Women of Silicon Valley
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Kesha Williams, Software Engineer for Chick-fil-A, shares her thoughts on the importance of mentoring, coding to young people and a sneak peek into her tech talk topic: What Humans Can Learn From Machines, ahead of her exciting talk at Women of Silicon Valley 2018 on March 21 & 22.

  1. How did you get into software engineering?

When I was a freshman in high school, my father purchased a computer to do the family finances.  Luckily for me, he placed the computer in my playroom.

My free time was spent with a Barbie doll in one hand and a computer manual in the other.

Later on, in my junior year of high school, I attended a summer science enrichment training program that taught me more about computers. My exposure to computers early on in life fostered a lifelong curiosity with technology.

When I enrolled in college, I majored in computer science and mathematics. I started my career with the National Security Agency (NSA) and 23 years later, I am still excited and intrigued by the continuous advances in technology.

  1. What do you enjoy the most about your day-to-day work?

I’m most excited about the opportunities to learn new and exciting technologies. Technology is ever-changing and it advances on an almost daily basis. I’m excited to be at the forefront of where emerging technologies like machine learning and computer vision/facial recognition will take society.

This may sound cliché, but these technologies (especially when combined) have the ability to change the way we live and can even bring ideas from the wildest science fiction movie to life!

  1. How did you get started on mentoring and why do you think it’s important to do it?

Mentoring is important for me because it is a way to give back to the tech community.  I’ve learned a lot during my 23-year journey in tech and the lessons I’ve learned can help others who are on the same path. I mentor girls and young women for two main reasons:

  • I am passionate about increasing the diversity in technology because there is a lack of representation of women and people of color at all levels in most organizations.
  • I enjoy seeing people reach their fullest potential in life and achieve things they never thought possible.

I seek to impact girls and young women at all stages of their journey:

  • Technovation allows me to reach girls between the ages of 10-18.
  • The New York Academy of Sciences allows me to impact young women in college.
  • WEST (Women Entering & Staying in Tech) gives me the opportunity to help women in the early stages of their career.
  1. What advice would you give to technical women who are struggling to achieve their goals in the industry?

My advice to women who are struggling to achieve their goals is first and foremost to always believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, it will be hard for someone else to believe in you.  Also, you can’t allow someone else’s perception of what you are or are not capable of stop you from going after your dreams. I’ve also found in an industry that lacks diversity, it is important to find a community that has other individuals that are like me. I’m very active with Women Who Code Atlanta, and this network has provided me a lot of support.

  1. Could you tell us a bit more about your Hour of Code sessions and the importance of teaching coding to young people?

Computer programming is a fun and lucrative career choice and more people should be made aware of the opportunities available.

I partnered with my local library to offer free Hour of Code sessions to elementary school students on one Saturday out of the month. I wanted to work with kids because the earlier they are exposed to computer programming, the more likely they are to choose it as a career field. This is evident through my own personal journey.

I also have my 10-year-old daughter serve as my teaching assistant. She studies the course materials ahead of time so that she can assist students that need help during the session. This exposes my daughter to technology, volunteerism, and leadership. This whole experience has been a win-win for all parties involved.

  1. What exciting things are you working on right now?

A really cool project that I recently worked on was one involving facial recognition. I led an innovation team of six developers to investigate how computer vision and facial recognition could improve restaurant operations and customer experiences.

My team developed a prototype that recognizes people as they enter a room and then provides a custom welcome message on a monitor that greets the person by name. This project was really cool because it is a first step toward using facial recognition and computer vision on a broader scale.

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about your tech talk and machines taking on human biases?

I invented a predictive policing machine learning algorithm called, S. A. M. (Suspicious Activity Monitor).  SAM looks at a particular situation (using computer vision) and predicts the likelihood of crime (using machine learning). SAM looks at several attributes about the person and even their current location in order to make a crime prediction.

When creating SAM, I intentionally excluded race as an attribute he considers because I didn’t want him accused of racial profiling.  The decision to exclude race was an “a-ha” moment for me because it showed me that machine learning can actually remove human bias from certain situations; the power of this technology is absolutely mind blowing.

After learning this, I wanted to share what I had learned with the world.  I routinely travel the world speaking and teaching at technical conferences about SAM and the power of machine learning. We must make sure the power of machine learning is used to improve society instead of reinforcing current issues like bias and profiling.

