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Friday Keynote - Conference Notes



Whether it is inventing the first compiler (Grace Hopper), pioneering space science and computing (Katherine Johnson), or the being the first computer programmer (Ada Lovelace), women have changed the world around us with their ideas and work in science, engineering and technology. Join us in recognizing the women who are transforming our world today with their innovations and research in technology, their new thoughts and ideas and their incredible designs.

Session Notes

Nora Denzel

  • As usual, Nora kicked off an amusing keynote
  • The attendees behind me kept saying, “She's so funny! I love her!”
  • Nora advised us not to take the women in tech journey alone
  • Find a friend
  • Find your tribe
  • How many of you feel like you have found your tribe?
  • Nora: I belong too! I earned a Computer Science degree in 19-never-mind
  • Nora's I AM card: I am the IT person for ALL my friends and family
  • “You major in math and there's a printing problem and it's your fault”
  • Nora's 3 highlights. From GHC, not from your hair. Although just wait till you see what happens up here!
  • 1) Meeting Dr. Sue Black (wild cheering from the audience as the camera shone on Sue)
  • Nora made the “we are not worthy” gesture (touching tribute)
  • “I love the pink hair. I'm not judging; I'm sure it's natural!”
  • Sometimes, Nora does get a little choked up and the following statement from Sue was one such time
  • “If you help a million mothers, you're helping 2 million people”
  • Mothers are caretakers and they weave the very fabric of society
  • This received significant applause
  • One of Sue's missions is “Help A Million Mums” (she is from the U.K.)
  • Highlight #2. This is like a core dump and takes Nora back to her CS degree
  • How many engineering conferences have you attended where there is daycare?
  • Nora saw an attendee holding a baby and there was a toddler daughter beside her, running around in a cape
  • “When was the last time I felt like that before it got beaten out of me year after year?”
  • Highlight #3. All your selfies!
  • Call To Action Tweet your own Top 3 Highlights
  • “Yuge” is Nora's word of the day. This conference is “yuge”
  • Nora humorously declared that she has 12 words she uses interchangeably and “yuge” is one of them
  • She drummed up excitement about the keynotes
  • “You are going to be hearing women who will inspire you”
  • “We are going to give out so many awards you will get tired of winning”
  • The next ABIE winner is from Georgia Tech (cheering from the Georgia section)
  • Nora speculated on what the Georgia Tech mascot was and they called out “Yellowjackets”
  • “I love yellowjackets; whenever I have a picnic, they're all invited!”

Dr. Ayanna Howard

  • ABIE winner is an ECSE: Dr. Ayanna Howard
  • She discussed the emotional connection in the field of robotics
  • Lesson 1: Humans inherently trust robots
  • Robot therapy for children with unique needs
  • Pediatric therapy is a $1.6 billion business so don't let anyone tell you there's no money in robotics!
  • When robots display human emotions (happiness, sadness, anger), the children trust them
  • There is empathy displayed in those human emotions and the children respond to it
  • We know that children trust robots. But do adults trust robots?
  • Dr. Howard's team conducted an experiment
  • People enter a building and fill out a robotics survey in a room with a closed door
  • Suddenly the alarm goes off
  • The hallways are filled with smoke and strobe lights (signifying an emergency situation)
  • A robot guides them in one direction away from the exit
  • People followed the robot instead of going towards the known exit!
  • Conclusion: adults trust robots
  • Humans trust robots
  • Dr. Howard threw a twist in the experiment
  • Instead of guiding people to the exit, the robot simply spun in place
  • To the audience's amusement, people just stood and stared at the robot instead of finding their own way out
  • Dr. Howard: “You laugh, but this is what actually happened!”
  • In another instance, the robot guided two couch movers to a dark room (where the couch clearly did not belong) and they followed the robot's instructions
  • When asked for their motivations, they answered, “Well, I just assumed the robot knew better than I did”
  • Dr. Howard outlined various other robot initiatives and concluded that
  • Humans and robots will co-exist in a peaceful world

