Tapia 2018 Conference & Outreachy: My Experience

Tapia 2018 Conference & Outreachy: My Experience

Around 2016 was when I first heard of Tapia Conference, that and Grace Hopper Celebration. I applied to their scholarships back then, I did not get any. It was disappointing, but then something happened…

 

In 2018, an email landed in my inbox. It was a call to be sponsored to help Outreachy’s booth while also attending Tapia. I wasn’t exactly fitting the requirements, but I replied to it anyway. Usually I do not apply in such situations, but I remembered really wanting to attend this conference so I tried. I was surprisingly selected, and in disbelief. So I reached out to Sage Sharp who is the current Outreachy Organizer to confirm if they are sure about this. But yes it wasn’t a mistake, and they were more than happy to have me with them at Tapia! That’s how it happened, I started preparing for my trip to Orlando.

 

It’s encouraging when you have people that support and believe in you.

 

What’s Outreachy though and what’s the relation between it and me?

 

Outreachy (previously the Free and Open Source Software Outreach Program for Women) is a program that organizes three-month paid internships with free and open-source software projects for people who are typically underrepresented in those projects. The program is organized by the Software Freedom Conservancy and was formerly organized by The GNOME Project and the GNOME Foundation.” (1)

 

Through the Outreachy program I got my first internship at Mozilla.

Outreachy gave me the opportunity to prove that I have what it takes to be a great technical intern. My mentor for the Outreachy Program, Peter Bengtsson who works at Mozilla saw the potential in me, the effort I placed, and gave me a chance. It was extremely competitive and overwhelming, but I did not give up and eventually I got selected.

 

So I couldn’t be more than happy to volunteer/give back to a non-profit that I believe in and played a pivotal role in my technical trajectory. All the employees from Software Freedom Conservancy and Outreachy that I’ve had the chance interact with, have been welcoming, and supportive. I’m glad that they create opportunities for people who want to stay involved.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Outreachy visit their site here -> Click.

 

If you are interested to read more about what I worked on during my internship, read this -> Click.

 

The Tapia Experience

 

Tapia is an interesting conference. At most tech conferences I have been it’s quite homogeneous, so it was interesting to finally be at a tech conference with so many people of African descent and of course other underrepresented people in tech.

 

DAY 1

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Stan Lee: 6 Lessons About Career, Life and More.

Stan Lee has said things that people can use as lessons for life. In memory of him, I decided to write this article.

 

Image of Stan Lee and Quote, Life is never completely without its challenges.
Photo Taken by Gage Skidmore, WikiMedia Commons, Shared Under CC BY-SA 2.0 – Remixed by Gloria Dwomoh

 

“Someone wants to do a movie of my life now and he’s writing a script, and I said to him, “What the hell could you do? I’ve never been arrested, I haven’t taken drugs, I’ve had the same wife for 54 years — where’s anything of interest to people?”

Quote Source: Stan Lee, Interview, April 30, 2002

For those who do not know, Stan Lee (Stanley Martin Lieber, December 28, 1922 – November 12, 2018 ) is the creator of characters such as Spider-Man and once the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, later a publisher, and then a Chairman. He is an editor, producer, publisher, and an American comicbook writer. And no, in case you are wondering, “comicbook” is not a typo.

“Comic book should be written as one word. So from now on, I want you to remember that. I never want to see the word comicbook written as two words. They are not funny books. They are not comic books, they are comicbooks! Remember that, or incur my wrath.”

Quote Source: Stan Lee, YT Video, “Stan Lee Hates ‘Comic Books’ – Stan’s Rants”, 2012

These are some of the many things Stan Lee once said. There is, indeed, something interesting about his life, and today we’ll explore some things he said and how the lessons we extract from them can be applicable to our lives.

1. Having Only One Niche as a Creator.

“Everybody wants to feel that you’re writing to a certain demographic because that’s good business, but I’ve never done that … I tried to write stories that would interest me. I’d say, what would I like to read?… I don’t think you can do your best work if you’re writing for somebody else, because you never know what that somebody else really thinks or wants.”

Quote Source: Stan Lee, Brandweek, May 2000

If you find yourself having multiple interests you do not need to feel obligated to stick to only one niche. Having a niche has its perks, is a great way to build your following, and can present you as an expert on your respective topic, but having only one niche can be dangerous for someone with a lot of interests (If you want to know why, read my open letter to YouTube (1). The link will be available at the end of this article). So at the end of the day it is important to create content on things that interest you, even if it does not cater to the same demographic all the time, because that helps you put your best work forward.

2. Being Embarrassed of What You Do Because It Does Not Fit What Society Raves Of.

“I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.”

Quote Source: Stan Lee, The Washington Post, July 23, 2010

When you are doing something for a living you need to link it to a purpose. Without a purpose it feels futile, and if what you are doing has no real purpose it might lead to you feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled. Find the purpose behind what you do and if that purpose excites you, you are on the right track!

3. You Might Want to Move on from Doing a Thing You Once Liked.

“I’ve written so many things over the years that I don’t want to go back to being just a scriptwriter. I’m in what I consider to be the enviable position of all I have to do is come up with the idea and write an outline that makes it seem like it’s a viable idea that will interest people, and then other people write the scripts — and I become the executive producer or the producer, depending on how much involvement I have, and I get a creative credit and then move on to the next project.”

Quote Source: Stan Lee, Interview, April 30, 2002

People change, and even though you like doing the job you are doing today in few years from now that might change. As you are growing professionally, there are some things you might prefer to not do anymore. If you manage to attain the enviable position where you can easily choose what you want or do not want to do, as part of your job, take advantage of it because that is one way to make work fun!

“I don’t really see a need to retire as long as I am having fun.”

Quote Source: Stan Lee, Interview, Feb. 6, 2006 Read more

A Belgian Story: When you are happy, I am happy!

Two happy girls smiling.

At a store in Brussels I’m looking to get a sandwich for lunch. The vendor greets me with “Bonjour” and a smile. He proceeds to give me the menu, then encourages me to have a seat as I wait for my turn, and decide on what I’d like to have.

It was my first time at this store. It’s tiny, but seemed to gather a lot of interest and appreciation from people.

You can see the tens of different cheeses in various colours and shapes through the display window in front of his workstation. There are also fruits and handwritten banners saying you can order milkshakes for 3 euros. I also see a banner asking us to not leave without cheese, because “The cheese is the gift.”, it notes.

At a table in front me is a group of young Americans raving about the sandwiches they just had and thanking their host for bringing them to this store.

Every few minutes I’ll hear the bells, hanging through the ceiling, jingle as the entry door opened and slammed over them.

My turn finally came, I ask the seller to suggest me his top picks. He gives me two suggestions, one with hard and one with soft cheese. He points me to a beautiful ball of soft cheese decorated with cranberries!

“It looks amazing”, I thought.

He then points me to a piece of hard cheese as well. He proceeds by giving me a thin slice of hard cheese so I could try it. I told him I’d take the hard cheese suggestion he gave me. He then asked,

“Are you sure? When you’re happy, I’m happy.”

At the sound of that, my eyes lit up. A stranger cares of my happiness?

“I don’t know if it will make me happy, it is my first time here. I’d know when I try it.”, I replied.

He then said, “This is just my suggestion, but please choose whatever you want. I want you to be happy. I want you to smile.”

Seeing how much he wanted me to be happy, I decided to go for something else, a weird combination I saw in the menu. A mix of spicy hard cheese, soft cheese, chorizo, apple slices and honey! I thought to myself as I ordered it, “This combination sounds so weird, I am not sure if I’d even like this or it will make me happy as he asks me to be but I want to try something new.”

He meticulously crafts the sandwich and all the newcomers are carefully staring at the process through the display vitrine. I decided to take a seat.

foodie image writting sandwich ingredients

 

“It’s ready!”, he says and I stand. It is a take away, I need to catch my flight soon.

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How To: Speaking to a Non-Technical Audience

As a technical person, someday you might have the opportunity to give a presentation or talk to non-technical audiences. While that might seem simple at first glance it can prove itself to be daunting. Thankfully, things get easier with awareness.

Banner that writes "Be effective" - 6 Tips (For better technical talks)

Here are 6 things to keep in mind that could help you.

These tips are applicable to other professions as well, for example, when there is a need for a medical professional to talk to a non-medical audience.

1. Know your audience

It is very important to know whom you are about to present to and why this talk is important to them. Feel free to ask the organizer a few questions about the audience.

2. Be careful of jargon and technical abbreviations

Be extremely careful with the use of jargon and non-common abbreviations. If you cannot break a term/abbreviation/jargon down and explain what it actually means, or you are not intending to, it is best to not make mention of it, at all. Making mention of terms you cannot explain is the fastest way to lose the interest of a non-tech audience.

3. Balance your assumptions

Do not assume they know what you are talking about and at the same time do not assume they don’t. In order to figure out how to balance things you need to know your audience (step 1). I was once in a tech event with attendees working at top tech companies. Someone asked what is “Twitter” and I was shocked. I thought everyone working at a tech company knows what it is, but that is not always the case. When talking about an app, software, or tool it is good to explain what it does briefly. This also applies to when talking about other terms such as web laws and policies. Instead of describing the policy by its given name alone, describe what that law or policy means in a nutshell.

4. Make them feel like your future potential collaborators

Do not make them feel that you are better than them (I’m not saying you do, but this is a general statement). Some technical people act as if they are better than non-tech people, avoid being that person. That is another sure way to make them disinterested in whatever you have to say.

Make them feel like your future potential collaborators, that even though are in non-technical roles you respect what they do.

5. Use your slides as a way to reinforce concepts

When it comes to slides, work on making your slides explanatory yet still brief (or provide extra notes). Try to avoid the 1 photo slide where it is expected of the audience to decipher the meaning of the picture.

As the saying goes:

“A picture is worth a thousand words”

so let your audience know what you mean!

A slide depicting an image alone usually does not help in such occasions, except if you are going to explain what it means or your intention is to make the audience curious.

6. Know things they know

Some technical people are knowledgeable in things within their domain. If you want to ahead of those people, know things that could be outside of your expected scope but are closely related to the background of your audience. Know what makes most of them excited about their industry, and leverage that to build rapport.

Good luck!

My Take on TakeOver Innovation Conference and Toronto

view-from-CN-Tower
This picture I took from the CN Tower makes me wonder if the picture on my blog’s template header is from Toronto.

 

Last month I attended the TakeOver Innovation Conference. Lately I have been mostly attending conferences as a Speaker, but this time it felt great to be on the attendee end. The conference took place in Toronto, Canada, and it was my first time being there. This is my personal take on my experience.

The conference program consisted of various talks in multiple industries. We learned more about how they are using emerging technologies such as block-chain, AR/VR and more in various sectors. Topics covered issues in Retail, Finance (such as VC), Media, Healthcare, Women in Tech and more.

What is TakeOver Innovation Conference?

According to the conference website, “TakeOver is TribalScale’s inaugural Innovation Conference”. The conference consisted of three tracks, human innovation, industry innovation and economic innovation. In specific, it had a focus on emerging technologies in tech and how they can or already foster innovation.

TribalScale is a digital firm specializing in the design and development of world class digital products.

One day when I came across TakeOver’s Conference and after taking a note of all the details I noticed they had a diversity scholarship to attend. On the 25th of September I got a congratulatory email that I had been selected to attend the conference. I was elated, but then I realized the conference is on the 2nd of October and there wasn’t much time left to plan, so this was the most impromptu travel I have ever had! The plan was to travel from Athens, Greece to Toronto, Canada. There was a lot of preparation to be done, packing, planning my budget and more. Luckily, TribalScale employees assisted me to book my flights and book accommodation for the duration of the conference giving me a couple of extra days to settle (thanks Ruth & Samantha for the assistance!)

Getting to Canada

This was my first time to travel to Canada. It was a long journey and being on the plane without company for so many hours is boring and uncomfortable. I realized that my flight had no TV screen to pass time in the plane, that was a bummer! I was very tired with all the planning so luckily I spent most of the time semi-sleeping during the Greek morning hours and I believe that is what helped me adapt faster to the Canadian Timezone.

Once I landed in Canada, some awesome family friends drove me to my hotel after first taking me to place to get some food. That helped a lot, as it made it easier for me. The transport system in Toronto works differently from the one in Athens but the train to get you from Pearson Airport to Downtown Toronto seemed pretty straightforward and not too complicated. Toronto is also very multicultural which I liked a lot. Read more

It Is Not Easy If You Cannot Explain It

It Is Not Easy If You Cannot Explain It

I found a simple way for us to increase the knowledge in the world. It all starts with the conclusion that it’s not easy if you cannot explain it. If we only state that something is easy without explaining our reasoning behind it that knowledge remains in our mind. By explaining the things we claim as easy to others who feel otherwise we share the knowledge and help it expand. Let’s us evaluate that idea in depth.

*Plot Change*

I am in my room; it’s quiet. Every now and then I hear the sound of a rumbling motorbike engine across the street. I then start thinking of an incident that took place years back. Long story short, a student told me that a course I was struggling with was easy but later on ended up failing it while I passed it.

When I realized what happened I felt disappointed. I couldn’t understand why would someone so overconfidently state that a course is easy only to end up failing it. Was this a fake it till you make it attempt? It could be many different things, life happens, but based on my experience with that specific person I knew it was an overestimation. This is more of a case of someone overestimating their understanding of something, and that is not uncommon. David Dunning, PhD. a social psychologist once said that “People overestimate themselves, but more than that, they really seem to believe it.” he followed that by saying “I’ve been trying to figure out where that certainty of belief comes from.” This form of bias is often characterised as the Dunning–Kruger effect.

Socrates, a classical Greek Philosopher, seems to have met similar people himself, in a statement he said:

“I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.”

— attributed to Socrates, from Plato, Apology

It is challenging to find a striking balance and keep ourselves on the sweet spot between overestimation and underestimation. If we are honest we will admit that we all have found ourselves on either end and in-between.

Now back to our main point, how can we increase the knowledge in this world? I’ll sum it up as:

Dear YouTube: An Open Letter

Dear YouTube,

It has been a long while since I’ve used a TV. Ever since Greece transitioned its TV signal, from analogue to fully digital in 2012, there has been no functional television channels at my home. I do not remember how I felt about the change in my teen years; only that I remember one day all of my channels disappeared. Now, several years later, I don’t really mind. I have become comfortable with its inconsistent presence or absence in my life. Since then YouTube became a good alternative for the days when I wanted to get access to technological, educational, informational, or entertaining content. It gives viewers an abundance of options to choose from.

YouTube has been said to be the 2nd largest search engine in the world. We know that YouTube has more than a billion users, which is almost one-third of all people on the Internet.

The Focal Point: Let’s Innovate

Over the years I have been anticipating that a specific feature would surface. Instead of wishfully hoping that you will one day sync your thoughts with mine and come up with it, I decided to write you this open letter. Today I am sharing this idea with you.

Usually, when starting a YouTube channel people advise you to find your niche. Once you do everyone expects you to keep creating content in that specific niche. Awesome as that is, however, for people such as myself who have multiple interests, hobbies, or talents, this is limiting. As a result of that, I have noticed that YouTubers make various different channels. For example, if a YouTuber has established themselves as a beauty channel, but decided that they find interest in let’s plays as well, they currently have a few options: Read more

This Is a Business Card That Will Make You Memorable

“I can’t remember who you are. I’m sorry.” Is that what you say when you stare at the deck of business cards that you have acquired throughout the years?

I want to show you an affordable way to make your business card memorable!

A couple of years back I going through a deck of business and was wondering if its owner could remember which card belonged to whom. Do you remember who is Mr John Doe that gave you his card 8 years ago? Oh, you got lucky enough to meet 2 Mr John Doe’s in the span of 8 years, can you tell who is who?

These days business cards take many forms, a lot of people take different approaches to ensure that theirs is memorable. For example, someone might add a small gift along with their business card to hopefully leave a lasting impression. These things cost a lot. Printing the card itself comes with a cost, how can I do that in an affordable way? How can I do it in a more eco-friendly and minimalistic way in order to reduce waste? That was a question I asked myself in 2016. Fast-forward in 2017 I found the answer I was looking for, and I decided to share it with you!

“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever. – Native American Proverb

Who is this for?

Before we get started I believe it is important to state who will benefit from this. This technique will benefit people who use a personal business card, meaning a business card with your own name and details. It is especially helpful for people that go to meetups, networking events, conferences, or any other large gatherings.

What is the caveat?

  1. It can be time-consuming but it definitely pays off in the long term.
  2. You need to have a legible handwriting.
  3. It might not be well received in certain countries so make sure you check the business etiquette of the country. It was brought to my attention by a comment that in Japan, for example, it can be considered an insult if you write on a business card. I have sought clarification on if it is equally bad if you write on your own card, for that, I am not sure as online it stated only about writing on someone else’s card in front of them, which makes sense. However, it is good to be cautious. This case could be a similar thing in China as well (based on some resources found online). I researched that and found this information about Japan online which I will quote shortly. Be aware though that in certain countries aside from how the business card looks, how you receive it is equally important, so make sure you do your research when travelling to a country that is foreign to you or you are offering a business card to a foreign national:

    “Do not write on the Japanese business cards. The best thing to do is examine the Japanese business cards carefully and leave them in front of you for the duration of the meeting. You may want to arrange the cards in front of you in the order of the participants seating positions, this will help you remember everyone’s name.”

What is the process of designing that business card?

The process of designing an appealing business card could fit an article of its own. I will assume you have designed the front side of it to keep this tutorial short.

Initial Must-Do Preparation

One thing that should definitely be on the front side of your Business card is a link to your LinkedIn profile or some sort of personal website that has your picture on it. Aside from allowing the person whom you gave your card to connect with you, if you gave them a link to your LinkedIn, it helps them remember your face. Being able to remember your face is one of the things that helps makes this whole process much more effective.

Mini Business Card Tutorial

So you have a business card, with a link to your LinkedIn or personal website (something that has your picture on it). Perfect!

We are going to work on the back side of the card. As I said earlier, remember we are assuming the front side of your double sided business card has already been completed. Let’s get started! It won’t take long!

 

  1. I’m starting with a clear canvas in the dimension of a business card.

blank card

2. I want to make it a bit more impressive so I will put a black background with a subtle zigzag pattern. You don’t need to make yours exactly like this, but this is a sample for the purposes of the tutorial. Read more

How to Turn your Cluttered Desktop into a Tidy Haven

If your desktop looks anything close to the before image above,  you might find great value in this article.

My desktop is a very important place, everything I feel is important is often placed right there. However, something always seems important. As a result of this, my desktop became cluttered.

It was like this for a while till one of my siblings asked me if this is my desktop. I thought that it was obvious that it was, I definitely was not remote controlling someone else’s desktop. That experience inspired me to fix it. To make my desktop a bit more relaxing so I did an overhaul. I will show how I did it so that you can try to do one for yourself.

Let’s start!

For this project, find and use the graphic design tool of your preference.

STEP 1

Begin by setting up a foundation for your wallpaper. The first thing to do is find the display resolution of your screen and set the wallpaper to have those dimensions. Mine is 1140 x 900 pixels.

STEP 2

Then you need to decide what is your preferred background. It can be an image or a plain colour. I decided to make it yellow but then I realised that during the course of the day, as it got darker, the yellow background became very intense to my eyes, therefore I changed it to white. I will show you the steps using the yellow background.

STEP 3

The next thing I chose to do is to add a title. Something inspirational and positive. I am choosing a simple statement, one that I have been told by others “The world is your oyster!” Make sure you play with several fonts to decide what looks visually appealing to you.

STEP 4

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Open-source contributions. It is good enough.

Ever since I finished my Outreachy Internship, I have been contributing to several open-source projects here and there.  Even so, whenever I was asked on if I am currently contributing to any open-source project I often said no. I said no not because I wanted to be dishonest, but because at that specific point I felt what I contributed was insignificant. Can you imagine?

open-source code on laptop screen

I decided to reflect my contributions in a reverse motion and think of how far I have come in this past year.

An open-source  journey

 

Add Authentication (user accounts) with Devise

As I was doing the rail girls training in the first Rail Girls Athens workshop I noticed a link on the manual is not working. My initial gut action was, report the bug! Then I thought… “Wait, I know how to contribute to open source and I know how to fix it. How about I try to do so.”
This is an interesting way to contribute, finding something buggy while you are using something and realizing it might be something you can fix, then going ahead to fix it and see how it goes.

–  Added List Delete Example

I applied to attend the first local Django girl workshop in Athens. I did not get selected however I did not let that stop me from doing the tutorial, I did it myself then found a piece in the tutorial that I thought would be better explained with some examples. So I decided to contribute to it.
Improving already existing projects is cool too.

Swag I got from participating in hacktoberfest 2015 an open-source initiation.
Swag I got from participating in hacktoberfest 2015.

– Learn X in Y minutes : Fixing some typos sample contribution

Last year I wanted to take part in Hacktoberfest, I was trying to find ways to get started. I notice the Learn X in Y minutes had some documentation in Greek language however, there were a few typos. I decided to fix several of them. Do you know a unique language? Maybe you can help an open-source project in close captioning, documentation, or translation.

– Adding Consistency: Hugo

Sometimes contributing is not overly complicated, things such as adding consistency to a documentation can be very beneficial as it makes it easier to read.

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