Kesha Williams is a software engineer with over 20 years’ experience specializing in web application development. In addition to being a software engineer with Chick-fil-A, she trains and mentors thousands of software developers in the US, Europe, and Asia while teaching at the University of California. She’s authored courses on Java, Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Augmented Reality (AR). She most recently won the Think Different Innovation Award from Chick-fil-A for her work on investigating how emerging technologies can enhance restaurant operations and customer experiences. In her spare time, she leads the Georgia chapter of Technovation, serves as a mentor with the New York Academy of Sciences, and conducts free Hour of Code sessions for children at her local library.


From the creators of the largest global Women in Technology event series, Women of Silicon Valley is returning for two days of empowering keynotes, panel discussions, technical workshops and diversity-focused sessions on March 21 and 22, 2018 in San Francisco.

Learn from inspirational leaders and industry experts, get deep insight into tech trends and business strategies, boost your technical skills and learn how to flourish in the sector… let’s smash that glass ceiling!

The two-day conference will provide deep insight into the tech industry, as well as gender diversity and inclusion, through rich content delivered by experts. Sessions will include:

Inspiring Keynotes

  • Redefining Success: The Third Metric That Can Benefit Your Bottom Line (Arianna Huffington, Founder, The Huffington Post, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global)
  • Climbing The Tech Ladder in Heels: Where Technology & The Human ExperienceConverge (CTO, Estée Lauder Companies)
  • Transitioning From Engineering To Management (Director, Engineering & Product, LinkedIn)

Tech Specific

  • Security Isn’t Sexy – It’s Business(CEO, MKACyber)
  • Thinking at Scale(Software Engineer, WhatsApp)
  • What Humans Can Learn From Machines(Software Engineer, Chick-fil-A Corporate)

Diversity-Focused Sessions

  • C-Suite Level Panel – How To Champion Women in Technology Initiatives
  • Creating A Business Case For Diversity
  • Prevention of Sexual Harassment

Technical Workshops 
Topics will include: 

  • Real-World Practices: How To Successfully Implement Open Source Into Workflow & Projects
  • Microservices, Security, Deep Learning Analytics, The Future of Data Science & DevOps
  • JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, WebGL, mobile APIs, Node.js, ECMAScript 6
  • The Digital Apocalypse: The Rise of the Games Industry
  • Building Apps For Windows, Office 365, Edge/IE, SQL Server, Azure, HoloLens, Visual Studio & ASP.NET

Take a look at the full conference agenda.

Confirmed speakers currently include:

  • Arianna Huffington, Founder, The Huffington Post, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global
  • Chief Technology & Information Officer,Estée Lauder Companies
  • Senior Technology Advisor to the Mayor, City of Los Angeles
  • Chief Data Scientist, Senior Principal Engineer, Office of the CTO, McAfee
  • CMO, VMware
  • Director,KPMG
  • Vice President,Amazon Web Services
  • CTO, SVP Technology, BMC Software
  • Senior Director, Engineering, LinkedIn
  • Senior Director, Products, eBay
  • CMO, GE Ventures
  • Software Engineer, WhatsApp
  • Senior UX Manager, Sony Playstation
  • San Jose Managing Partner,PwC
  • Partner, Microsoft Ventures 
  • UX Researcher, Google
  • Engineering Manager, Facebook

… and many more!

Our audience of 1,000 tech leaders and professionals enables you to engage with an intimate vibrant community, interact with our speakers and build meaningful relationships.

See full speaker list.

Request a brochure for all the info on the conference’s format, speakers and prices.

No, Elon Musk Is Not The Second Richest Person In The World — Here’s Why
LinkedIn
elon Musk is pictured speaking to an audience using a microphone

Thanks to Tesla’s roaring stock, Elon Musk’s net worth has nearly quadrupled during the Covid-19 pandemic, racing from $24.6 billion in mid-March to a current $126.8 billion by Forbes’ estimate. But despite this meteoric rise, the 49-year-old is not the world’s second-richest person yet.

Forbes currently has Musk in the No. 3 spot, behind Jeff Bezos, who reigns supreme at $182.6 billion, and French luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault, worth $140.6 billion. With the surge in the value of Tesla shares this week, Musk surpassed Bill Gates, who is now in fourth place, worth $119.4 billion.