Telle Whitney

  • ABIE Lifetime Achievement Award
  • A video showcasing Telle's contributions
  • Bill Unger: It's not that everyone knows who Telle is or that everyone knows who Anita is. It's that everyone comes out of the conference feeling how Telle and Anita would have wanted her to feel. That is Telle's and Anita's legacy
  • The presenter's I AM card: I am good at math and you are too!
  • Telle discussed her friendship with Anita
  • Anita became ill and wanted Telle to carry on her legacy
  • Telle thought it would only be for a little while!
  • Somehow, it went on for 15 years!
  • Telle: “We survived … and then we thrived. In 15 years, so much has changed but one thing has remained constant. YOU! Each one of you has a journey.”
  • “Declare that, 'I will only work or study at an organization that cares about its people and cares about me!'”
  • The above statement received tremendous applause
  • It has been a pleasure to serve as the leader of
  • Telle welcomed the new President and CEO, Brenda D.
  • “Organizations blossom under new leadership.”
  • “I feel confident that Brenda will honor Anita's legacy and my contributions while infusing new ideas of her own to grow”
  • Telle fought back tears as she thanked her spouse
  • “The best career decision you can make is to marry well” (tremendous applause)
  • “I wish you all the very best” (standing ovation)

Nora Denzel

  • Nora hugged Telle
  • Nora confided to us that she was worried this would turn into the “ugly cry where your eyelashes come off”
  • Nora joined in 2008
  • To avoid the “ugly cry”, Nora dug deep and read quotes for comfort and inspiration
  • She has been seeing a doctor/therapist for several years and he has a lot of wonderful quotes
  • “Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.”
  • Nora: “The doctor, of course, is Dr. Seuss. (Laughter) I don't know if he's still around anymore. But the books are great.”
  • The next speaker is a movie star!
  • Reality show about particle physics. Nora is sure it will be a big hit!

Dr. Deborah Berebichez

  1. Think Deeply
  2. Be Bold
  3. Help Others
  • Computer Science is about learning how to think deeply and critically
  • Or as Debbie likes to say, “Turtles are not just numbers.”
  • While coding, the girls in her class did not stop to think about how much the turtle weighs
  • When Debbie asked them, they had no idea
  • One brave soul guessed and her guess was way off (she guessed in kilograms/pounds, when in fact, the weight was in grams)
  • They all had a friendly laugh about it
  • Debbie: Always think about what is the problem you are solving and what are the assumptions you are making
  • You are the only person who can turn your dreams into reality
  • Turn them into something actionable
  • As a young girl, she learned to hide her love of math and physics because that would not get you a husband
  • “I had to be bold. There was no more time to wait.”
  • The more she stifled her desires, the more the little voice inside clamored
  • She admired an Italian scientist who shut himself up in a tower to study the stars
  • She thought she would be like him
  • “Even if I don't get a husband and make my family happy, at least I'll have my numbers to keep me company.”
  • Debbie came to study in the U.S. in Brandeis, MA
  • She made a friend called Rupesh (Indian)
  • They would often get together and discuss the mysteries of the universe
  • Debbie was doing her degree in Psychology; she had completed 2 years
  • Rupesh was studying Physics
  • One day when they were walking, Debbie teared up and said, “Rupesh, I just don’t want to die without trying” (to get a degree in Physics)
  • Rupesh did something for which she will be forever grateful
  • He called his advisor and explained Debbie’s situation
  • The advisor called Debbie into his office and gave her a textbook
  • “If you can complete this textbook by the end of the semester, we’ll test you on the material and if you pass, we’ll let you skip 2 years”
  • Rupesh once again came to Debbie’s aid and tutored her on vector calculus and similar concepts
  • At the end of the semester, she took the test and she passed! (applause)
  • Debbie: Success comes to those who keep getting up! (applause)
  • We dared to believe in ourselves
  • We were bold
  • We made it happen
  • Debbie got her television spot (currently held) through unusual means
  • There was a tweet and she answered in an off-hand way
  • She sent in an amateur video of herself talking about physics to “no one in my living room”
  • She was selected and is now the co-host of a popular science show
  • Debbie desperately wanted to repay Rupesh
  • Rupesh said when he was a youngster in India, an old man would climb up the mountain to educate him and his sisters
  • When they wanted to repay him, he said, “The only way you can repay me is by helping another person.” (tremendous applause from the audience)

Nora Danzel

  • When she was doing her CS degree, her mother asked her, “How are you going to make money doing 'object-oriented programming'?” (she said it like that because she had no idea what OOP was!)
  • Nora: Inheritance (laughter)
  • Undergraduate and Graduate Poster Awards were given out
  • It was great to see that one of the winners was male! Male participation in GHC 17 seems to be on the rise, which is highly encouraging.

