Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Experience : The Measure of Tomorrow

Daniella was part of a delegation of four CU-WISE members who recently travelled to Toronto to attend the 2014 WISE National Conference. In the next coming weeks you'll get to hear from all the delegates. Here are Daniella's impressions.

UofT WISE hosted its second National Conference on March 22-23 in downtown Toronto. The theme of this year’s conference was “Experience: The Measure of Tomorrow”. The mission was to provide us with inspiration and direction for leading our lives as we embark upon professional careers. [Aren't you excited about the rest of this post? I bet you are!]. For this post, I decided to take you to the Opening Keynote speech given by Kathy Lee

Kathy Lee, President & CEO of GE Capital Canada opened the conference with these words “If you’re not failing enough, are you challenging yourself enough?”. She went on and reminded us that we have to make things happen! Failure is an option but fear is not. [Quite a reminder since I (and maybe you do too) sometimes tend to let fear sit in a corner of my mind, but I’m not renting that space anymore!]. We should have a POSITIVE and CAN DO attitude. 

WISENC14 - Opening Keynote

Now, what are the success factors to effectively gain experience? Her answers were the right environment and the right attitude. 

  • The right environment - You might need several trials but it's about: 
  1. Choosing a workplace you feel involved in
  2. Choosing a workplace you are inspired by

  • The right attitude 
  1. Vision: “The only thing worst than being blind is having sight with no vision” Helen Keller 
  2. Networking: Have Coaches, Role Models, Connections and Sponsors 
  3. Continuous Learning: Never stop learning! 
  4. Risk Taking: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk” Mark Zuckerberg 
  5. Personal Branding: Differentiate yourself. Value what you are good at and have your personal signature. 

Kathy also warned us about the battle that always takes place between our Plan (e.g. I’m going to graduate, have an awesome position, climb the career ladder, have kids by 30…) VS Reality (e.g. You don’t see any career ladder at all. It’s your 30th birthday and you are wondering if the father of your children is lost in another dimension because you have no kids yet). It’s okay if your reality does not match your plan. In fact, nobody has it all figured out and you won’t have all the answers. So, don’t get too attached to your plan and be open to change. We have to learn how to deal with challenges and change. Do not only embrace change, thrive with it! Plus, what we think as failure might not be failure but strength. You learn from every experience you gain and every risk you take. So, be bold, be fierce and be fearless!
Besides, Kathy also recommended to surround ourselves with people who will give good advice (Family, friends, ….)

The President & CEO of GE Capital Canada concluded with these notes : “Keep Calm and Enjoy your Life” and beware  “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them and they have consequences” (Jack Welch) [See this Wall Street Journal article]

I really had a great experience at the WISE National Conference and I hope you appreciated your ride to the opening keynote! 

Stay great,

Daniella is a Master's student in Electrical and Computer Engineering. One of her dreams is to inspire more women to embrace STEM careers and unleash their full potential. Although she is hardworking and can be very serious, she enjoys comedy and dancing, has a big sense of humour, and believes that a little kindness goes a long way!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Gaining Inspiration from Successful Women at the 2014 WISE National Conference

Francisca was part of a delegation of four CU-WISE members who recently traveled to Toronto to attend the 2014 WISE National Conference. In the next coming weeks you'll get to hear from all the delegates. Here are Francisca's impressions.

The returns of a 4-hour train ride along with three other goal oriented ladies as delegates to the Women in Science and Engineering National Conference 2014 hosted by the University of Toronto’s WISE chapter at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, Toronto only proved that indeed nothing is more important in life than experience, and truly it is “The Measure of Tomorrow”. The experiences benefited between the 22-23rd of March only reiterated, the quote “Learn what not to do from the experience of others. It's cheaper than your own” (J. Winter Smith). And for the organisers, know that the purpose of providing the delegates with inspiration and direction for leading our lives as we embark upon our professional careers has totally been fulfilled.

The experiences gained from successful women who have strived against all odds to make an impact in this tidal ocean of voracious challenges, daring obstacles and unmovable barriers has left an indelible mark filling me with invaluable experience. They have painstakingly given their time, shared their experiences with me and now I know.

