My experience at JSConf Hawai’i and how I attended for free

Skimming through Twitter a few months ago a Tweet caught my eye: JSConf Hawai’i was being announced as the latest in the global JSConf series. It’d be happening in Honolulu, Hawai’i in early February, the call for papers (CFPs) had just been sent out, and they were offering diversity scholarships!

Within a couple of weeks, I had submitted a talk proposal and an application for their diversity scholarship. A few weeks after that, I got a reply. My talk hadn’t been selected but I had been awarded a diversity scholarship, which would cover the cost of my flight, hotel, and conference ticket. I was bummed my talk hadn’t been accepted but I was excited to go.

Months later, I found myself sitting in a room surrounded by fellow JavaScript developers getting the lowdown on the days ahead. I was thrilled to be at the conference for many reasons. The organizers made a noticeable effort to reach out to people from underrepresented groups in tech. The conference had an explicit Code of Conduct (COC). Plus ones were invited to some events. And we had the option to defer our swag and opt instead for a donation to be made to Aloha Lives Here charity.

During the opening remarks and via conference handouts the COC was brought up repeatedly and we were reminded to use inclusive language and remain mindful of those around you. This, coupled with great coffee and weather, meant the day started off on a high.

Things took a turn and I found myself on a conference rollercoaster. Speakers and MCs were using “guys” when referring to the audience and “crazy” when describing experiences. These are not inclusive words and can be triggering for some. I was taken aback when it wasn’t addressed, giving the impression the organizers didn’t care.

Along the left-rear wall was a projection of the conference logo on top of a backdrop that shifted constantly. Sitting near it was a mistake. The repeated flickering was distracting and anxiety-inducing.

Overall the talks I attended were great, but it was difficult to remain attentive towards the end of the day. It seemed like lighter topics were reserved for earlier time slots while talks that required more active thinking were held after lunch. Through side conversations and observation, I gathered that many were tuning out towards the afternoon. It didn’t help that there were no talk descriptions provided online or in handouts, which meant you didn’t really know what you were getting into when sitting down. This was not ideal and the first time I’ve encountered this at a talk-driven event.

Given the smaller size of the conference, I expected ample opportunities to speak with people about what they were working on and the tools they were using. Instead, I found myself wanting to run away because everyone else seemed to already know each other, huddled in large enclosed circles deep in conversation. Cue the imposter syndrome! I did end up chatting with a few people, but sadly all my interactions were quick and superficial.

The faltering on language usage and lack of thoughtful opportunities for people to interact (especially for those of us who are more introverted), affected my experience the most. Having run events and volunteered at many myself, some of these hiccups are notoriously difficult to get right—especially the first time around—while others require specific planning, foresight, and workflow for immediate action.

Conferences can be stressful and difficult at times. If you come in on the first day expecting every experience to be wonderful, you are in for a disappointment. However, the experience is valuable and worthy. At this event, I heard some exciting talks and got to interact with some awesome people. But most of all, I got to experience what it can be like to feel doubt and anxiety and I learned how to overcome those emotions and have a good time!

I loved the diversity in talk topics, speakers, and attendees. I thought the talks played well with each other and there was something to be taken away by people across different skill levels and backgrounds. While my conversations with people left much to be desired, everyone I interacted with was respectful and at no time did I feel unsafe. A total win there!

My top three talks were:

1. HI and AI, by Kyle Oba

Kyle discussed a project he worked on where facial recognition was used to match visitors at the Honolulu Museum with different art objects, whilst explaining the tech behind it in the process.

2. JavaScript is AsynchroWAT?, by Crystal Martin

Crystal talked about all things callbacks, promises, and async/await using female-relatable real life examples.

3. What Tamagotchis can teach you about ES6 generators, by Jenn Creighton

Jenn brought Tamagotchis to the browser and talked about optimization and state management using ES6 generators.

My favorite joke of the conference was from Kyle Oba when he uttered a slightly paraphrased version of: “…python, you know, executable pseudocode,” whilst discussing how it’s used almost exclusively in data science.

If you’d like to attend a conference and maybe even travel for free while improving your coding know-how, here are five conferences offering scholarships in 2019:

Want to speak at a conference? Get help crafting your first talk proposal for a conference or meet-up at an upcoming Global CFP Day. It’s free and held yearly.


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Seidenberg goes to the International Conference on Information Systems

During the week of December 13th, 2018, several Seidenberg students and faculty traveled to San Francisco to attend the International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS). ICIS, the leading conference in the academic information systems field, is held annually in the middle of December at a new location. Seidenberg community members had the opportunity to travel to California for last year’s prestigious conference.

