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Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Madhumalti Sharma, Founder and President, European Program Manager

Madhumalti Sharma

Founder and President, European Program Manager

Workshop4Me a.s.b.l, Montrium


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I always loved technology and computers. When I started in Standard 9 with GW Basic, I thought it was so cool to make a program do what I want and print such cool computer printed cards using a dot matrix printer – it’s funny but back in the day that was cool! I did my professional diploma in software technology and systems management at the same time as my Bachelor of Commerce in Accountancy Honors as I could do the course quite effortlessly and also ended up getting scholarships on the computer course based on my grades.

When I graduated with my Bachelor of Commerce and Software diploma at the same time, the software institute offered me to do another semester that included internship working on a real life software project at a company. It was an opportunity to earn back the amount i had spent on the 2 year program within the year. It sounded like a great thing to work on a real software project that a company will use. Also, the opportunity to repay my Dad for the course was enticing. That’s what got me into a software profession. I loved the 24 hours 7 days a week project to help a securities and stock brokerage company go from manual to computerization. After that I just kept going. It has been 21 years and it has been an exciting journey.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Lots of cool projects over the period of 21 years. Will mention three :

  1. Client satisfaction – It was wonderful to help a courier company bring the Track and trace feature on the package which was quite unique at the time. It was great to see all the courier companies quickly bring in that feature into their website soon after.
  2. Corporate Social responsibility – As part of IBM, it was great to work on the Computer Literacy project for under privileged youth in order to get them into jobs, bring more girls into technology through the Women in Technology K-12 program. This experience helped me to co-found and run a non-profit organization Workshop4Me.
  3. Managing a custom software development project to manage logistics for a life sciences company that was finding a unique cancer cure using blood transfusion. This project was very special since it showed me how lines of code and managing the project was directly impacting the lives of human beings.

Role models and heroes:
Have been fortunate to have several heroes and role models…they are not all necessarily known world over. My Dad who always encouraged me to do the best in what I choose to do. When I said I wanted to sit for the Chartered Accountancy exam because all my friends were doing it and I would just give it a shot and not necessarily put my best to it, he said, if I wanted to do something I should put my entire focus and effort on it, or else not go for it at all. I did my software course instead as I told him I was more interested in that. This focus helped me to succeed.

Several colleagues from work have been role models showing that it is possible to be a wife, daughter, mother and STEMinist at the same time. It is important to “see it and then be it.”

Why do you loving working in STEM?
It gives me an opportunity to create, build, share and see the fruits of labor within a short period of time. The problem solving in order to make something better is exciting. Workshop4Me, through which we inspire the pre-teens and teens to take up coding in order to move from being ‘consumer’ using technology to ‘creator’ using technology is fun. The joy on the faces of the 7-16 year olds when they make something happen using code is rewarding. Getting to see how stuff works and sharing it with others is heart warming.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Give it a shot! You might enjoy it more than you think. Try to learn something new as often as you can. Just because you have not done it before does not mean you cannot do it now. Be curious and do not be scared of opening up something to figure out how it works even if you will not be able to put it back together. Ask questions. Speak up. Don’t worry too much about what people will think or say ; just do your thing. Time is the most valuable resource you have. Decide wisely what you want to do with it. Do not follow anyone’s advice, do what feels right to you!

Favorite website or app:Google, Workshop4Me.org, MIT Technology Review, Fortune, Time, MIT Open courseware Nightsky, compass, Google maps

Twitter: @Workshop4Me

Site: Workshop4Me.org

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Sharon Lin, Founder at StuyHacks, BitxBit Camp

Sharon Lin

Founder

StuyHacks, BitxBit Camp


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
STEM has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember, but the biggest catalyst for my interest in pursuing a career in the field came in middle school, when I became involved in the Technology Student Association. From creating video games and websites to designing products for manufacturing and interview skills, I’ve learned so much from the organization and its annual competitions.

There is no end to the possibilities that you can pursue with a career in STEM – from research to advocacy to education to numerous other choices, the problem solving and critical thinking skills that STEM equips you are useful in nearly every possible sector. The support that the STEM community has for one another is also an incredible part of my life, and one of the biggest perks of being involved in STEM.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
At DCHacks 2016, my team and I created an automated voice-to-text notetaking app. It was my first time working with Microsoft APIs, and most of the conference prizes had been funded by Microsoft, so we were immensely interested incorporated some of the technology into our application. The majority of the mentors were also surprised at our task, as they hadn’t been able to make a similar app at another hackathon.

