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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Melanie Madera is the Glue of the Seidenberg Community

Pace University alumna, Melanie Madera recently took on the new role of Community Manager of the Seidenberg community (aka, the glue of Seidenberg). Last year in May, Melanie began her new position at the Seidenberg School of Computer Science & Information Systems. Her journey from university student to community manager is full of hard work and determination!

She began her college journey at Pace University on the downtown New York City campus in 2002. As a commuter, she worked numerous part-time jobs in order to pay for her education, gaining experience at Nintendo as a Marketing/Sales Associate and at a non-profit assisting children in the foster care system. She went on to earn her BBA in Marketing with a concentration in Advertising and Promotions.

“I will always remember my time at Pace with fond memories,” Melanie notes. “I still get a pang of nostalgia whenever I walk the halls at One Pace Plaza. They were some of the best years of my life!”

Now, as the Community Manager at Seidenberg, Melanie has the opportunity to make the Pace experience better for new students. Asked what her role entails, she quips, “what doesn’t it?”

She handles all of Seidenberg’s New York City campus events and clubs, as well as managing the student assistants at the front desk. She also assists Dean Hill in organizing his schedule and calendar to improve his time management. Overall, she makes the Seidenberg community better by listening to and observing the dynamics of the office.

Melanie explains, “in general, I keep the office going, make sure the faculty is supported and, most importantly, I always make sure that we have coffee stocked in the kitchen. Gotta keep Seidenberg caffeinated!”

 

As for what she brings to the office—besides coffee and an overall sense of community—Melanie believes that she has brought both a sense of organization and transparency.

“My work experience here in the Seidenberg School has been one of the most productive and positive community environments that I have had the pleasure of being a part of,” she explains. “I have to say that the culture here at Seidenberg is unlike any other place I have worked at. I have experience in many work environments: start-ups, small businesses, non-profits, large corporations; but the sense of community and comradery here is really refreshing.”

While she notes marketing as her true passion, she is also “passionate about treating the [Seidenberg] space with respect and to value what [the community has], because [she] feels that it starts with one person; once people see how much care and time you take in making it a great place to work, they tend to follow suit.”

She uses the skills that she learned at Pace to better the community of Seidenberg. “When I have the opportunity to flex my creative muscle and take someone’s vision and make it a reality, it really is a wonderful feeling,” she admits.

As long as Melanie flexes her creative muscles as the Community Manager for Seidenberg, the lounge will always be a safe space for students and faculty. We’re thankful for all that she does for our community and cannot wait for all that she has in store for the future.

“I feel like I was destined to be a part of this team and it feels like I just fit right in; everyone accepted me and is thankful for my hard work and dedication,” Melanie notes. “Everyone here takes pride in their work and in helping students and it shows! I’m really proud to be here and definitely have Seidenberg pride!”

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The Design Factory is the hub of innovation for students at Seidenberg

Pace University’s Design Factory students are always working on global problems that need innovative solutions. The students are teamed up, then have the opportunity to brainstorm and use “design thinking” methodology to take an idea from the drawing board to a working prototype. These students aren’t just dreaming of being the next wave of innovators, they already are.

Laina Posner—a Pace University junior majoring in computer science—has been a summer intern at UPS, a Grace Hopper Conference attendee, and a Pace University Nexus Maximus team member. She is also a design factory student who had the opportunity to go to Helsinki, Finland in October at the Aalto University Design Factory.

“I’ve been working with [the Design Factory] for the past two years, because that’s when [it] officially launched,” Laina states.

Of the Design Factory process overall, she explains: “It’s a big collaboration between different schools all over the country and also the world, but then also different majors as well. So each time I was assigned a project with a different team and I was always given a different task, so it was a great opportunity to become experienced in lots of different things.”

Last semester, Laina had the chance to start working on the PdP team with a start-up company. When she traveled to Finland, she had the opportunity to hear about what her team would be doing for the rest of her junior year.

