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.

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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.

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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.

WP_20151106_17_45_02_Pro
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/

My First Greek Coding Boot Camp Experience

My First Greek Coding Boot Camp Experience

This week I went to Founders & Coders coding boot camp that happened at “The Cube” in Greece. Two of their developers decided to come to Greece for the boot camp, and that was really nice of them because I don’t see a lot of such boot camps existing in Greece. What I would really love to see in Greece is an algorithms and data structure coding boot camp 🙂 I am learning that right now and I will be blogging my experience or solutions as I do so in the next weeks.

It was a super busy week. Coding in the morning, coding in the afternoon, coding in the evening, coding at night, and coding at midnight, actually coding almost all day with the exception on when I was writing a blog post I’ll talk of another time.  I was able to balance this with my official last days of my internship which I will talk of in another post.

So Founders & Coders is a 3 month boot camp with the aim to equip you to become a software developer. I don’t have much experience on which level can an absolute beginner get to after such boot camp but that is something for those interested in it to figure out. The one that happened in Greece lasted one week, so I believe it was probably a small portion of the actual full curriculum. Founders & Coders is located in London, UK and is FREE to attend if you get selected for a 3 month batch. You just have to make sure you have your own accommodation and things needed to live in London if you get accepted, and that you follow the steps given in the application process before applying. You can check it on their webpage yourself.

I know some basic programming(at least), but I try to brush up my skills from ground 0 several times till I am sure I understand the basics well, I wanted to meet other people interested in programming, and I really wanted to learn how to use APIs plus anything else I could. So that’s why I decided to attend, also because I wanted to spend my summer honing my coding skills some more. The classes were from 10AM – 4PM with one generous break. Let me mention in the past 2-3 months I have also gone to 3 company visits. Nokia, eWorx and ZuluTrade but I haven’t blogged about that. I saw Nokia data centers in Greece and it was so beautiful! I really like the climate of a data center, it looked fascinating.

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Outreachy Internship Week #11 #12

So this week ended well, I was stuck with some minor bugs for quite some time. After discussion and pair programming with my mentor those were very tiny mistakes that caused huge problems. However after finishing resolving that and me thinking “Oh great now I can move on” the next day I got some odd error!

I am proud to say that my project involved a lot of code but a lot more debugging! Getting stuck is very common and I learnt that is one of the aspect of programming. Before I thought it was all about, getting a project to do. Flawlessly coding it and it works! Not hours of debugging. Eventually, when you try to add a new feature into a huge code base and the major tool you are using is new to you. This stuck – unstuck cycle gets pretty common.

If you followed my previous posts, I have to tell you that the code  I showed back then is totally changed. The same with how it all looks like.

On Saturday I decided to do some work. There are few weeks left! Actually less than 2 weeks so it is time to accelerate.

I fixed all the pyflake errors but I now seem to get a “cucumber” error. I didn’t install cucumber testing tool, but I did do rebase and fetched the current changes from airmozilla master. Which leads me to think that, that is what cause the issue.

Now I am doing a type article + code session, to resolve the problem live.

>> ImportError: No module named celery

My solution was to install Celery: pip install celery

THAT happened to NOT be the solution because as soon as I installed that, I got…

>>ImportError djcelery: No module named djcelery

My solution to that was to install django-celery: pip install django-celery

Now my tests run but come out failed. Did I say it was working the day before Saturday?

The most interesting thing of all is, things were working well a day before then I turned off the laptop and the test were not running the next day.

Isn’t that odd?

Well, it’s time to get off and try to resolve this so I can move on with writing tests.

 

Brief Progress Overview – Week #9 #10

This week i’ll give another brief overview. It is getting more and more busy which makes long blog posts pretty challenging,

at least till the internship starts getting towards a successful end. I really hope things go as well as I want them to, in the next weeks.

 

What have you accomplished this week (list specific items accomplished)?

 

– Went back to basics. Stopped working on what I was working and instead tried to make it work in plain python.

– Things seem to be functioning well in the plain python file.

What issues or roadblocks have you encountered this week?
– I have been having some errors while trying to run my simple unit test

–  Trying to get the most relevant posts appear higher.

Have they been resolved, and if so, how?

– The unit test errors which was there last week is on its way to being resolved.  In the next week or so.

– The most relevant post issue seems to be fixed, but needs further testing. It was resolved by implementing  a negative boost in elastic search more like this query.

Do any of the issues or roadblocks still exist and what steps have been
taken to resolve them?

– Yes I need to fix some bugs that lead to wrong related results i.e. use analyzer

I have discuss it with my mentor and  so far we decided I first get the unit test working, then

I work on fixing the bulk indexing and lastly we work on the analyzers before we move on

to anything additional that might come up.
How does your progress compare to your project schedule?

A bit behind of where I want to be I think. It is time to speed up kind of.

Brief Progress Overview – Week #7 #8

Today I am noting a very brief overview of what I have been working on in the past two weeks…

What have you accomplished this week (list specific items accomplished)?

– Make sure the new feature is rendered in the template

– started writing test cases
.

What issues or roadblocks have you encountered this week?
– I have been having some errors while trying to run my simple unit test

–  There are a lot more fixes I need to work on than I thought.

Have they been resolved, and if so, how?

– The unit test errors are still there but I am working  on resolving them

– I need to find a way to properly use analyzers just for the tags

Do any of the issues or roadblocks still exist and what steps have been
taken to resolve them?

– Yes I need to fix some bugs that lead to wrong related results i.e. use analyzer

I have discuss it with my mentor and  so far we decided I first get the unit test working, then

I work on fixing the bulk indexing and lastly we work on the analyzers before we move on

to anything additional that might come up.
How does your progress compare to your project schedule?

On schedule I believe, but I have a lot more things I need to soon complete.

Coming up with a rough prototype! – Week #5 #6

These past two weeks I have been able to come up with a rough prototype.

There are a lot of things to fix and polish. It happened that my elastic search query is kind of buggy and not returning the expected results, so I need to tweak some things right there and make sure it is functioning as expected. I now officially see events in my view sorted out nicely based on their relevance scores.

events in display
Displaying the relevant events in the view.

If you check the URL you’ll see the event I am looking for related content on is called something like “Club Firefox Australis”. Based on the elastic search query I showed the previous time.

I said “The query above scans an index and returns files that have a minimum of 1 similar term frequency and a maximum of 5, in the event titles.” The query I am currently working on looks a bit different because it was refactored and I had to write it with a more appropriate syntax.  The way it is now written, it checks for similarity in the title, channels and tags of the event. Here is a snippet of how that has changed. Read more

Adventures with Elastic Search – #week 3 & 4

Last week I did not blog about my outreachy internship. That is because I was stuck with elastic search.

I have the feeling of being Alice in the Wonderland. I was lost in the maze last week, and no, there was no special rabbit to help me, no special potion to get me from novice to advanced! However there were bugs,  and the bugs were my enemies.

I got some feedback from my awesome mentor Peter and we decided I change approach.

I usually use to go with small snippets of non functional code seeking for some help to unstuck. However that might have not been the best approach. I mean, I am learning something new, sometimes I have to allow myself to be stuck and get unstuck on my own. It is part of the process, but I have my deadlines and I really did not want to go past them so I resorted to that approach. Now I am shifting from that to shipping some functional code on which I will be asking feedback on instead. That is a great leap. It made me worry initially, being stuck is never fun, but this is worth trying.

Last week there was no functional code. This current  week, I finally started seeing some light in the tunnel. I am optimistic about that.

First of all my elastic search queries work!!! That is a progress that happened yesterday. Read more