Attendees of the conference—Dr. Daniel Farkas, Dr. Namchul Shin, Dr. Li-Chou Chen, student Tianyu Wang, Dr. Yegin Genc, and Dr. Isaac Vaghefi—hosted workshops, presented talks, and papers, and won some pretty amazing awards.

Dr. Farkas and Dr. Shin hosted a GIS workshop during the conference. The half-day workshop on Location Analytics and Location of Things brought in scholars from around the world interested in this area to discuss their professional experiences and research.

Left to right: Dr. Namchul Shin, Dr. Dan Farkas and a colleague from University of Redlands, CA, who is one of the co-organizers of the workshop held at ICIS.

Dr. Farkas also worked with Dr. Chen to present a TREO talk on the topic of “Individual Attitude, Trust, and Risk Perception towards Blockchain Technology, Virtual Currency Exchange, Cryptocurrency Transactions and Smart Contracts.” This talk opened up dialogue about each of these subjects at the conference.

Tianyu, who is in the process of obtaining a Ph.D., presented a paper, co-authored with Dr. Chen and Dr. Genc, titled “An N-gram-based Approach for Detecting Social Media Spambots.” Tianyu won the Doctoral Research Award from the PRE-ICIS SIGDSA symposium for the paper.

Lastly, and most impressively, Dr. Vaghefi won an award for the highly competitive “Paper-A-Thon,” in which he competed against 15 international teams. The paper submitted by Dr. Vaghefi, “DIGITAL DETOX? Understanding Users’ Abstinence from Social Network Sites Use,” was selected as the best paper to be presented at the conference. Overall, the paper “embeds a series of mixed-method studies to understand how social network users can take a break from technology and its positive outcomes,” according to Dr. Vaghefi.

With Tianyu’s Doctoral Research Award and Dr. Vaghefi’s winning “DIGITAL DETOX?” paper, Seidenberg had some major wins at the ICIS. The Seidenberg community continues to create leaders in the information systems field.

If you’re interested in attending the ICIS this coming December, get in touch with one of the previously mentioned faculty members and get started on your ideas!

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Nexus Maximus: a Wrap-up of the 2018 Conference

In September 2018, students from Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems presented innovative solutions to problems at Nexus Maximus. In order to showcase their hard work properly, we reached out to some of the students who attended the conference in order to hear about their experiences first-hand.

Nexus Maximus, created by Jefferson (Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University), is a conference which gives undergraduate and graduate students a platform to present innovative projects each year. The 2018 conference opened the minds of students to explore many topics, including improving health care access, designing healthy communities, developing new policies and business models to deliver sustainable value to the community, and building community diversity. According to Jefferson, students had the opportunity to “evaluate and seek innovation that supports the health and well-being of specific local community populations.”

Of the Computer Science, Information Systems, and Information

Technology students who attended the conference—Chinmay Joshi, Ronak Pansara, Ezana Ceman, Joseph Goggin, Kyle Hanson, Naglis Bukauskas, William Bender, Christopher Cherestal, and Laina Posner—two students got in touch with us to discuss their experiences. They outlined what they experienced and highlighted the best portions of the weekend-long experience.

Ezana Ceman, a junior undergraduate student majoring in Information Systems and a New York City Design Factory (NYCDF) Product Innovation Project (PiP) Member, spoke with me about the 2018 conference. She called the event a “fun and innovative experience” and described it as “a unique 3-day team challenge that allows you to step out of your comfort zone and use your talents to create an amazing concept.”

Some of the concepts worked on included strategies to battle food insecurity, homelessness, and much more. While the projects themselves shined a light on the groups’ innovative minds, Ezana explains that recognition wasn’t the highlight.

The best part of the conference is the community participation itself, according to Ezana: “you get to meet students from all around the world and work together to make society a better place.”

Nexus Maximus assists students by giving them the opportunity to learn how to develop and present projects, but the inspiration comes from the students themselves. The willingness to create innovative solutions to communities problems showcases the determination that these students have to create a better world.

Ronak Pansara, a graduate student who will complete his master’s degree in Information Systems in May 2019, also spoke about his experience at Nexus Maximus and the project that his team presented.

Ronak’s team helped people seeking help on NYC streets by giving them detailed and professional signs. He explained that his team’s “project “Signs of Trust” is all about helping homeless people in a unique manner.”

He says further, “This project was inspired by problems arising in many areas. [Their team found that] homeless people were either ignored or people would not trust them as they might not use [the] money for [a] good cause. So that’s why we came up with a unique solution for bridging the gap of honesty and trust.”

“My experience at Nexus Maximus was stupendous,” he states. “It not only helped me building my interpersonal skills, it also helped me in learning new things on how to work with people who were from different [countries].”

