Friday, October 19, 2007

Rollercoaster day

I had some trouble focusing this afternoon - just feeling down. Worried about school, about networking, about whether I'm "doing it right", worried that my, ahem, forthright manner will alienate the very people who might be deciding internships, jobs, information interviews, providing contacts. It's hard sometimes, feeling like I've got the worst of both worlds - I'm not social like most women, but I'm not as technically focused as most men. I worry that I'll graduate with no prospects, or that I'll "settle" for another dead-end job, or worse, that my past spotty career (mother, housewife, office work, temp work) will be held against me in jobseeking and I'll end up with no job. I worry that I won't realize early enough when I need to apply for internships or that there are other expectations that I'm supposed to figure out for myself.

I know - you're not supposed to talk about this sort of anxiety out loud. I figure, someone out there might be going through this sort of thing too, and knowing they're not alone might help.

In spite of the worries, I managed to meet some really kewl women today. I got to have a really nice chat on the bus with a grad student from my program at school. It was nice to make that connection. We'd not had much chance to get to know each other before. She gave me some helpful advice about getting to know the grad students in the program and not relying solely on my advisor.

The morning presentations on HCI were interesting. There was an interesting diversity of approaches to HCI. My favorites were a woman who is designing a lighting configuration voice response system who talked about using Wizard of Oz discovery for how users actually talked about their lighting needs; a woman who was switching over capture and assessment processes for therapists from handwritten notes and forms to a digital paper and pen for taking notes, and a system that provided the notes and data points, along with video connected with the data points; and another woman who chose to, rather than using online software collaboration tools, had her users use an analog process for discovery, to see how they interacted, and discovered that much of the temporal "flow" of the visual information decision systems probably has more to do with the software constraints than with how they would naturally approach the project. Oh - and one woman had the *kewlest* slide - this 3d data visualizer that turned so you could see it from multiple sides.

Lunch with Systers was great. I met a really kewl woman who lives near me and I think we'll keep in touch. It was also great to discuss rss feeds vs email listservs with women of varying backgrounds.

Oh yeah - and today there was a great presentation on HCI as a gateway to computing for women. I loved it. I think the fundamental user-centered, pragmatic approach of HCI allows people to look at what's really going on, rather than just the theories, and accept that the current paths into tech aren't working for far too many women. HCI isn't a stopping point for many women - a lot go on to CS or other tech pursuits, or come away with increasing awareness of how computers can be useful in whatever they want to do. In any case, it's an entry point that a lot of women *and* other diverse people appreciate. It was great to hear the responses to a question about "isn't HCI just a way of getting away with doing 'easy' stuff"? Humans are the ones with real problems that need solving. Doing the tech is the *easy* part - figuring out these "pesky" humans is the real hard part.

After that, the afternoon was kindof a bust for me - and I went back to my room eventually to nap before dinner. Dinner turned out to be at Universal, outside. Eep. There I was in a silk skirt (boiling) carrying my jacket, expecting more airconditioning. Turned out I wasn't the only one confused about that. (I was glad to hear that.) Toward the end of the evening, I ended up at the piano bar, which was really fun!

It's far too late, but I've needed time to wind down. (I got to do video iChat with my husband when I got to my hotel room - which was great. It's nice having a supportive husband - he loves having a smart geek wife.)

I am looking forward to tomorrow. There's some workshops coming up that look quite intriguing, and I am expecting to learn a lot. Good night all!

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