Musk owns 21% of Tesla but has pledged more than half his stake as collateral for personal loans; Forbes applies a 25% discount to his shareholding to account for the loans. Musk’s net worth estimate includes $25 billion worth of options that he was awarded since May as part of a historic 12-tranche compensation plan.

Musk became eligible for the fourth tranche in late October after Tesla exceeded the cumulative EBITDA requirement, but Tesla has yet to confirm in public filings that it has certified the results. A representative for Musk did not reply to a request for comment from Forbes in time for publication. Until the receipt of the fourth tranche is confirmed, Forbes is only counting some 25 million options from the package towards Musk’s net worth.

Continue to Forbes to read the full article.

SpaceX capsule with 4 astronauts reaches space station
LinkedIn
The SpaceX Dragon Capsule crew appearing to the public before boarding

SpaceX’s newly launched capsule with four astronauts arrived Monday at the International Space Station, their new home until spring.

The Dragon capsule pulled up and docked late Monday night, following a 27-hour, completely automated flight from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The linkup occurred 262 miles above Idaho.

“Oh, what a good voice to hear,” space station astronaut Kate Rubins called out when the Dragon’s commander, Mike Hopkins, first made radio contact.

“We can’t wait to have you on board,” she added after the two spacecraft were latched together.

This is the second astronaut mission for SpaceX. But it’s the first time Elon Musk’s company delivered a crew for a full half-year station stay. The two-pilot test flight earlier this year lasted two months.

The three Americans and one Japanese astronaut will remain at the orbiting lab until their replacements arrive on another Dragon in April. And so it will go, with SpaceX — and eventually Boeing — transporting astronauts to and from the station for NASA.

This regular taxi service got underway with Sunday night’s launch.

Hopkins and his crew — Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi — join two Russians and one American who flew to the space station last month from Kazakhstan. Glover is the first African-American to move in for a long haul. A space newcomer, Glover was presented his gold astronaut pin Monday.

The four named their capsule Resilience to provide hope and inspiration during an especially difficult year for the whole world. They broadcast a tour of their capsule Monday, showing off the touchscreen controls, storage areas and their zero gravity indicator: a small plush Baby Yoda.

Continue to Fox News to read the entire article.

Photo Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

To Build Less-Biased AI, Hire a More-Diverse Team
LinkedIn
A group of diverse engineers huddled around a project

By Michael Li

We’ve seen no shortage of scandals when it comes to AI. In 2016, Microsoft Tay, an AI bot built to learn in real time from social media content turned into a misogynist, racist troll within 24 hours of launch. 

A ProPublica report claimed that an algorithm — built by a private contractor — was more likely to rate black parole candidates as higher risk. A landmark U.S. government study reported that more than 200 facial recognition algorithms — comprising a majority in the industry — had a harder time distinguishing non-white faces. The bias in our human-built AI likely owes something to the lack of diversity in the humans who built them. After all, if none of the researchers building facial recognition systems are people of color, ensuring that non-white faces are properly distinguished may be a far lower priority.

Sources of Discrimination in the AI and Technology Fields

Technology has a remarkably non-diverse workforce. A 2019 study found that under 5.7% of Google employees were Latinx, and 3.3% were Black. Similarly low rates exist across the tech industry. And those numbers are hardly better outside the tech industry, with Latinx and Black employees making up just 7% and 9%, respectively, of STEM workers in the general economy. (They comprise 18.5% and 13.4%, respectively, of the U.S. population.) Data science is a special standout — by one estimate, it underrepresents women, Hispanics, and Blacks more than any other role in the tech industry. It may come as no surprise that a 2019 study by the non-profit Female Founders Faster Forward (F4) found that 95% of surveyed candidates reported facing discrimination in the workplace. With such a biased workforce, how can we expect our AI to fare any better?

Sources of bias in hiring abound. Some of this comes from AI. Amazon famously had to scrap its AI recruiting bot when the company discovered it was biased against women. And it’s not just tech titans: LinkedIn’s 2018 Global Recruiting Trends survey found that 64% of employers use AI and data in recruiting, including top employers like Target, Hilton, Cisco, PepsiCo, and Ikea. But we cannot entirely blame AI —­ there is a much deeper and more systemic source of hiring bias. An established field of academic research suggests that human resume screening is inherently biased. Using innovative field experiments, university researchers have shown that resume screeners discriminate on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, and age. Discrimination is so prevalent that minorities often actively whiten resumes (and are subsequently more successful in the job market). Scanning resumes, whether by computer or human, is an archaic practice best relegated to the dustbin of history. At best, it measures a candidate’s ability to tactfully boast about their accomplishments and, at worse, provides all the right ingredients for either intentional or unintentional discrimination. So how are companies overcoming this challenge?