From Kathy Lee, President and CEO of GE Capital Canada, I have learnt to have a vision, to cultivate good relationships, to strive to continue learning, to be a wise and articulated risk taker, and have a personal brand. I have learnt to devote myself to the next idea, to give myself a year to change, survive and thrive knowing that everything would look similar when I get back. From her experiences, I now know that in the early stages of my career, when I think it is not happening I would only be surprised by how much I have learnt and how many people I know.

From Lesley-Ann Scorgie, a trusted financial advisor and best-selling author of ‘Rich by Thirty’ and ‘Rich by 40’, I have met Oprah Winfrey (Interesting!!!!). I  have learnt how to harness my financial potential by curbing excessive spending, gaining financial literacy, having good money management skills, and being financially independent by saving better, spending wisely only on things that grow in value and most importantly, increasing my income through creative ideas. Now I can follow the right path to being a self-made millionaire.

From Swati Mylavarapu, leading Canadian business growth and development at Square, I know that the term career path is not expected to be a one way street but in some cases even a maze-like road which only keeps on unfolding as I met a corner. I know that only the decision to succeed come what may and make an impact in this world of ours would in the end propel me to greater heights and navigate me through the thick bushes of the fierce career circle.

From Marilyn Mcharg, President and CEO of Dignitas International, I have learnt that investing my time in order to reach out to others just as she gave her time to many souls opening up opportunities to improved health and access to quality treatment is not only the right thing to do but also because its ripple effect travels millions of miles all over the world saving lives. I have realised that rest can only be found when working in saving the lives of people dying day-by-day from terrible diseases cutting short their lifespan untimely.

And then it was time to return. "There was no need to cry because the event was over, rather it was to smile because it happened" Dr. Seuss. Now to me, as all of these women encompassed in my experience bosom deeply rooted in my fragile framework, and knowing that “Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him”  Aldous Huxley, I am back to my lectures, assignment deadlines and research thesis, with a clear goal and vision and new pool of strength to strive beyond whatever limit I had set for myself going beyond borders to explore, impact and most of all have fun as the best , unbeatable and unstoppable female Systems  Engineer the world is yet to meet. My mind once enlightened by this cannot again become dark (Thomas Paine). I am more than I was before.


Francisca F. Adaramola is a Graduate Student in Systems and Computer Engineering at Carleton University. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Celebrate Yourself - A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform!

International Women’s Day is celebrated all over the world on March 8th. This year, the official theme is “Inspiring Change”. March is also the National Engineering Month and the theme of National Engineering Month Ontario 2014 is ‘Make a World of Difference’! [I bet you guessed where I’m going with this! And yes, I’m very excited about being a woman AND in engineering!]

I absolutely love that there is a day dedicated to women, and I couldn't help but write a post. As women, we can make a world of difference by inspiring change for more women in science, engineering, and technology. Every time, I hear girls afraid to embrace STEM careers because they might not be good at it [See myths about girls and science], or because it’s a man’s world [but again as the song says “it would be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl”], my heart breaks a little. It’s important to close the STEM gender gap [Check out why here]. Here are few 'natural' reasons that show that women have what it takes:
  • Diane MarieChild once said that “A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform”. This is not only valid in the “Carrying babies” context. It also applies to a plethora of domains. Engineering is about creating, designing, transforming what was before into greater things for the humanity welfare. So, ladies … Engineering might turn out to be more natural to us than we think.
  • Engineering is about using scientific knowledge to solve problems. I find it fantastic to solve problems on a regular basis in a way that might change people's lives [It’s almost like being a superhero]. Again, women also have problem solving skills and love to help others.
  • Women’s brains do not freeze when they encounter equations or complex mathematical tables and formulas. Here are graphs that refute the idea that women are bad at Math.
  • I could go on and on with arguments but today is about celebrating Women in Science and Engineering! 
Why is it essential to do so? Because as Women in Science and Engineering, we are going against the stereotypes. We are also the ones responsible of changing implicit biases [Read Natalie’s blog post and this chapter]. Recent studies indicate that people don’t think implicitly of females being associated with STEM related careers when compared to other careers such as teacher, secretary, etc. These unconscious beliefs or implicit biases may be more powerful than explicitly held beliefs and values simply because we are not aware of them. We need to remind ourselves [yes, sometimes we hold ourselves back!] and the society that women have a lot to offer and their potential can't be reduced to just sitting and being pretty. As Nancy Rathburn said “A strong woman understands that the gifts such as logic, decisiveness, and strength are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection. She values and uses all of her gifts.”