Ronak noted that the best part of his overall experience was “how [they] identified [their] individual strengths and weaknesses and how [they] utilized each other by working together in the project.”

“Though we didn’t win any awards, we did get one [non-governmental organization] (NGO) [which] supported our cause for homeless people,” Ronak states. The recognition in itself was a win for the team.

Another team, which included Chinmay Joshi and others, did get recognized with the “Maxime Innovation” award from the conference for maximum innovation. The team worked on a project, titled “Fresh Express”, that tackled how to better deal with food insecurity and waste within the Philadelphia area.

Overall, all of the students experienced growth and success at Nexus Maximus. Both Ronak and Ezana recommend this opportunity to other students. If you’re interested in attending in September 2019, grab some classmates and get to work on the next innovative idea!

Pace professor Miguel Mosteiro wins Best Paper at ICALP 2018 conference

A paper written by Miguel Mosteiro, assistant professor of computer science and algorithms whiz at Pace University, was selected as best paper at ICALP 2018. Known internationally as one of the top theory conferences worldwide, the achievement is significant for Dr. Mosteiro and collaborator Dariusz Kowalski, a computer science expert from the University of Liverpool.

The paper, titled “Polynomial Counting in Anonymous Dynamic Networks with Applications to Anonymous Dynamic Algebraic Computations,” is just one of the results of a series of research that Miguel and collaborators, including Seidenberg students, have worked on over the past few years.

“It was during my research visit to the University of  Bordeaux in 2015 when my host, Alessia Milani, made me aware of the Counting problem in Anonymous Dynamic Networks,” explains Miguel, who is based at Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems’ New York City campus. “At that point, the problem had already attracted a lot of attention because knowing the number of processors is fundamental for Distributed Computing, but the best upper bounds known on the running time were DOUBLY-exponential. Jointly with Alessia Milani, we improved the running time exponentially designing a novel protocol during that visit. Later on, my student Maitri Chakraborty showed experimentally that our protocol completes the computation in polynomial time, but not having a theoretical bound better than exponential we could not guarantee termination in practice. Anyway, this research was a first big step that resulted in three publications and university-wide researcher- and mentor- awards for my student and me.

Dr. Mosteiro, on the right, displays the award certificate. On the left is Paul Spirakis, Chair of the European Association of Theoretical Computer Science.

“The interest on solving Counting in polynomial time continued, and by last year we were three research groups heavily working on it independently. During my 2017 summer visit to the University of Liverpool and the University of Wroclaw, I worked intensively with my host Dariusz Kowalski in designing a new Counting protocol. Our plan was to transform Incremental Counting so that we could apply Markov Chain analysis to bound the running time. There is always a magical moment in these developments and ours was when I was giving a talk to Kowalski’s students. Explaining the challenges of Counting, and what was the core technical difficulty, the key idea for a new protocol became apparent. Seminal ideas are fundamental but one still needs to work a lot on the technical details to realize them in theorems, which we did last Fall.”

Dr. Mosteiro and Dr. Kowalski presented the paper at ICALP 2018, which took place in Prague over summer, where the importance of the problem it addresses and the strength of the contribution will be recognized with the award for best paper.

The Chair of the Computer Science Department, Dr. Christelle Scharff, congratulated Miguel on the achievement, noting that it was a great achievement, mentioning “how prestigious it is!”

Seidenberg School Dean, Dr. Jonathan Hill, also offered his compliments: “We are, indeed, in the presence of greatness! Congratulations, Miguel, on this accomplishment.”

“We are very grateful,” says Miguel about the award, and added: “as I am for the support of Seidenberg School, SRC, and Kenan Fund. Without that support, I would not have been able to visit my colleagues and focus on this research.”

Congratulations Dr. Mosteiro! If the feedback from our students is anything to go by, there is a lot to be proud of!

Seidenberg hits up Grace Hopper Celebration again!

by Kaitlyn Bestenheider

This month, a group of 14 Seidenberg students and staff travelled over 1,000 miles to join 18,000 other attendees at the 2017 Grace Hopper Women in Computing Celebration (GHC) in Orlando, Florida.

With daily opportunities to attend an extensive career fair, interview with top companies, and attend panels on just about any subject you could ask for, the conference was a unique experience for each attendee.

Ava Posner, Olga Bogomolova, Niamh Fitzsimon, Kim Brazaitis, and Svetlana Kotlyarenko travelling in style.

 

A few of the students were able to join the Anita B. Worker Bees and volunteer for GHC. Seidenberg students and leaders of the women in tech club WIT@Pace Kaitlyn Bestenheider (MS in Information Systems), and Elizabeth Molloy (BS in Information Systems) were a part of the team that kept the official historical records of the event for the GHC.