“When I met them in September, we got a demo, met the team, and met the company. When we go back in May, we will be able to present our product. We’ll be able to see [the process] from start to finish. I’m working on the application part of it where I’ll be designing software to improve the already existing product that they have. Our other teammates will be working on the prototype,” she explains. “Right now I’m assigned on a permanent project where I’ll be working over the year, I’ll be working with a team from Finland with also NYC students. Our project is to work to create a prototype for a company. Our company is Pexray Tech, and they’re looking for a new innovation.”

Pexray Tech is a company that builds portable X-ray systems. The company is looking for a new project, so Laina and the rest of the team are at the forefront of that. The team has completed the beginning stages of the project where planning, research, and getting acquainted with one another is essential.

“It was really cool to have a connection with people that I had really never met over a product for a company that I was just introduced to. We’ve been able to work together since we met for the project, and building connections with other people was really cool,” she states.

Over the past few months, Laina and the rest of the team focused on using “design thinking” to build a working prototype for Pexray Tech. Currently, the team has two months left to create a product for Pexray Tech.

“We are current prototyping our project and in the developmental phase,” Laina explains.

Over the next two months, the team will finalize their product and have the chance to present it to the company. It will be a showcase of their hard work and innovation on a real-world solution.

Now, Laina just wants others to know about the opportunities one can gain through the Design Factory experience. While some students have been working with the Design Factory team for years, they’re always looking to recruit more students. They want more innovators and dreamers who can create solutions to real-world problems with real clients.

“It was very selective, so a lot of people didn’t know about it,” Laina stated of the application process. “I think a lot of students after I told them about it are very interested in it. I wish more people knew about it and more people could experience it, too.  It is an amazing experience. Students are able to use their own personal knowledge of the field and implement their work into a project that they have worked on from start to finish.”

We’re hoping to get the word out about  Pace University’s Design Factory and to get more students aware of this opportunity to innovate! If you’re interested in applying to be a design factory student, sign up for the mailing list!

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The new and improved Pace Computing Society

The largest computing organization on Pace University’s NYC campus has its home in the heart of the Seidenberg lounge. The Pace Computing Society (PCS) is a club for all, but especially for those within the Seidenberg School of Computer Science & Information Systems. The president of the organization, Allan Krasner, spilled some details on what he’s doing to make the society a better place for students.

Allan, who was elected as president of PCS at the end of his freshman year, has led the society for the past two years. He believes he is president because of his efforts to better the club. His record of achievement agrees with him.

“I tried to take the club from what it was at the time and tried to amp it up. I wanted to make it a little bit more special and unique,” Allan states.He did indeed make it more special and unique. Instead of just gathering during the club’s meeting times for discussions and lectures, Allan added workshops. By offering tutorials in numerous programming languages, hosting technical workshops, and inviting all students to join in, he made the club an inclusive space that others wanted to join. He also worked towards being able to “introduce people to new things they may not have seen before or even worked with.”

The club only continues to grow under Allan’s presidency. With introductory activities that challenge members to grow their skills, PCS is teaching its members that hard work never goes unnoticed.

“This year we’re trying to restructure it so that [there are] more consecutive events,” starts Allan. “[It’s] more hands-on, and a lot more fun for people. I think so far we’re getting better results.”

Allan continues to advocate for the club, going above and beyond in his duties to ensure that club members enjoy themselves. He’s even planning to bring new workshops on Raspberry Pi next semester—something that many PCS members are ecstatic about.

If you’re interested in checking out the group, stop by the lounge on a Wednesday during the noon common hour. Head on up to 163 William Street for some interesting discussions, workshops, and free pizza!

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The Pace Cyber Team Participates in CCDC

The Seidenberg School is proud to share that the Pace Cyber Team participated in the Northeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NECCDC) Qualifier on January 26. The team competed from the Goldstein Academic Center on the Westchester campus.