We managed to stay up for most of the 24 hours building the backend for the site, which required reverse-engineering parts of the API in order to understand their usage and then manipulating it further in order to fit into the framework of our web app. We finally managed to create the prototype for what would become our iOS app that we submitted to the competition, which won Honorable Mention from the Microsoft staff for incorporating their date-time API, voice-to-text API, and languages pack.

Role models and heroes:
Hedy Lamarr has always been one of my favorite actresses, but my respect for her grew immensely upon the discovery that she was also an accomplished inventor. Her drive and her innovation to create numerous inventions throughout her lifetime despite the stigma against women in STEM and actresses is incredibly admirable, and I’ve always looked up to how she has defied every Hollywood deeming women as unintelligent and incapable of pursuing science and research.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
It’s so empowering to be able to look at a real world problem and think to yourself, “I know how I can solve that.” Being able to use my own skills to solve nearly any problem I encounter is one of the gifts that being involved in STEM has given me.

Even more so, being able to tackle some of the world’s greatest problems, such as renewable energy and food waste through experiments and research is something that not everyone can say they do on a daily basis. I also love how discoveries are always being made every day, and how you never know when the next big breakthrough will be – maybe it might come from you!

Advice for future STEMinists?
Look for a mentor who can help you succeed. I would not have gotten all of the opportunities I’ve received in my life had I not had the help of a number of mentors. From my elementary school teacher Kathy Bradley and math teacher Caren MacConnell to my research mentors at NYU, I’ve learned so much just from being in their company and working alongside them. Having a mentor to support you through hardships and successes is incredibly rewarding, and it’s probably one of the reasons why I fell in love with the STEM field in the first place.

Favorite website or app:
I love Google Calendar. I use it to organize nearly every aspect of my life, and its ability to track to-do lists and agendas has saved me on a number of occasions. From planning events to booking meetups and calls, it’s an incredibly versatile and useful tool.

Twitter: @sharontlin

Site: sharonlin.me

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Jennifer Davis, Vice President of Marketing and Product Strategy at Planar Systems

Jennifer Davis

Vice President of Marketing and Product Strategy at Planar Systems

Planar Systems


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I pursued a degree in the liberal arts, studying history with the intention of writing and teaching, when a mentor of mine challenged me. He said “before you go out to write history, why don’t you make some history first?” I got an internship in college at a software start-up and that started my career in high technology, which has led to me to positions at Intel and now Planar. I enjoy the pace of the business, the innovation that I am surrounded by, and the personal opportunities for growth.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
It is hard to choose just one! One that comes to mind is working on the architectural video wall product that Planar launched a few years ago called Planar® Mosaic™. This was a new category of product that required coordination and influence around the globe: with suppliers, specifiers, and customers. To see the projects that people are now doing with this video product is very satisfying as they look like they walked out of my early strategy presentations when the idea was first pitched and green lighted. In this process, I was able to use my skills of visioning, influence, teamwork, and strategy and to see something brand new come to market.

Role models and heroes:
I have had the pleasure to work with many great leaders throughout my career and to be influenced by many professionals through their books, blogs, speeches, and podcasts. As a woman in technology, I admire what Meg Whitman, Sheryl Sandberg, and Marissa Mayer have done to pave the way for women in top roles. I have gotten great advice from my colleagues and managers over the years and am learning things each week from my own team and peers at Planar. And I remember one of my first managers, Roxanna, who taught those of us who worked in her retail store the power of servant leadership.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love innovation. I love doing things never before imagined. I like being on the cutting-edge of technology and helping to lead people to it’s true benefits. I like working on smart, capable teams who are empathetic advocates for our customers.

Advice for future STEMinists?
First off, you can have a wonderful career in STEM if you apply yourself, persevere, and seek out feedback along the way. Don’t shy away from being a subject matter expert, with hands-on and in-depth experience in a particular area of study.

Favorite website or app:
I use Evernote. I use it on my desktop, phone, and on my smart watch. When a blog idea strikes me for atjenniferdavis.com or for the Planar blog, with the touch of a button I can jot down the note for future reference.

Twitter: @jenniferdavis

Site: atjenniferdavis.com

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Miranda Nash, Co-founder / CEO – qeople.com

MirandaNash-color

Miranda Nash

Co-founder / CEO

qeople.com (Pre-launch tech startup)



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
The foundation for my interest in STEM was laid early, in about third grade. My dad would spend evenings giving me word problems that required increasingly difficult algebra. That was fun! I competed on the high school math team and have always loved strategy board games but had never been into video games or anything more directly related to technology. In high school I had an amazing physics teacher who brought the subject to life, and I thought I would major in Physics at Stanford.