A Musical Interlude

An unlikely parallel exists in — of all places — the field of classical music. In the 1970s and 1980s, historically male-dominated orchestras began changing their procedures for hiring. Auditions were conducted blind — placing a screen between the candidate and their judging committee so that the identity of the auditioner could not be discerned — only their music was being judged. The effects of this change were astounding: Harvard researchers found that women were passing 1.6 times more in blind auditions than in non-blind ones, and the number of female players in the orchestras increased by 20 to 30 percentage points. By focusing on the candidate’s performance (rather than irrelevant discriminatory attributes) companies can increase both diversity and quality of their new hires. Here’s how.

Continue on to Harvard Business Review to read the full article.

Life on Venus? Astronomers See a Signal in Its Clouds
LinkedIn
The planet Venus

By Shannon StironeKenneth Chang and 

High in the toxic atmosphere of the planet Venus, astronomers on Earth have discovered signs of what might be life.

If the discovery is confirmed by additional telescope observations and future space missions, it could turn the gaze of scientists toward one of the brightest objects in the night sky. Venus, named after the Roman goddess of beauty, roasts at temperatures of hundreds of degrees and is cloaked by clouds that contain droplets of corrosive sulfuric acid. Few have focused on the rocky planet as a habitat for something living.

Instead, for decades, scientists have sought signs of life elsewhere, usually peering outward to Mars and more recently at Europa, Enceladus and other icy moons of the giant planets.

The astronomers, who reported the finding on Monday in a pair of papers, have not collected specimens of Venusian microbes, nor have they snapped any pictures of them. But with powerful telescopes, they have detected a chemical — phosphine — in the thick Venus atmosphere. After much analysis, the scientists assert that something now alive is the only explanation for the chemical’s source.

Some researchers question this hypothesis, and they suggest instead that the gas could result from unexplained atmospheric or geologic processes on a planet that remains mysterious. But the finding will also encourage some planetary scientists to ask whether humanity has overlooked a planet that may have once been more Earthlike than any other world in our solar system.

“This is an astonishing and ‘out of the blue’ finding,” said Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an author of the papers (one published in Nature Astronomy and another submitted to the journal Astrobiology). “It will definitely fuel more research into the possibilities for life in Venus’s atmosphere.”

“We know that it is an extraordinary discovery,” said Clara Sousa-Silva, a molecular astrophysicist at Harvard University whose research has focused on phosphine, and another of the authors. “We may not know just how extraordinary without going back to Venus.”

Sarah Stewart Johnson, a planetary scientist and head of the Johnson Biosignatures Lab at Georgetown University who was not involved in the work, said, “There’s been a lot of buzz about phosphine as a biosignature gas for exoplanets recently,” referring to the search for life on worlds that orbit other stars. “How cool to find it on Venus.”

Continue on to The New York Times to read the complete article. 

Photo by: Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Starting From a Company of One
LinkedIn
Brian Geisel headshot

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has named Brian Geisel, CEO of Geisel Software, the Massachusetts Small Business Person of the Year for 2020.

Geisel Software is a custom software development company that specializes in the medical device and robotics industries and whose clients include FLIR Systems, Medica, iRobot, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Carbon Black and more.

After spending years as an industry consultant, Geisel started the company out of a loft in 2011. By 2015, Geisel had added his first full-time employee and a couple of interns. In 2017, the company moved to a space in the Higgins Armory and sales started to take off.

Today the company occupies a large office space in the Worcester Business Center and employs a large staff of permanent employees, contractors, freelancers and interns. Sales have grown at 83 percent CAGR since 2017.

“I am honored to be recognized by the SBA and I am profoundly grateful to Massachusetts’s incredible support programs that have helped with so many aspects of growing our business,” commented Geisel. “And while the award says Small Business Person of the Year, it really reflects the commitment, hard word and exceptional talents of everyone at Geisel Software so I’m really excited for my team.”

Diversity in STEAM Magazine asked Geisel a few questions about his own journey in business:

Diversity in STEAM: What is your educational background?