CU-WISE is celebrating you!

Being present, leaning in and talking about our experiences as Women in STEM are ways to change these biases and have more girls embrace STEM! We are creating, nurturing and transforming the image of Women in STEM.
So Celebrate Yourself!!! You are inspiring change and making a world of difference!

Stay great,

Daniella is a Master's student in Electrical and Computer Engineering. One of her dreams is to inspire more women to embrace STEM careers and unleash their full potential. Although she is hardworking and can be very serious, she enjoys comedy and dancing, has a big sense of humour, and believes that a little kindness goes a long way!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2014 - Retrospective and Resolution

A brand new year is upon us! I thought it would only be fitting to write a retrospective post on how my CU-WISE experience has gone in 2013. [Yes, I’m the kind of person who does retrospectives, looks back on events, tracks opportunities for improvements and celebrates achievements!]. So, ladies and gentlemen fasten your seat belts, we are about to time travel!!! 

It all started in September 2013! I was new at Carleton and looking for some extra curricular activities. I've always been interested in encouraging girls in engineering and couldn't resist when I discovered that CU-WISE was looking for volunteers for the Throwback Kids Activities. I met wonderful ladies who volunteered as well and the experience was quite memorable. It’s outstanding how little kids can remind you all you love about what you do, and re-sparkle your interest. I was in charge of the Snap Circuits activity [By the way, I still can’t believe that Santa never got me one of those electronic snap circuits!] which is a great and fun way to learn about electronics and get a working project (From adjustable light control to FM Radio).

Testing her flying saucer, Snap Circuits at the Throwback Kids Activities
Go Eng Girl took place shortly after. We had girls in grades 7 to 10 come to learn more about engineering. This event included hands-on design projects.This time, I was leading the Scratch team. Scratch is a tool developed by MIT that uses simple blocks and offers an easy way to learn programming. For this activity, we asked students to implement their own interactive story/game. Again, young minds amazed us with creative ideas and projects.

The girl who amazed us all, SCRATCH at Go ENG Girl 2013

Finally, the Woman in Research Event was held in mid December. The event invites High School girls to hear from Carleton leading female researchers about what inspired them to go into science and engineering. It’s always awesome to volunteer for this kind of event as you might be inspired along the way. And that’s what happened to me! Every speaker made me realize that we are not fully aware of our capabilities and we have to keep going [Keep in mind that doing it right doesn't always feel like it] :

Keynote Speakers, Women In Research Event 2013

  • “Engineering is for everyone!” Dr Cynthia Cruickshank
  • “Education is important and it’s an investment in you!” Natalie Linklater
  • “I didn’t know that I had that capability! You have to tell yourself that you can do it.” Dr Winnie Ye

The point : All the presenters turned out to be just as human as you and me! They all faced struggles, doubts and setbacks but kept going and achieved the amazing results that you can read on each biography!

Along the way, I became more than a volunteer and joined the WISE team. 
So, if you are looking for a resolution for 2014, volunteering for WISE might be a great one! Imagine the university becoming a place where you can inspire, be inspired and leave a legacy… How awesome would it be? 

Happy New Year!

Stay great,

Daniella is a Master's student in Electrical and Computer Engineering. One of her dreams is to inspire more women to embrace STEM careers and unleash their full potential. Although she is hardworking and can be very serious, she enjoys comedy and dancing, has a big sense of humour, and believes that a little kindness goes a long way!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The power of Thoughts: You can do anything you set set your mind to!

I recently attended a lecture on the power of thoughts and I was literally floored [Feels awesome when you have tons of projects]! It’s a subject near and dear to me because it can be life changing. Now, you may already know that you should care about your self-talk. Let me tell you why it’s important, especially for women in science and engineering.

Few weeks ago, Sheryl Sandberg shared at the CBS This Morning show that "The data says that stereotypes hold us [women] back. The reason girls don't think they're good in math and science is because everyone tells them they're not good at science. Studies show that if right before a math test you tell girls, 'Girls are good at math' or 'Girls do well on the test,' they do better." Of course, people are not always available to tell you how awesome you are and how great you are going to do! That’s why you need to help yourself [and those around you]: Tap your back and convince your wonderful mind that you can do it [exams, projects, whatever awesome dream you have]! You will be amazed at the results.