As a requirement, I took my first computer science class and loved the combination of theory and practice (not to mention I got better grades in CS than physics). Then, I got accepted to be a “CS106 Section Leader” – an undergraduate teaching younger undergrads how to program in C. From that point, I was hooked. The fact that computer science could actually be lucrative never entered my thinking until much later.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Cool has never been a label I adopted easily for myself… The most *gratifying* projects cover a wide range, depending on the career phase. Early on, I was able to get the database development organization at Oracle to change the way we handled versioning and source control to be more useful and efficient. Later, I found a little-known data integration company that cleverly used heterogeneous databases for data transformations, which we acquired and I led into a new business unit at Oracle.

Most recently, I am starting an online curated talent marketplace. Our mission is to use video, data, assessment, and automation to bring qualified non-traditional professionals into the workplace, while helping companies sidestep the escalating talent wars. A disproportionate number of highly qualified women choose not to participate in paid work, and by embracing non-traditional work models, we can change that.

Role models and heroes:
Famous role models include Sheryl Sandberg, Safra Catz, Rachel Maddow, and Mika Brzezinski (all feminists, some STEMinists). Other role models include male and female senior managers I have worked with closely at Oracle, Oxygen Equity, and Jobscience (Thomas Kurian, Barbara Mowry, Chuck Rozwat, Rich Kelley, Vicki Appel). Finally, my two sisters who are both STEMinists and my mom who raised three STEMinists are personal heroes.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I am a pretty competitive person, and STEM is the playing field that is changing the world and ultimately making it a better place. First, I want to be on the right playing field. Second, I want to win.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Don’t get discouraged from a STEM path because the labels don’t fit. For example, I have always felt excluded by the labels used for great computer science people: “rockstar programmer” and “hacker”. Or, some of you may feel uncomfortable with “feminist” or “STEMinist”. It doesn’t matter. Do something you can do well with passion for a sustained time, and the labels will go away. You will construct your own meaningful career.

Favorite website or app:
Most time spent: LinkedIn
Favorite for personal organization: Trello
Favorite for business: Envato Marketplace
Favorite innovative apps/businesses led by women: OneKingsLane.com, UrbanSitter.com

Twitter: @mirandanash

Site: linkedin.com/in/mirandanash

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Taryn Musgrave, Chief Operations Officer for Robogals Global

Taryn Musgrave

Chief Operations Office & Full Time Student

Robogals Global


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I just LOVE technology and maths! I always wanted to do something a little bit different and I love being able to solve problems. When I was younger I didn’t really know what I wanted to do… I wanted to work with computers but I didn’t have much thought beyond that. I ended up in an Engineering role and have since then come full circle back to Computer Science. I have always been an advocate of women in STEM roles and I am involved in promoting women in STEM roles as part of my role. I think when a maths problem, an engineering marvel, a physics discovery or a particularly tricky code solution gets you excited you have no choice! I have found my passion.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
There have been plenty of cool projects along the way. Each project is different: different challenges and different people. One of the coolest projects was when I was living in Northern Australia. A train had derailed and destroyed a section of track and a point machine. I was on a team of two and we spent the next 12 hours rebuilding this machine from scratch. It involved physical labour, resourceful thinking, problem solving and teamwork to be able to get this machine up and running again. This project gave me a sense of achievement when the machine first operated.

Generally speaking my favourite projects are the ones that have an unexpected outcome and help people. I am a big advocate for volunteering and helping people as much as possible. Sharing knowledge and skills with others develops not only them but myself as well.

Role models and heroes:

