Thursday, October 18, 2007

First day at GHC

Some really good talks. (There weren't any that were bad.) Some highlights:

The Keynote Speaker, Donna Dubinsky, talked about Numenta: a startup with Jeff Hawkins who wrote On Intelligence, which is using biological brain-based concepts (spatio-temporal persistence, heirarchical structures, nodes) to create a new platform. They're looking for interns. Later, their principal architect gave a great tech talk on the platform. It was wonderful to hear that this is possible! That there are people doing this sort of work, commercially. I had had the impression that such things were only available in academia, pure resarch programs.

Later, a panel on interdisciplinary research (ID) was great. I was worried at the start, because I thought it was going to be all academic. There was one woman there from Intel, named Susan, whose ID is anthropology and user experience research - ethnographic discovery - to determine real users needs and convey that to the developers. That sounds awesome!

There was a great talk about re-inventing CS1. Three speakers talked about how they're turning CS1 into a kewl class (or rather, set of class options) that are based around 3D animations, or personal robots, etc. Kewl, fun stuff. And most of it is in Python! Woot!

The talk on "landing your dream job" - I asked a question about women in transition - changing careers. The average person changes careers 3 to 5 times! according to some studies. I wanted to know how do companies (recruiters and hiring committees, interviewers) view career changes. The best piece of advise was that: most recent grads have no life experience and that I can bring my life experience and perspective to the table - present those as strengths.

It was nice to see several women at the conference who are mothers (even grandmothers) and are managing to find ways to maintain.

I actually was a bit worried about what to wear. The diversity of clothing was amazing. Women in jeans and tshirts, suits, slacks, dresses, headscarfs, capris, ... I was pleased to see it. Tomorrow, jeans and tshirt for me. (Today was capris and a sports tanktop.)

After the last talk, I skipped the BOF sessions and went back to my hotel room (I'm staying across the street from the conference hotel) and dropped off all my stuff, and took time to change. I'm *so* glad I did. Not everyone, but *most* people had dressed up for the banquet.

I got to dance with Frances Allen! (The first woman to win the Turing Prize.) She was a lovely older woman, who climbs mountains (she was telling about a recent "hike" at 14000 feet!) and dances rather energetically. She led us in a snake dance - holding hands and winding in and out... That was fun.

I had a good day, but it's way late. I'm going to try to sleep. Tomorrow is another day, as the saying goes...

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