California Based TSEP Organization Hosts 3rd Annual Teen #STEM Camping Conference

 

Statistics show that one in three young people report not having an adult mentor and even worse with minority youth, one in four public school youth drop out of school before finishing high school. I’ve been on a quest to learn more about what is being done to encourage today’s youth through guidance and supplemental coaching and mentorship. I learned about several organizations making strides and The Social Engineering Project (TSEP) was one of them that I had the opportunity to be apart of and witness their effort and contribution the the cause. 

On October 4, 2019, myself and other minority mentors headed up into the woods and into a rural campground just outside California’s Santa Cruz Mountains to the setting of the TSEP event. The group of mentors consisting of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and practitioners ventured into this setting to coach and develop capacity to a group of 70 inner city youth from all areas of Northern California.

Invited to speak as well as participate in this third annual camping conference, I was overwhelmed by the amount of care the conference organizers took to prepare this effective event. The third of its kind, the campout sought to bring value to youth by targeting their interests and well being and bring all of that, plus some, to a location they can unplug, focus and absorb it all. 

Like many of you, programs of this type were nonexistent in my youth thus the same for Program Director and President, Kevin L. Nichols, who worked with a team of mentors/counselors to arrange the opportunity with seemingly minimal effort. 

The camp was named  “The Social Engineering Project Overnight Camping Conference” after the founder Kevin’s varied pursuits in the areas of technology, political science, law and higher education. You might not have known his name, but Kevin has been visible speaking at rallies, conferences, engagements all over the country including his former campus, UC Berkeley. He has worked diligently to make an impact on young people in a variety of ways. Once the face of LinkedIn, Kevin has helped to establish the TSEP pipeline which have introduced technology pathways to many formerly disconnected youth.

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What better setting to connect youth to STEM, self help, encouragement and goal focus, then off the grid and out of their everyday normal setting? 

Every day, the teens woke up to a vigorous schedule which included early morning focus groups just after a hearty camp-wide breakfast. The days focused on a purpose which was identified as a necessity with high school students. Day One had workshops which addressed life skills, purpose and meaning, Day Two addressed STEM and career goals. The workshops on Day Three, the final day, were geared toward college admission and planning as well as leveraging social networking and brand adoption. Throughout the conference, the students were encouraged to conceptualize a brand, develop a pitch and make a presentation to their peers. The culminating activity, enjoyed by all, included the students utilizing information learned in the previous days as well as persuasive techniques to encourage others to buy in to their brand.

I was excited to be apart of this program for two reasons, one) because youth aren’t introduced to STEM as fast as its continuing to grown and two) life skills is no longer primitive in public schools. Youth today are lacking the encouragement and guidance to want to be great.IMG_0735.JPG

The conference presented a wealth of new information delivered in a variety of ways embraced by the young attendees. Sponsors like GoPro, Northrup Grumman, Stanford, Cal Berkeley and Apple made a huge impact on all who attended.  The youth were able to interact with attorneys Juan Walker and Michael Thomas who addressed Mindfulness Practices. This combination of informational strategies made the event a tremendous success for all.

 


 

Programs like TSEP help identify key components needed in our youths journey to adulthood from a social, psychological and comprehensive standpoint. If you’re looking for information on TSEP and their array of programs geared towards youth, visit their website at thesocialengineer.org.

 

https://socialworklicensemap.com/the-value-in-mentoring-our-youth-2/
https://www.youthmentor.org/thestats

 

IoT: We need to talk about it!

IoT, The Internet of Things has done a lot of great things for consumers and a next level is soon to come. With good, in terms of technology, there are bads as well. IoT has posed new problems in compromising data and becoming harmful. With so many

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devices utilizing the internet, the idea of secure intelligence is becoming a talked about thing these days. The emergence of new devices has created a scurry to fix the IoT, for lack of better words. Only when I started building applications for mobile, did I realize how aggressive IoT has began. When thinking of ways to remotely send and receive data from my devices to my tv’s, etc, I couldn’t help notice how wonderful and stressful the growth will be on us developers would be. Devices are made up of materials and are physical. To think development of safe and adequately planned out software is not important is to end up unprepared like the rest of the world has been, especially after the recent malware hacks have shown vulnerabilities that were honestly in plain sight. The truth is, average companies including manufacturers of IoT devices weren’t ready financially and support wise, to provide additional layers of security on their devices, you would need to have thought about the possibilities ahead of time. In mostly all of the organizations I’ve worked for, I’ve noticed time was always of the essence whereas security was, well, adding ssl on a server. 🙂 Vulnerabilities can and will be found as brilliant minds challenge themselves to out code the code, waiting on an opportunity to take advantage.

The US government has been taking IoT security very seriously as well. There are ideas to regulate and standards have been put in place making manufactures liable for securing and continue patching of equipment and devices for which an individual’s safety is affected per network malfunction. The Gov’t has created a separate office to monitor and protect power grids from network attacks. The seriousness of a solution now is in heavy talks. In case all of this is getting boring, a quick reminder that any device utilizing the internet to operate is part of IoT. From Security Cameras, to Street Signs to Baby Monitors and Cars. The security features to keep your data protected as well as your safety can be compromised and companies aren’t really ready to address the issues. The wait to move on the issue has been detrimental. The fact that a lot of devices have little to no security is alarming, but it’s still a real fact. If we look at what happened in the Malai botnet incident which successfully targeted thousands of security cameras and used them to initiate DDoS attacks amongst popular service providers, we can see the vulnerability possibility do exist and is proven.

IoT is not limited to just small devices, we are seeing the emerge of its implementation in the automotive and healthcare industry as well. Cars that use the internet to control its behavior, can become dangerous, uncontrollable or even a weapon considering an attack on its system. I’ve recently been working in healthcare and pictured the the ability to penetrate a heart monitor or a system that controls a device.

So what does this mean for us developers? Some devices in the IoT may not be smart enough to contribute to a security risk, examples of this are your friendly workout tracker, the FitBit. It’s a harmless device which doesn’t provide much personal data besides your average steps taken in a day and probably your email address, therefore the level of security can be moderate.  Measuring the devices security importance is something companies are continuing to learn. This means that when we are developing for devices using IoT infrastructure, we consider common practices and integrity when formulating in code a what should be secure solutions. It’s important to shift our thinking down to the device level. When developing security in applications that run these things, we are usually developing with a set of tasks in mind. This is good but we need to be able to contribute observations so that we can tighten up the credibility of the product. Software Developers working to build software for IoT devices will need to adapt and help initiate good development procedures that will endure the changing times.

As IoT expands, there will be more challenges to overcome, including user experience, energy consumption, interoperability and release update calibrating to add to the list. Now is the time to continue the talk about how it will affect us on a global scale, how much will it cost and how soon can we fix it.

Programmers/Devs: Why Learning the Basics of Front End Development is Key

I know you’ve been so accustomed to batting out algorithms with glory on the backend. Your a rockstar coder, except on the front end. One thing I’ve learned over the past few years working in leadership and stiring my own entrepreneurial effort is there aren’t enough devs focusing on the Front End. In recent interviews I’ve noticed devs are more focused on how to perform crud operations in mySQL rather than what’s the best method to validate an input. Or how to display a paginated table on mobile. Have we forgot the importance of the Front End? