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

Read more

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.

Read more

Talk Coaching: Few Lessons to Keep in Mind

Black Microphone Before a Talk

Few weeks ago I was provided with the opportunity to do a 1-1 professional talk coaching session, as part of Mozilla Tech Speakers training. Since such opportunities do not come as often, I decided to share the experience with you all, so that you can get the chance to gain some valuable knowledge like I did. This way, we all get an equal opportunity to learn, and improve. Now let us go right to the gist, below I will post my takeaways in a random order.

Lessons on Giving a Talk

When you are giving a talk, speaking to people, you want them to feel who you are, and know you a little.

Before going out to the stage or wherever you are going to speak at, ask yourself, “What is it that I love about this group of people today?” When you ask yourself this question it will give you a sense of motivation that will make you speak with more passion to your audience.

What they hear and do after your talk is what matters. When you give a talk, also try to see it as a learning opportunity for you. Ask yourself “How can I use this opportunity to learn more about my topic?”. You need to find the way to bring out your best self.

Now about keeping your audience engaged….Everything you do or say should be for them.

Mystery is a good motivator to keep people. Hold back info, build it up…then reveal.

Questions are powerful, however, one caveat of it is that, if you ask the wrong question, you might lose credibility.

Read more

Algorithms & Data Structures: My Journey.

journey path of algorithms

Some years back I had a dilemma that led me to never study algorithms and data structures as a computer engineering student. I am the type of student that always goes above and beyond. One thing that I did during my studies is take courses that were 1 year ahead of my class. For example, if I was a Freshman (1st year), I would register in classes from the Sophomore year (2nd year) with any remaining credits (my university system is one of which you are given a fixed amount of credits for each semester, but passing courses ahead of time made me have an excess). I reached a place where one of the courses I passed was removed from the curriculum so the next year, which was the year on which I was originally supposed to take it, I was eligible to swap its grade for a future course. Due to my inexperience with being in university or studying computer engineering, I had little to no experience on which was the best course to switch my grade with. My background was science oriented, biology, chemistry, you name it. My experience with computer science was very minimal, hence my knowledge of it was lacking foundations. I had no advisor, so I resorted to asking people, in specific classmates in the same or an older year than me, however, I never thought of asking any professor. In my naive brain I thought that a student is more likely to know the answer based on rumors from other students or if they have done the course before. That sometimes holds true but not all the time.  After asking around I was advised to assign that passing grades to “Algorithms and Data Structures” because that course was hard, and even the ones that did pass it say they barely understood what was going on in that course. I strongly remember that there were 2 students out of the several I asked that told me it is a fundamental course to take. I did not take that word seriously, I did not understand why it is fundamental, I looked it up a bit online but I still did not understand what it was about. I decided to go by the advises of the party of opinions that were the most resounding. I assigned that not-so-awesome grade to algorithms and data structures and after that day I was not eligible to join the lab classes of it anymore because on paper I had already passed it.

Years after I tried to look for internship openings, and I realized that…software engineering internships which was what I wanted to try were asking for “algorithms and data structures” as one of their requirements. Later, I learned that, that is one of the fundamental coding interview must-know in order to become a software engineer or ace the challenging coding interviews. For top companies it seemed to me that no matter how intelligent or smart I was, all that mattered was how much I possessed that hard technical skill. That was depressing. Right there the dream of being a software engineer started to fade. I once more went online and tried to ask the search engines to show me the way. Show me the way to learn this skill! I did get an answer, but not the answer I wanted. I read some books, checked out series of recommendations on the right and best book to read for this subject but it looked so complicated. It looked very confusing, after a point these resources hardly made any sense and I will call it quits for several months, try again, temporarily quit, and repeat; I struggled.

I developed a phobia on data structures and algorithms, one that told me that it is so hard, and I would not be able to learn it. Eventually, I felt that the tech industry does not have a place for me. I felt that I needed to have known what code is at the age of 6 so by my early 20s I would have the necessary coding experience needed to do well in a coding interview. Life doesn’t go back and by the age of 6 or 12, I had no computer anyway.

 

The Turning Point

Over the months I changed my focus on being able to build some skills on other areas I was lacking. Several things happen till It lead me to decide to learn it again. It happens that I had the wrong goals in mind. I wanted to learn algorithms to do well in a coding interview to get a software engineering internship at an awesome company, when instead I should be learning it because it is a skill worth knowing and it is something that is bound to make my brain think smarter.

This time I was fortunate to get to know a wonderful person who is there for me in this journey of learning. That is very comforting. You can also join us in this journey of learning, a never ending cycle, having in mind that we are walking the same steps together in asynchronous times and paces.

I want you to join me in this journey. If you are struggling to learn this very important fundamental knowledge feel free to follow me in this path. This is a skill you can learn, and you need to start believing you can. That is the first step and that is how I am starting myself.

Task 1: Believe you can learn it. It might take hard work, but believe you can.

Read more

My MozFest UK 2015 Experience

My MozFest UK 2015 Experience

Few weeks ago I attended MozFest (Mozilla Festival) UK. I had an awesome time for the most part. I really liked London. I liked how multicultural it was, and how a lot of people at MozFest were so nice.

This was my first time traveling out of Greece. Yup my first time. I thought traveling would be scarier than what it actually was. I enjoyed my flight and the whole traveling experience went smoothly. I was really proud of this whole… ‘Traveling on your own’ successful experience.

I went to MozFest as part of the participation leaders’ team so the first day involved a dinner with the team. I got to meet a lot of great people from around the world and get to know them. Some were to do sessions at MozFest, others came to support or just participate and learn skills they could use in the future.

What I absolutely loved about going to MozFest was that I was able to see some super amazing people! People that I spoke to on IRC while working on Air Mozilla. I got to see the awesome Air Mozilla airship which I admire and saw the people that made it happen! I was super happy to see part of the  team.

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Air Mozilla Airship

 

Seeing the people I worked with on the summer was very special to me because I always wanted to get to know them. Read more

The Outreachy Experience – End – Project Overview

Outreachy ended few weeks back. I however didn’t write a closing article and that is, because I was preparing one with an overview of what I worked on and about applying to Outreachy.

Without further delay, those asking about my experience or interested in Outreachy/Mozilla / Open Source / Tech can check it out here: https://hacks.mozilla.org/2015/09/implementing-air-mozillas-related-events-feature/