  • Amy Poehler – just plain inspirational
  • Helen Pederson – for helping me find the confidence to pursue my dreams. Her Open the Door project provides education and aims to address the issues women face in the engineering industry when returning to the workforce after having children.
  • Karen San Miguel – a fantastic woman who promotes tech to young people through CoderDojo in WA. Also an all-round awesome person.
  • Marita Cheng – founder of Robogals. I would not have the wonderful opportunity I have now if Marita didn’t get the ball rolling.
  • My Husband – he is so patient, kind and supportive. He is such a positive male role model. I am so lucky to have him in my life.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
Every day is different! I love to help people and solve problems. In my current role I get to visit schools and encourage girls to think about STEM as a potential career path. There is nothing more exciting than a group of young girls who never knew that their love of maths and science could be part of their future career. The girls that I meet surprise me every time. Their ingenuity and ‘out of the box’ thinking just blows me away. I meet so many older women who have lost that along the way and I want to encourage everyone to become themselves again. Through my different jobs in STEM I have been knee deep in snow fixing track circuits on the railway in England, responding to faults in Northern Australia in temperatures that melted my work boots, and currently sharing the awesome places STEM careers can take you with girls around the world.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Jump! If you find something you love doing, then do it! Happy people are successful people. Work takes up a substantial part of your life so it is important to love what you are doing. If you make a mistake, you learn. If you chose the wrong path, you can change it. Nothing is set in stone.

Favorite website or app:

  • Twitter – I love to tweet! Twitter connects me with the world and lets me discover so many new people 🙂
  • Slack – Newly discovered. It allows me to keep up with my team on a regular informal basis.

Twitter: @tarynmusgrave

Blog

No Surprises at Amazon

This week Amazon became the latest company to join the craze of releasing diversity statistics. While disappointing, the presented figures weren’t at all unexpected, as Amazon joined the other tech giants in displaying a vastly un-diverse picture on their diversity report.

Over a month after the company was pressed by Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition and publications like USA Today to release race and gender breakdowns of its workforce, Amazon quietly responded by posting a page on their website about various diversity initiatives the company is involved with. No official announcement was made by Amazon management about the numbers, and corporate spokespeople have been silent in response to questions about the figures.

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For us at STEMinist, the overwhelming majority of men in the company –especially in managerial positions where just 25% are women– is especially troubling when considering the fact that this is for the company overall. Unlike other tech diversity reports seen in recent months, Amazon chose not to disclose the diversity numbers for its technical staff, which are undoubtedly even more dismal.

While Amazon does sport internal “affinity groups” like AWE (Amazon Women in Engineering), this doesn’t make up for the disparity in proportions. There was no time lost by Amazon in avoiding blame for that problem, declaring it as something that begins in schools.

“We know that in middle school and high school, students are already deciding what professions they want to pursue,” stated Amazon’s report. “More often than not female students and students of color are opting out of technology and engineering.”

They propose to be part of the solution by pumping money and resources into organizations focused on improving the “pipeline” for STEM minorities.

“To broaden our impact, we partner with the Anita Borg Institute to sponsor events such as the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. We also provide resources and volunteers to Code.org to increase access to computing in high school, and we host Girls Who Code to provide hands-on coding education. We actively assist these students to enroll in national programs such as Aspirations in Computing with the National Center for Women & Information Technology.”

While every effort made is something to be celebrated and appreciated, only time (and their next diversity report) will tell if Amazon truly stands behind their commitment to inclusion.

 

 

Blog

Will the Women in Tech Please Stand Up?

Unless you’ve been living under an internet-less rock for the last few months, you’ve probably noticed the huge increase in attention that the tech gender gap has gotten recently. The latest conclusion that the online community has reached is that women just don’t want to work in tech.

That statement seems a bit misleading. Saying that women don’t want to work in tech implies that there is something inherent in the technology itself that women just don’t like. There isn’t. We’re finally seeing more women choosing to enroll in STEM programs, so the interest is there. The myth that women aren’t as good at math and science as men are has long been debunked. So what exactly is keeping the ratio in technology so highly in men’s favor?

It’s true, there is the ever-present “boys’ club” mentality, and it hasn’t gone away. The “brogrammer” culture is unfortunately as strong as ever, meaning any woman who wants to try to balance a career with family life (or any sort of life outside of work and work parties) automatically has a lot on her plate. Add to that the fact that companies like Facebook and Apple seem to think that paying for a woman to freeze her eggs is more helpful for the female population than arranging for maternity leave and childcare, and you’ve got a doozy to deal with.

These are definitely problems, and ones that need to be solved. However, the best way to do that is to show these companies that women are active players in the technology arena and are here to stay. That brings us to the next problem facing ladies who are trying to get started in the industry: Where are the women who have already made it?

Where are the ladies who have hunkered down and shown the brogrammers that we can play ball? Who out there has found a tech job that allows them to have the work-life balance they need? How have women already in tech negotiated for higher salaries and better benefits?

These women exist, so where are they?