“It was a great experience to know that our perspective would be a lens for future generations of Women in Technology to experience the 2017 conference,” says Kaitlyn. “I was so grateful to GHC for also linking to my blog on all of their social media profiles.”

The keynote speech that really sparked a fire was Melinda Gates. “I really enjoyed Melinda Gate’s Keynote,” said student Linda Zeng, “She stated that it’s time to recognize everybody discovers their interest in tech at different times in their lives, and listening to that has made me so proud to be at Seidenberg, where non-traditional students can thrive and strive for a tech career with all the resources provided to us at the school.”

Her call to action was to ask every person in the room to inspire or encourage just ten women to join or stay in the technology field. If just 2/3 of all attendees made this their goal, over 120,000 girls and women would be affected. That’s more than all of the computer science graduates expected for this coming May.

A truly humbling and enlightening experience, the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration left its mark on all who attended. Rohana Sosa (BS in Computer Science) summed up the experience perfectly:

“I am forever grateful for Seidenberg providing me with the opportunity to be a Grace Hopper Scholar. The entire experience was amazing,” says Rohana. “It was really fun going to the Icebar to make friends with other GHC ladies from different universities and exchange business cards with executives from companies such as Facebook. I will always remember the laughs, dancing, and fun times I spent with my Seidenberg friends at the career fair, Disney World, and the GHC Friday celebration.”

We already can’t wait for GHC next year. Thanks to Seidenberg student Kaitlyn for this excellent post!

DEF CON 25: Seidenberg edition

by Kait Bestenheider

On Wednesday, July 26, eight Seidenberg students from both NYC and Pleasantville campuses traveled across the country to attend one of the world’s largest hacking conventions, DEF CON, in Las Vegas. The conference offered talks, workshops, and industry connections, the quality of which cannot be matched elsewhere.

The group pictured below consisted of Adriana Aluia (BS Information Technology), Kaitlyn Bestenheider (MS Information Systems), Brandon DeLuca (BS Computer Science), Siobhan Kiernan (MS Computer Science), Andrew Ku (BS Information Systems), Benjamin Longobardi (BS Computer Science), Connor McGee (BS Computer Science), and Elizabeth Molloy (BS Information Systems and Cybersecurity).

From left to right: Ben Longobardi, Andrew Ku, Brandon DeLuca, Connor Magee, Elizabeth Molloy, Siobhan Kiernan, Kaitlyn Bestenheider, Adriana Aluia.

Each student had their own unique experiences. They were able to attend all of the following workshops in the four short days of the conference.

  • Applied Physical Attacks on Embedded Systems, Introductory Version
  • Subverting Privacy Exploitation Using HTTP
  • Building Application Security Automation with Python
  • Windows POST Exploitation
  • Penetration Testing in a Hostile Environment
  • UAC Bypasses in Win7/8/10

“DEF CON was really cool. The speakers, workshops, and talks we’re all super diverse,” says Andrew Ku, “I picked up things that I didn’t know I was going to pick up until I saw there was a village for it. But by far, interacting with other human beings was the highlight of my Def Con experience.”

Connor Magee agreed, stating, “Being able to pick the minds of some of the smartest people within the information security industry was a phenomenal experience!”

Two students were even able to present content that they had created at R00tz Asylum. R00tz is one of many villages featured at DEF CON, but unlike most other villages (see Crypto and Privacy Village, Lock Picking Village, Packet Hacking Village’s Wall of Sheep, and more), R00tz is dedicated to security aficionados age 6-16.

Kaitlyn Bestenheider and Elizabeth Molloy were asked by some of the organizers at Cryptography and Privacy Village if the material they created for Pace University’s GenCyber program could be used for their R00tz program. The girls were able to attend the “kids only” village to help present their material. Both girls cited it as the highlight of their DEF CON experience. Kaitlyn wrote about her experiences leading the workshop on her personal blog, Kait Tech – check it out!

But who was supervising Lizzie and Kait?

Brandon DeLuca summed up the overall experience well. “DEF CON, above all learning activities and interaction, was a motivating experience; you really learn a lot about unexplored topics in the area of study. Understanding just how skilled others are in their respective fields makes you want to push yourself even harder to learn and become the best.”

“It was kind of cool seeing the culture behind the stuff I’ve been learning about in school,” said Ben Longbardi.

To learn more about each of the students’ experiences, join us at the (WIT@Pace) meeting on Tuesday, October 17th, 2017, for their “DEFCON Redux” event. Register for the WIT event here!


Thanks to Kaitlyn Bestenheider for covering DEF CON! We will have another student blog from Kait about her experience in the R00tz workshop soon!