Dr. Aysegul Gunduz

  • She related an anecdote where she was one of three speakers to address a university audience
  • Initially, she was not very sympathetic to the difficulties women faced in STEM fields
  • As she heard the first 2 speakers discuss their experiences, the advice she had prepared seemed grossly incongruous
  • “Don't run like girls!” (“And you are allowed to boo the speakers, by the way,” she reassured us)
  • Ayse realized that the reason she did not see the world through the same lens as these other women was because she had a female advisor throughout her graduate studies
  • She never lacked a female role model who made it clear to her that STEM was both possible and fun for women
  • The mere presence of a female leader in her life who she saw on a regular basis reassured her that she belonged in STEM
  • It never even had to be vocalized and never emerged as a question in her mind (“Do I belong here?”) Her advisor's existence validated her choice
  • When Ayse realized this, she gained a new respect for other women, who were struggling without a female advisor
  • In closing, “Run like girls!”

Dr. Marie desJardins

  • Growing up, her parents never differentiated between her 4 siblings
  • Science was both for boys and girls
  • Curiosity was ignited by reading and visiting museums
  • As an adult, Marie's experience was different
  • When she said to her advisor that she wants to pursue a career in research, his response was, “You're a woman, why would you want to do research?”
  • Marie felt devastated
  • Today, she would tell him, “I want to do research because I want to get a Ph.D. Duh!”
  • Marie does have her Ph.D. today and is delighted at the opportunity to encourage young women in STEM
  • Closing: See it. Name it. Say it.

Nora Danzel

  • The next speaker will re-ignite that sense of wonder you felt when you were 5 years old and running around in your superhero cape

Maureen Fan

  • Follow your own path
  • Showed a slide of a larger version of her business card, outlining the path she took to get to her present role
  • Founder of baobab
  • Interests: Computer Science, Art, Psychology
  • Parents were worried she would end up poor and destitute if she followed her love of animation
  • Being a “wonderful, dutiful Asian daughter”, she undertook a degree in CS
  • Animation is her real passion
  • She indulged it by interacting with LucasFilm animators
  • Eric Darnell, who heads up baobab with her, wrote and directed all 4 Madagascar films
  • As a 5-year-old, Maureen thought, “I can do anything I want”
  • Animation is art in motion
  • baobab's mission is to bring out that sense of wonder in you
  • Make you feel that you can do anything again!
  • Storytelling's strength lies in its capacity to elicit profound emotional experiences by making you care about the characters in the story
  • Storytelling is literally in our DNA
  • As humans, we crave stories
  • We get to connect with the characters and care about them in a way we don't do in real life
  • You want to see them succeed or you want to see them fail
  • This is why you see the movie all the way to the end
  • Or you read the book all the way to the end because you want to find out what happened
  • Maureen showed us a video of a bunny
  • The bunny came up and sniffed at the camera
  • Maureen explained that when the same video was depicted in Virtual Reality (VR), people were strongly motivated to protect the bunny
  • One participant said, “I'm the only thing standing between this innocent little bunny and danger. I have to protect her!”
  • Maureen explained that VR is different from a movie in this sense
  • When the bunny comes up and sniffs at the participant in VR, the participant feels a genuine sense of connection and motivation to interact
  • Maureen gave another example
  • Suppose you saw a 5-year-old girl crying on a bench, all alone in 3 media: Movie, VR and real-life
  • In the movie, you might feel sorry for her but you would not be likely to get up from your seat and try to help her
  • In VR, you would actually go over to her and help her
  • In real life, you would hopefully go over, talk to her and help because you are a caring person
  • Maureen described an upcoming film with Diego Luna, from “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights”
  • She applauds diverse casting becauuse “we all need great role models in entertainment”
  • Summary of VR: It combines the empathy of films with the agency of games and the motivation of real life
  • “You have so much more potential within you than you realize”
  • Maureen's I AM card: “I am a dreamer and I hope you are too!”

Nora Danzel

  • See you at the dance!


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wiki/ghc/ghc17/friday_keynote.txt · Last modified: 2018/01/05 17:22 by saranya_m