Jane Porter, from FastCompany, looked at why women seem to be leaving STEM jobs in droves and unsurprisingly honed in on a sense of isolation, biased evaluations, a lack of sponsors, and a lack of women mentors as some of the top reasons. All of these can be easily solved if the women who are already anchored in the world of technology look out for those just getting started.

For women to finally close the gender gap, we need not just sponsors and mentors, but true role models. So will the women in tech please stand up?

Are you a woman already making waves in STEM? We want to feature YOU on the STEMinist site! Stand up and help inspire future female leaders in STEM by sending us your information HERE. Keep up the amazing work!

Blog

An Interview with Computer Science Professor Dr. Rebecca Wright

This summer, while at the NJ Governor’s School for Engineering and Technology, I was able to meet one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Rebecca Wright. After the program ended, I was also able to interview Dr. Wright about her experiences and insight into engineering. Dr. Wright is both a professor and researcher at Rutgers University for computer science, cyber security, and communications security. She attended Columbia University for her Bachelor’s degree and Yale University for her Ph.D.

As a little girl, both of her parents went to MIT and she was surrounded by female engineers. She was raised thinking that this was the norm, and that there were a decent number of women working in STEM fields. In fact, those women that she was surrounded by were a vast majority of female engineers and scientists in the world. Nevertheless, they collectively influenced Dr. Wright’s early decision to work in the computer science field. In high school, she chose computer science over playing the piano, deeming musical skills something that she needed more inherent talent for and engineering skills something more practical that she could work hard towards.

And indeed, a computer science degree was a hard major to work towards. I, based on my dramatically mind-exploding experiences in calculus, felt obliged to ask if the majority of the math classes she took in college were inapplicable to her current research and career. Dr. Wright admitted that the certain theoretical math classes were not useful, but the math learned from computer science classes was very important. In her first year of college, the discrete math requisite is what thoroughly fascinated and solidified her passion for computer science.

One of Dr. Wright’s most recent research projects focuses on human mobility modeling. Cellular networks provide the necessary data. She inferred home and work locations from each caller ID to create a model of users and their call behavior. Then, she created synthetic users with their calls based on the model. It effectively reproduced the real life population density distributions. The second project examined privacy on social media. Dr. Wright introduced a concept called side channels— information channels that are secondary to the intended communication channel but convey additional relevant information.

To examine side channels, Dr. Wright created an experimental Facebook account and discovered many “loopholes” or side channels that revealed information intended to be blocked (ie. friends’ restrictions). She conducted a survey to determine user awareness and concern about these side channels. One survey question asked if the user was aware that edit history was visible to anyone who can see the post. This type of research enables Dr. Wright to find and solve cyber security problems.

Outside of research, Dr. Wright has been to several leadership summits in Europe, China, Malaysia, Israel, etc. Communication, above all, is key. Thus, in response to my mentioning of the stereotype that engineers are bad writers, Dr. Wright laughed and stated that whether it was true or not, writing is crucial to engineering; after all, the discovery or invention is worthless
without effective communication.

As for personal advice, she underscored the work required to pursue such a career. Speaking from the experience of rushing to finish a research paper, completing arduous and sometimes arcane math classes, and many sleepless nights, Dr. Wright was sure to remind me that the path to becoming an engineer was not nearly as easy as she made it out to be. Laughing, I stated that I had and would never underestimate the effort.

Blog

STEMinist Profile: Martina Simicic, Software engineer

Martina Simicic

Software engineer

Inspire



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I was always good at math but when choosing college I decided to go for Business Informatics. I finished it and still wanted to be a project manager. While writing my masters thesis on agile project management I got an internship as a Scrum coach.

Since I was extremely bored, after a week I joined a team of developers that was trying out a new thing called Ruby on Rails. I never went back to project management. From that time on I was learning as much as I could, every single day! I am now teaching others and I am loving it!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
There were a few but if I have to name it, http://schoooools.com/ (it has been a while since anyone has worked on it). It was a social network for teachers, parents and students to connect, create content, share and learn from each other. It had some really nice features!

And the current project: https://www.kanker.nl/. It’s a place where people with cancer can find information, connect with each other, share stories and experiences.

Role models and heroes:
I have to be honest, I am not very good at those. It would be maybe someone from the field that I worked with and that I admire a lot but those are all small-big people.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I think working on something that people need and use can be very rewarding!

Advice for future STEMinists?
Are you doubting?

Favorite website or app:
http://stackoverflow.com/
http://www.quora.com/

Twitter: @pazinjanka

Site: martinasimicic.com