Brian Geisel: My educational background is pretty non-traditional. I picked up a few books in junior high on computer programming and taught myself from there. By the time I graduated high school, I was considering entering the professional world. I went to Rochester Institute of Technology for one year, skipped to senior level computer science courses and then took the early retirement package. I feel strong that education is really important, but it may or may not come through traditional channels.

DISM: Why did you start your own company?

Geisel: I knew that no matter what I did, it would only ever be the work of one person so I started the company to scale. With a team, you have this multiplication effect like compound interest that gives you an opportunity to have a real, tangible positive impact on the world.

DISM: What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner?

Geisel: We founders tend to start companies out of our superpower — something we’re really great at. For me, that was writing software. Suddenly, you find that you need to be really good at running and growing a business and your old superpower can even become a liability. That becomes a tremendous challenge on many levels.

DISM: What advice would your give others who want to start their own business?

Geisel: Never let low self-confidence be your guide in starting a business. There are plenty of great reasons to start a business and plenty not to, but self-esteem should never be one of them. Do you want to know a secret? None of us knew going in that this would work. That’s the nature of business. You learn to embrace it. So, if you want to start something, get out of your own way and get going!

Geisel has been featured as a thought leader in Entrepreneur Magazine, Bloomberg Business, The BBC, Forbes and other major outlets. Outside of the office, he is passionate about helping others. He’s participated in many mission trips to Guatemala, Thailand and other locations to hand out food and supplies and assist with medical care.

Brian Geisel, CEO of Geisel Software, is named Massachusetts Small Business Person of the Year for 2020

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has named Brian Geisel, CEO of Geisel Software, the Massachusetts Small Business Person of the Year for 2020. Geisel Software is a custom software development company that specializes in the medical device and robotics industries and whose clients include FLIR Systems, Medica, iRobot, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Carbon Black and more.

After spending years as an industry consultant, Geisel started the company out of a loft in 2011. By 2015, Geisel had added his first full-time employee and a couple of interns. In 2017, the company moved to a space in the Higgins Armory and sales started to take off.

Today the company occupies a large office space in the Worcester Business Center and employs a large staff of permanent employees, contractors, freelancers and interns. Sales have grown at 83 percent CAGR since 2017.

“I am honored to be recognized by the SBA and I am profoundly grateful to Massachusetts’s incredible support programs that have helped with so many aspects of growing our business,” commented Geisel. “And while the award says Small Business Person of the Year, it really reflects the commitment, hard word and exceptional talents of everyone at Geisel Software so I’m really excited for my team.”

Diversity in STEAM Magazine asked Geisel a few questions about his own journey in business:

Diversity in STEAM: What is your educational background?

Brian Geisel: My educational background is pretty non-traditional. I picked up a few books in junior high on computer programming and taught myself from there. By the time I graduated high school, I was considering entering the professional world. I went to Rochester Institute of Technology for one year, skipped to senior level computer science courses and then took the early retirement package. I feel strong that education is really important, but it may or may not come through traditional channels.

DISM: Why did you start your own company?

Geisel: I knew that no matter what I did, it would only ever be the work of one person so I started the company to scale. With a team, you have this multiplication effect like compound interest that gives you an opportunity to have a real, tangible positive impact on the world.

DISM: What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner?

Geisel: We founders tend to start companies out of our superpower — something we’re really great at. For me, that was writing software. Suddenly, you find that you need to be really good at running and growing a business and your old superpower can even become a liability. That becomes a tremendous challenge on many levels.

DISM: What advice would your give others who want to start their own business?

Geisel: Never let low self-confidence be your guide in starting a business. There are plenty of great reasons to start a business and plenty not to, but self-esteem should never be one of them. Do you want to know a secret? None of us knew going in that this would work. That’s the nature of business. You learn to embrace it. So, if you want to start something, get out of your own way and get going!

Geisel has been featured as a thought leader in Entrepreneur Magazine, Bloomberg Business, The BBC, Forbes and other major outlets. Outside of the office, he is passionate about helping others. He’s participated in many mission trips to Guatemala, Thailand and other locations to hand out food and supplies and assist with medical care.

Each year, the SBA recognizes the achievements of outstanding small business owners and entrepreneurs across the United States. All winners are invited to attend ceremonies in Washington, D.C., in May where they will be honored with their award and the 2020 National Small Business Person of the Year will be announced.

Your Guide to Economically Surviving COVID-19
LinkedIn
Fingertip calculator calculator Calculation concept

By Kathryn Porritt

The financial impacts of COVID-19 are yet to be fully seen, but small business owners and entrepreneurs across the world are already seeing major impacts to their businesses. Many are scared, wondering what options they have to economically survive this time.

There are ways for businesses to survive – a business can even thrive during an economic downturn. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small business with less than five employees or a large corporation with 50,000 employees. Economic thriving is possible, even amid COVID-19.

Here’s how owners can create economic thriving:

Lead with Authority

Now is the time for owners to lead with authority. This time of transition and transformation can be a positive, powerful one if leaders show up for themselves and their businesses. Both their employees and their audience will feed off of the energy they show up with and produce. So, owners need to be the powerful leader and spokesperson who shows up for their team.

Brainstorm Ideas

It’s a key time for business owners to brainstorm ideas, both with their niche audience and with other business owners. The creative ideas that this process produces will allow an owner to figure out how to creatively pivot and shift their offerings to meet the needs of their audience. These ideas will help them navigate the rough waters with more ease and come up with their most creative offerings.

Think Big

Unfortunately, when times of chaos and crisis hit, many business owners start to fall into the trap of a scarcity mindset. This is the exact opposite of what needs to happen. Instead, this is a prime time to really think big, and outside of the box. Owners need to take the time to get crystal clear on their business goals and re-outline the steps needed to achieve them.

Know the Message

A businesses’ message and attitude need to remain positive. The message of a business can cause a ripple effect, from top down, so it’s paramount that owners find gratitude in their business, its offerings, and for their audience market. What is the key message that the business wants to promote? And how is that creating a positive impact in the market the business serves?

Own the Position of Authority

Now is a business owners’ time to shine by owning their authority in the marketplace they serve. Don’t be shy! This is the time for them to show their audience and the public why they deserve to be a market leader.

Stay Connected

More than ever, it’s times like these that connection is paramount. Business owners need to be connected to their market, their audience, and also their friends and loved ones – so that they can rest and recharge. Technology makes it possible to connect in a variety of ways, so take advantage of it!

Business owners can now take up their position of authority, own their expertise and lead powerfully. The world is craving positive, insightful and creative leaders with engaging solutions. Business owners need to take a slight pause, step back, and realize the opportunities before them. Instead of caving to fear and market unrest, they need to be pushing forward toward their goals. Just because the way to reach a goal may have changed for the owner, doesn’t mean the goal itself has changed. And, above all else, owners need to remember to rest and take care of themselves, so that they can continue to lead from the front.

Moving the Needle on DEI Hiring
LinkedIn
Three girls working on an engineering project in a science lab

The demand for workers in areas like healthcare, supply chain and others has never been more critical than it is today. Two businesses are now joining forces to offer solutions to help organizations find top candidates while ensuring their talent pool is diverse.

Black Women in Science and Engineering (BWISE), founded by Erika Jefferson to support underrepresented women in STEM through networking, mentorship, and career development, is partnering with Cambio, a multi-faceted recruiting and diversity platform founded by Neil Patwardhan and Bob Richards. Both organizations are focused on truly moving the needle on DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) hiring in meaningful way.

BWISE, with its professional job board and network of over 15,000 scientists, engineers and technologists, can focus on guidance to employers and diverse job seekers with a focus on black women in STEM. And Cambio, through its Diversity Engine and analytics, can spotlight diverse candidates and ensure biases are surfaced and focus on delivering top candidates.

BWISE is focused on bridging the leadership gap for Black women in STEM. It was founded with the purpose of supporting underrepresented women through networking, mentorship and career development. The group primarily consists of black women from middle management through senior leadership with degrees in the sciences, math and engineering (even if they no longer work in that field) who would like to connect with others.

Cambio’s mission is to create a more human experience in the world of recruiting and job searching with video, and make the process more transparent and fun by embracing the swipe culture of viral mobile applications. The company aims to speed up the hiring process and lead the way in diversity hiring by helping companies meet their workforce goals for 2020 and beyond.

For additional information on BWISE, click here.

For additional information on Cambio, click here.

A Passion for Equity in Education
LinkedIn
Karl Reid smiling for the camera

By Eric Addison

He didn’t fully realize it at the time, but as a high school student, Karl Reid had a few advantages that helped him achieve success against a backdrop of challenges. His work today, as a leading advocate for increasing college access, opportunity and success, seeks to spread those types of advantages more equitably across the educational landscape for students of all races, ethnicities, genders and economic circumstances.