Back on my lecture about “The Power Thoughts”, the professor - a well-known engineer - showed us how thoughts are converted to chemical, physiological actions and reactions. The next experiment perfectly proved how thoughts can induce a chemical reaction:
  •  Think about a lemon - a sour candy - a green lime
  •  Imagine cutting a wedge of lemon or lime
  •  Imagine smelling the lemon or lime
  •  Take the wedge of the lemon and put it in your mouth.
  •  Chew the wedge of the lemon - the very sour juice of the lemon now comes into your mouth and stimulates your taste buds
  •  Concentrate - close your eyes and don’t block your thoughts - make it a reality for yourself.
  • You will notice that your mouth became more watery. Salivary glands have responded to the sour taste of the lemon/lime thoughts. QED!

Don’t let that impostor syndrome fool you! Shut “anti-self” thoughts and shine bright. Success begins in your mind! So, next time negative thoughts creep in your mind, remind yourself (yes, you!) that you are awesome, smart and ready to rock the world!

Stay great!

P.S.: Just because I love quotes, here is a related to today’s topic:

For more:

Check out this blog about the power of choosing your thoughts:

Also watch the following TED talk to find out how your power posing can boost your confidence. It might help you if you feel nervous every time you have a presentation or an interview ;-)

Daniella is a Master's student in Electrical and Computer Engineering. One of her dreams is to inspire more women to embrace STEM careers and unleash their full potential. Although she is hardworking and can be very serious, she enjoys comedy and dancing, has a big sense of humour, and believes that a little kindness goes a long way!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

GHC 2013 Highlights Reel

Since I wasn't able to blog during the conference, I thought I would write a short (actually not that short) highlights reel! Enjoy!

The opening keynote for GHC was, in a wait. I can't encapsulate this in a word. It needs several. Amazing, Passionate. Thought provoking. Poignant. And every word true. The keynote, by Sheryl Sandberg, and discussion that followed, with Maria Klawe and Telle Whitney, brought a lot of things to the forefront of my mind that I hadn't considered before. And all of them were true. I'd never really thought about why I was one of only four girls (that I knew of) when I started my CS undergrad. In fact, that number soon dropped to 3. 

The speakers really explored deep-rooted biases and stereotypes. There were two things that really stuck with me through this session. The first of these was the analogy of women in the technical field being likened to a race. If a woman and a man were to start a race at the same time, both equally fit, what voices would the hear? Sheryl stated that the man would hear things like, "Good job! You've got this! Great start!". However, the woman would be hearing, "Are you sure this is something you want to do? Should you start a race you won't finish? Is this the kind of example you want to set for your kids?" As the race goes on, these voices get louder on both sides. The man is hearing, "You're doing great! Just a bit farther! You're almost there!". And the woman hears, "Should you be working this much? What about maternity leave? Are you sure this is the field for you?" This lead nicely into the second point that stuck with me--that this bias starts very, very young. Sheryl asked us to think about this scenario: If you go to a park and watch a bunch of children playing, what are the reactions to the children that take the lead? If the child is a boy, a lot of the time the reactions are, "Oh look! How sweet. He's going to be a great leader one day." However, if the child is a girl, the reactions, both from children and adults, is more along the lines of, "You're so bossy!" Why are little boys leaders while little girls are bossy? This story really drove home the point that we need to start fixing these biases, and we need to start doing it early if we want our little girls to grow up and feel like they have a shot at a leadership position. Sheryl told us the next time we saw this happening that we should march right up and go, "That little girl isn't bossy. That little girl has executive leadership skills."

The second keynote speaker, Megan Smith, was just amazing. She focused on the really cool things that she's been doing lately, and that she did in the past. She showed as that being a woman in this field doesn't always need to be a bad thing. It can be taken advantage of to learn new things and have great opportunities. Just hearing about all the projects she has worked on, and all the projects she still wants to work on, was inspiring. It sounded like she had done more in one year of college than I have my entire academic career! It seems I'll need to set my sights higher.