The team is made up of Seidenberg students—Daniel Barr, Andrew Ku, Ryan Kennedy, Benjamin Longobardi, Charlie Adams, Joel Thomas, Cole Patterson, Ryan Nuebel, Ryan Distelhurst, Danny Decarvalho, Mark Rolon, and Ronny Cervante. They worked hard to prepare for the competition and come as far as they did.

Michael O’Rourke, the System Administrator at AQR Capital Management, served as a team judge for Pace University. Dr. Li-Chiou Chen also supported the training of the team throughout the fall and spring semesters by allowing the students to utilize the Cybersecurity Education and Research Lab. The team would like to thank both Michael and Dr. Chen for their time and contributions to the group this academic year. The team would also like to thank their coach, Professor Andreea Cotoranu, who has been working with the team since 2012.

Andreea notes that “throughout the competition the students get real-life experience with hardening systems, handling attacks, and reporting incidents in a high-pressure environment. In training for the competition, the students work on their technical, communication and teamwork skills.”

Andreea continues: “cybersecurity is a team sport yet getting a team of talented, strong-willed students is not always easy. I am proud of what the team has accomplished this season; beyond expanding their technical expertise, the students worked really well together, not only in the Northeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Qualifier but also in the Northeast CAE 

Hackathon where they placed 2nd out of eight teams.”

Joel Thomas, a graduate Computer Science student, first participated in CCDC during his freshman year. He has a lot to say about his experiences with the Seidenberg team.

“What drew me to the competition was the idea of being able to work hands-on with so many different technologies at once. I was really curious about the Information Security field and just what [it] entailed,” he says. “Throughout my years of working in CCDC, I can honestly say it was a great resource for taking my experience beyond the classroom. To not only be able to see what technologies companies are using but also gain hands-on experience.”

Students who gain this hands-on experience working on the Cyber Team gain useful skills to add to their resume and get great experience working on realistic cybersecurity challenges. The team is a great way to engage with the Seidenberg community.

“The team is always looking for new members to help the team grow and continue,” Joel states.

The Cyber Team is always recruiting more students! Are you interested in becoming part of the Cyber Team next season? Get in touch with Andreea Cotoranu!

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Check out Seidenberg’s own Artificial Intelligence Club!

The Seidenberg School’s very own Artificial Intelligence (AI) Club kicked off the new semester with a meeting to gather new members last week. They held a party to welcome new and returning students to the club, and gather ideas for AI projects.

Milind Ikke, the AI Club’s social media chair, explains that the club (which has been active for a while now) was “created by some graduate students with a lot of passion for AI.”

“They wanted to create a community where great AI minds can come together and work towards [solutions to] different projects,” Milind states. “They also wanted to create an AI awareness, [since] AI has become a major part of today’s technology and will continue to grow [over] time.”

Now, the club wants to branch out and involve more of the Seidenberg community. They’re looking to reach individuals with an interest in AI and a willingness to learn from the numerous resources the club provides for its members—like the Tech Talks.

Milind explains that for the Tech Talks, the club “get[s] speakers from excellent AI companies, and they not only talk about what they do in their job but also guide the students on how to achieve their goals.”

Guidance from industry professionals is a fantastic resource for students who are looking to expand their network into the technology industries, so joining the AI Club gets students access to people who can further their careers!

Milind explains that students can benefit from the club in many other ways: “they can benefit from our club by building a community where ideas related to AI are discussed, … learn from the frequent speakers who come and give the talks, … get a platform to share their projects and other research work, … [and present] their work [to] enhance their presentation skills.

If anyone wants to start an AI project but doesn’t really know where to start, that’s where the AI Club comes in! “[Students] can meet people who would like to be a part of their project and can find people who can guide their project,” explains Milind.

If anyone would like to know more about AI in general, the AI Club can help! The club is looking to be an innovative part of the Seidenberg community.

If you’re a student (or faculty member) interested in learning more about what AI is all about, or if you have an idea for an AI project, you are welcome to attend the AI Club’s weekly meetings on Tuesdays at 4:30pm in the Seidenberg Conference Room. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, or email them at aiclub3@gmail.com!

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