able to attend the Saturday sessions. My notes on the sessions I attended continue below the break.
In many cities with a tech scene there is a need for programmers and developers who aren’t necessarily computer science (CS) majors. CS is great for understanding the structures underlying programming, how software interacts with hardware, and the mathematics behind compression, encryption, algorithms graphics and topology. Their skills and understanding are needed to build computing and programming structures and frameworks, for working out effective storage techniques, telecommunication methods, encryption and for a lot of security work. You will always need these specialists. And, if you want to be a CEO of major tech company, the groundwork is vital.
But for the rest of us, a mix of our existing skillsets in combination with either a bootcamp or self-study with tutorials are the most effective ways to start a programming career. Our power is crossover knowledge. We’re going to be working in teams to build and implement using existing tools – and being able to learn quickly, effectively and put existing pieces together to solve people’s problems is the best way we can contribute.
I attended my first hackathon a few weeks ago.* It was organized by the Atlanta, Tampa and Greenville networks of Women Who Code, a nonprofit focused on helping women advance their careers in the software and tech industries.
It was awesome. For the first time, I wasn’t terrified of not knowing something, of being found inadequate, or of not being able to contribute to a team. As a mid-life career changer, I’m still a relative noob when it comes to programming. The Women Who Code hackathon organizers did several things to help myself (and many others!) get past our fears and do good work at our first hackathon.
- They organized a pre-hackathon orientation session Friday afternoon, in which they ran through what to expect, team roles and how our final products and pitches would be scored. Knowing what to expect helped me settle in and focus on how I could help my team and not worry about hitting ill-defined performance targets.
- They had mentors (subject matter and programming language experts) available throughout the hackathon, to help teams get past knowledge sticking points.
- Food – we were NOT going to starve. There was lots of non-carb food, coffee, and caffeine, all necessary for sustained work.
- Finally, everyone presented. Didn’t matter how big or small the final application was – you talked about it.
Computing: A Concise History by Paul E. Ceruzzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
While I was back at school, I was desperate for a history of computing that would give me a framework on which to hang all the new information I was acquiring. This is the book I wish I had.
Published in 2012, it’s a tight, well-written, (short!) book, that ties together the technical developments of the 19th century, 1920s, 30s, 40s & 50s into a clear, concise story of how different technical developers (and their resulting tools and ideas) were able to build on earlier work to create systems to first, automate calculations using hardware, and then later, develop the first programs and software.
One of the clearer histories written to date, this will serve as a good beginning orientation for all people who are starting to explore computer technology, and who want a context in which to place current modern devices and software. Shirley Bob gives it two thumbs up.
The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media, and Technology Success of Our Time by David A. Vise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Tells the Google story, starting with the biographies of the two founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. The two started with Sergey Brin’s initial insight as to how to determine link popularity (modeled on scientific paper ranking by citation counts from other papers) and then worked out how to index the existing internet (in 1998-1999) and return reasonably good search results. Given that decent search was so badly needed at the time, they had a tool that worked well – and that exploded out of the gate. Has a decent explanation as to how Google Ad Words work, and the what the resulting revenue stream has enabled the company to do.
An excellent primer for those who would like to learn more about Google.