There were three panels in particular that really stuck out to me through the conference. The first panel was a, "Quiet Success" panel, which focused on how introverts can be successful and thrive in the extrovert-centred environment of leadership roles. The entire panel was made up of self-identified introverts who were really pushing themselves forward in typically extrovert-dominated roles. One of the things that was discussed was a key difference between introverts and extroverts that I had heard outlined in a TED talk before: where introverts and extroverts get their energy. Extroverts get their energy by being with people and getting hyped up, being alone too often can be stifling for them. However, introverts get their energy by "recharging" with some alone time. They can spend time with people, it just costs us energy to do so, contrary to an extrovert. The panel also emphasized that this wasn't a hard-and-fast rule as everyone can be any mix of introverted and extroverted tendencies. Each panelist outlined some of their coping mechanisms both for dealing with other introverts, extroverts, and being in stressful situations. The one tip that I really loved was something along the lines of, "Love yourself and project that to the world. You don't need to have mountains of confidence, just project that you are okay with who you are, and it will all be fine." This reminded me very much of another TED talk (are you sensing a theme here?) where a woman was talking about the typical advice of, "Fake it 'til you make it." She stated that, instead of faking it until we make it, we should fake it until we become it. That's always stuck with me.

The second panel that I really loved was the talk by Thad Starner on wearable computing. He walked through a bunch of the wearable computing devices that have been made and research--many of which he has worked on himself, including very early prototypes of a Google Glass like system (spoilers he worked on Glass too). It was amazing hearing the different types of wearable computing that he's been working on both to benefit a typical end user as well as those with special needs. Two of the particularly inspiring projects he detailed were a glove that trained a hand's muscle memory (they used it to teach a hand to play a song on the piano) and the work he's been doing to use wearable computing to help young deaf children, as well as their parents, learn American Sign Language.

The final panel I'm going to talk about really took the cake for me, as I'm sure many other people would agree to as well. It was the panel by Brenda Chapman, the writer and director of the Pixar movie Brave. And who has worked on just about every other awesome movie from my childhood (e.g., Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, etc.). She talked about trying to break into and working in a male-dominated field, and some of the key principles she has learned over the years to really help her succeed. One of these was to make the most of opportunities. She outlined how she had been thrilled to learn she had been hired as a novice story artist by Disney after she had graduated from art school. For about three seconds, after which the guy telling her she'd gotten the job said it was because she was a woman, as they needed to really start filling out that quota. She told us how crushed she was, and then her resolution to make the most of it. I loved when she told us that, "It's okay. I have my foot in the door. I don't *like* how my foot is in the door, but it's in the door. Now I'll just work as hard as I can to prove to these guys that I deserve this job. And to prove to myself that I deserve this job." What an absolutely fantastic way to deal with the situation, and what an inspiration. I'm definitely going to be keeping the things she told me in mind as I move forward in my career.

The final highlight I'll go into detail about was the dancing. I don't know how to explain to coworkers that there was dancing at a conference! And not just one night of it, but two! And it was the most fun I've ever had at a dance in my life. There was just this amazing unself-conscious atmosphere. There was no one there to impress. Everyone was just there to have fun. And boy was it fun! I had a great time dancing with the other girls from the group from Carleton (plus one from Western). We all went in saying we couldn't dance, but I think we had some great moves! I'll have to say one of the most memorable things was watching Telle Whitney not only dancing, but encouraging others to have the time of their lives! And of course, who can forget the dancing dots of the Anita Borg Institute? (I can't really figure out how to explain the dancing dots..perhaps that will be another blog post)

All in all, this conference made me realize a lot of the things that women in technology have to face. These were things I hadn't previously been aware of so, for me at least, the conference was eye-opening. However, these revelations also made me feel incredibly grateful. It made me realize how lucky I've been throughout my life, as I've never personally experienced these things. My parents have always supported my education and career choices. Every job I've had, everyone around me have been incredibly supportive of the roles that I've filled. In high school, I had an absolutely fantastic female role model in my computer science teacher. I've been very lucky. I hope that conferences like GHC will help make this type of thing more prevalent. I would love it to be a common thing that when women discuss being in a technology-based field, they won't have to have been lucky to have gotten opportunities or to receive support, that it will be the norm. I hope that I'll be able to contribute to making this vision a reality.

Sorry for the long-winded post. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

GHC13 Roundup

As usual, I blogged about the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing on my personal blog.  And, as usual, it was a fantastic experience! Here's what I wrote about:
Thanks to everyone involved for a great conference, and thanks especially to the awesome students I travelled with!