Fran Berman talks self-driving cars and data stewardship with Women in Tech

Fran Berman visited the Seidenberg Lounge in NYC on April 9th to discuss self-driving cars, data stewardship, and her latest projects on the social and environmental impacts of IoT. She spent time with the student-led Pace Women in Tech club, then sat in conversation with Professor Cathy Dwyer.

Fran Berman is an Edward P. Hamilton Distinguished Professor in Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University, and a Fellow of the Harvard Data Science Initiative.

Fran discussed her latest project which focuses on the social and environmental impacts of IoT. Her focus is on maximizing the benefits of IoT while minimizing risks. The most talked about point was the ethical structure of IoT.

Fran also took the time to explain data stewardship: “[data stewardship] is about creating a home for data that both takes care of it now and takes care of it in the future.”

The distinguished professor’s latest passion is IoT’s potential inflience on cyber/physical-biological systems. She explained that the intersection of the subjects, with the addition of artificial intelligence, is “both an amazing thing and a scary thing.”

Fran illustrated her point using self-driving cars and the ethical thought process behind them. She made the point that a self-driving car has to make the same decisions humans must make while driving, including what to do in instances of an imminent collision.

“Each one of us has an ethical framework,” she said, suggesting that one day perhaps self-driving cars (as an example) would be programmed to make decisions based on the individual’s moral configuration rather than a standardization. IoT could make this possible.

Fran also identified some of the largest issues that graduates will encounter in their careers: industries are not turning to technologists to be leaders, and women are challenged when finding their place in the technology industry. But if Fran can do it, so can any female computer scientist—she’s a living example of female leadership in the technology industry.

As for what the future of technology looks like, “hopefully this is what it looks like,” Fran stated, indicating the many female students in the audience. 

One piece of advice Fran offered was the importance of getting involved. It’s a huge learning opportunity—one that students can truly benefit from.

“If you have clubs here, become an officer of the club,” Fran advised. Becoming a club officer is a notable accomplishment. If you’re excited about something, then you should get involved with it.

“Waking up every day and feeling really excited about what you do . . . that’s another super important thing,” Fran added.

One of the most significant things Fran spoke about was the concept of failure as a good thing. Failure, Fran suggested, is just a part of the process of life. If you mess up, then that’s how you end up figuring out how to do it better the next time. Failure is expected and should be celebrated!

As an example, Fran spoke about her first job. “When I first got there, I had no idea how to do all the stuff I was supposed to do.”

“If you don’t keep at it, you’re never going to figure it out.”

The biggest piece of advice that Fran focused on was a single word: resilience. She outlined the ways that resilience makes a great leader.

“At the end of the day, don’t give up. Find your own heart and passion in it, find a network of people who can go through it with you and support you, be strategic, and be resilient,” she said. “It’s not always easy, but if it’s important to you it’s always worthwhile.”

As for Fran’s time at Seidenberg, she only had good words: “I had a blast. I think everyone here is wonderful.”

We were so lucky to have Fran at the Seidenberg Lounge for this intriguing and empowering discussion. We would like to thank Fran for taking the time to visit our campus for the WiT event.

Keep updated on the Seidenberg socials and follow WiT to hear about future events!

 

Pace Women in Tech is reaching out to young women in technology

There’s a female-central club on Pace University’s New York City campus that all women in technology fields should check out. Pace Women in Tech (WiT) is a Seidenberg organization that empowers young women technologists. WiT is led by President, Jennifer Rhau, and co-President, Sammy Chen Li. We got in touch with Jennifer to learn more about her and the club she heads.

Jennifer explained that she started going to WiT meetings during her first years at Pace: “in Seidenberg, we have a peer mentorship program for all freshman. In this program, one of our assignments is to go to a Seidenberg Club event with our mentor.”

It just so happened that Jennifer’s peer leader from her university introduction class was the then secretary of WiT. She learned about the club meeting from her peer leader and scheduled a time to attend the meeting for a class assignment.

“My mentor ended up canceling, but I went alone and loved the environment the club was based on. So I vowed [at] that first meeting with my friend Tiara to one day ‘rule Seidenberg’ with WiT,” explained Jennifer.

Flash forward to now, and Jennifer is the president of the organization. It seems her vow to “rule Seidenberg” with WiT has come true. But ruling comes with its own challenges.

“WiT has had very rocky beginnings where we met randomly and weren’t very established,” she explained. With her and Sammy’s leadership, the group will continue to strengthen immensely.

“We try to have very informal meetings, [and] we are always set up in a circle. When the [current] board took over this year, we decided our main goal was to create a safe, fun, supportive community. Everyone talks about everything. We just eat and talk, while we (the board) sneakily slip in helpful tools for navigating the workplace and school. In the future, we want to continue sneaking in more opportunities and information,” shared Rhau. “It’s very important to us that we don’t become a monotonous club.”

Under Jennifer and Sammy’s leadership, it is certain that becoming a “monotonous club” is out of the question. They both work tirelessly to make the club open and comfortable for everyone—even though the organization is dedicated to women. According to Jennifer, “everyone can join!” They certainly want everyone to see the work going on in WiT.

“You should join it for the community, but also because we are so supportive. Not only supportive in an emotional friendly way, but we share opportunities we find and things we’ve learned along the way,” Jennifer shared.

Overall, the organization is dedicated to empowering women in the technology industries. Their organization gives a safe space to women navigating an industry dominated by individuals who identify as male.

“It doesn’t always feel like it, but all STEM fields are almost taboo for women. Even [now] it’s so hard to be heard,” explained Jennifer. “Then, when we get farther along we start getting imposter syndrome. It’s always a climb, but if we get enough women into STEM fields, future women won’t have to feel the same way. It will be a norm and no one can say anything to make us feel unworthy.”

Jennifer’s work as president is going towards making sure that the incline for women who have to make the climb into this tough industry gets easier each year. Her vow to “rule” Seidenberg was realized with her current title at WiT. Her newest vow? To leave a legacy behind.

“I would love WiT to leave a legacy in Seidenberg,” Jennifer expressed. “We have another club at Seidenberg called [the Pace Computing Society] (PCS). It is involved in so many activities in Seidenberg. They even hosted the peer mentor project launch! I want that to be [WiT] in the future when I come back to visit.”

WiT will always carry an inclusive legacy, especially under the reign of Jennifer and Sammy. You can join WiT for meetings every other Monday in the Seidenberg Lounge 12:10pm to 1:10pm.

Follow WiT on Instagram (@PaceWiT) to keep up with all of their events!

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Pace Women in Tech celebrates official club status in first meeting

The Pace Women in Tech club held its first meeting as an official Pace organization on Monday, February 6, 2017. Led by Seidenberg students Eiman Ahmed and Niamh Fitzsimon, the meeting was a brief introduction to the club and the plans for the upcoming semester.

Aimed to be a welcoming group where members can make new friends and build a peer network, Pace Women in Tech already has a lot planned for this year. Hackathons, internship workshops, and potential attendance to the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration conference in Orlando, Florida, were just some of the things on the table.

The group aims to meet every two weeks and new members are welcome to join them for discussions, workshops and the chance to meet guest speakers from the tech industry – all over free pizza, of course.

“We want to spread awareness for the underrepresented group of women in technology,” said Ava Posner (BS in IT ’18). “My goal is to bring Seidenberg students – especially women – together so they have a network of individuals they can share experiences with, ask questions, and make new friends.”

Pace Women in Tech has an active Facebook group that is recommended for members not only so they can stay up to date with meetings and events here at Seidenberg but for local hackathons and other events taking place outside Pace.