Born in the Bronx and raised in Roosevelt, a predominantly African-American, working-class community on Long Island, Reid had parents who placed a high value on education and applied high standards to their children’s academic work. When he was admitted to a well-resourced, magnet high school near Roosevelt, a school with a majority white student body, it put him on a track to follow his older brother to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MIT, he fully expected to continue being an outstanding student, so his first-semester struggles came as a shock.

“Suddenly, I was a college student who barely understood what was going on in lecture. I hadn’t learned yet to read ahead of class,” Reid says. “I could barely keep up with new information being presented to me, never mind ask a question. My score of 38 on my first physical chemistry exam was the final wake-up call.”

Reid came through the crisis by finding his internal drive (his “grit”), by applying it to a demanding regimen of independent study and by building beneficial relationships on campus. In his freshman year, he joined the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), a college-student-led organization with a mission to, “increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.” Reid credits NSBE with building his leadership skills during his tenure as vice president of MIT’s NSBE chapter in his junior year, and subsequently as the Society’s national chair. He left MIT in 1985 as a Tau Beta Pi scholar with two academic degrees: A Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in materials science and engineering.

Later, in 1991, years into a successful career in the burgeoning computer industry, Reid had a crucial experience that clarified his purpose and changed his life’s work. Reading Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities, a seminal volume about educational disparities in the United States, he saw how his own experience as a K–12 student fit into a broad pattern of discrimination. He finished the book determined to do something about the problem.

Reid left the computer field to return to MIT, where he worked in positions of progressive responsibility to increase diversity at his alma mater—eventually becoming associate dean of undergraduate education and director of the Office of Minority Education—and took the opportunity to earn a Doctor of Education at Harvard University. His next employer was the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), where he oversaw new program development, research and capacity building for the organization’s 37 historically black colleges and universities and held the title of senior vice president for research, innovation and member college engagement.

In June 2014, Dr. Reid made another auspicious return, this time to NSBE as executive director. Based at the Society’s World Headquarters building in Alexandria, Virginia, he supports NSBE’s National Executive Board, and NSBE’s 25,000 in reaching the main goal of the Society’s 10-year strategic plan: To partner with educational institutions to end the underrepresentation of blacks in engineering in the U.S. by producing 10,000 black engineers annually in the country, by 2025. He has also helped nurture NSBE’s impressive growth abroad: A large percentage of the Society’s members now reside in Africa.

Dr. Reid’s diversity and inclusion work outside of NSBE—most notably his foundational and leadership role with the 50K Coalition and his membership on the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech—also supports the Society’s mission. And he has authored a book, Working Smarter, Not Just Harder: Three Sensible Strategies for Succeeding in College…and Life, which was published in 2017.

Dr. Reid admits the societal problems he has chosen to solve are large and intractable, but after 22 years of rising daily to the challenge, he believes the statistics are moving in the right direction.

“Seeing young people grow in intellect and character and go on to achievements in STEM that benefit their families, their communities, their nation and themselves is a priceless experience,” Dr. Reid says. “Our work is difficult, but the rewards are great.”

How to Set Up a Virtual Event
LinkedIn
A woman watching a virtual panel while taking notes from her desk at home

By Jerri Barrett, Marketing and Event Consultant

COVID-19 has significantly impacted the event industry, forcing some organizations to cancel 2020 events, while others are moving to virtual events.

Virtual events are not new. For International Women’s Day 2013, Global Tech Women launched a global virtual conference, which featured more than 70 speakers from around the world and ran for 36 hours. More than 11,000 attendees joined the conference from 50 countries. A key learning from that conference: “When a conference is virtual, what becomes critical is the promotion of the conference to create awareness and excitement. Our sponsor, Google, helped us achieve global visibility and drove the global engagement,” said Deanna Kosaraju, CEO of Global Tech Women.

In 2016, VMware began hosting a conference on its campus in Silicon Valley called Women Transforming Technology (WT2). Over the past four years, the conference became an annual tradition, and plans were well underway for 2020 when the COVID-19 crisis began. The call for participation had been completed, the schedule of speakers was set—including Hollywood icon Laura Dern as the closing speaker—and registration had opened.

“I have always been a worrier/planner, so while I was watching the news in February and hearing more and more about COVID-19, I realized that we would need to be making a decision about whether to take our conference—scheduled for May 5—virtual, and the sooner we made the decision, the better off we would be,” said Arti Sharma, diversity & inclusion program manager, VMware. “We realized when the shelter in place order came into effect on March 6 that over 500 people were probably not going to want to nor be able to sit in the same room in May. On March 11, we got the approvals and input we needed to transition to a virtual conference plan.”

Sharma shared some issues that need to be addressed when making a conference virtual:

Registration fees: Because WT2 was underwritten by VMware and other sponsors, WT2 had the option to offer free registration for attendees and made registration open to everyone. They have seen an enormous spike both in attendee numbers and in the number of countries represented. What was formerly a Silicon Valley-focused event has now become global with representatives from multiple countries across six continents. While most organizations do not have this option, the cost structure for a virtual event is very different and needs to be accounted for in registration pricing.

Plan for breaks: Attendees working from home are frequently interrupted by children, significant others and pets. Make sure there are breaks between sessions and offer attendees speaker-led activities like stretches or gentle exercises.

Prepare your speakers: Every speaker at the WT2 conference agreed to participate virtually without hesitation. Each speaker can rehearse twice before the event to ensure they are successful. Rehearsals are scheduled close to the time of day their session will be held, so in addition to testing equipment and access, speakers will be given feedback on their lighting and background. Someone will introduce them, monitor the chat and organize Q&As, and make sure all attendees can access the system with their passwords. Make full use of volunteers and committee members.

Security: Everything should be password-protected and available to only registered attendees, each with a unique code.

Recordings: Video conference platforms include the option of recording sessions. Have speakers sign video waivers, and plan how attendees can access these recordings after the event.

Accessibility: Accessibility issues have been raised for a number of conferences—virtual conferences are no different. Closed captioning is available in some video platforms.  AccessSIGCHI has created a guide for creating Accessible Remote Attendance on its website.

The conference app company Whova recently launched a series of webinars for their customers who manage conferences and need to rapidly address becoming virtual.

Key issues highlighted include:

Virtual conference platforms. Video conferencing platforms vary in their pricing, ability to scale, and the amount of control over access that can be exercised

Time zones. Conference organizers should be mindful of time zones and consider shorter days

Sponsor/attendee engagement. Event sponsors will turn to event organizers to demonstrate unique ways to connect with attendees. Conference apps, websites and conference programs can be used to convey important sponsor information. Networking functions in apps and on-video platforms can connect sponsor representatives to individual attendees. Also consider using gamification functions to encourage attendees to visit sponsor pages and websites.

Attendee networking. Many conference attendees seek to broaden their networks and identify collaborators and mentors. Consider providing a platform to enable attendees to create a profile page and engage on a community bulletin board, and offer the option during sessions for attendees to chat with each other.

In March, the RESPECT Conference had three days needed to go virtual to help protect their attendees. Brianna Blaser, counselor/coordinator at DO-IT at the University of Washington, was both a presenter and attendee of the conference. “As it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to go to Portland, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to present my paper but also that I would miss out on connecting with colleagues who I only see in person once or twice a year. I was so glad to hear that RESPECT was going virtual. They made heavy use of breakout rooms for small group discussions, which meant I was able to connect with so many of those colleagues and meet new people as well.”

Band-Aid Announces it Will Finally Make Bandages For Darker Skin Tones
LinkedIn
band-aid

In response to recent worldwide support for Black Lives Matters protests, Band-Aid announced last week that it will be expanding its product line to include bandages with a range of skin tones.

“We hear you. We see you. We’re listening to you,” the company wrote on Instagram. “We stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues, collaborators and community in the fight against racism, violence and injustice. We are committed to taking actions to create tangible change for the Black community.⁣”

The bandages will come in light, olive, and darker shades of brown and black tones, to reflect the diversity of consumers who need bandages.

Other companies had already stepped in to fill the void, including Tru-Colour, a company started by a white man.

Toby Meisenheimer had adopted a black son and wanted to “affirm and celebrate his son’s identity” for who he was. Started in 2014, Tru-Colour provides skin-tone shade bandages and kinesiology tape for people of every skin color—and their products were picked up by Target stores nationwide in 2018.

In addition to the change, Band-Aid says they will be making a donation to Black Lives Matter.

Continue on to the Good News Network to read the complete article.

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service

Robert Half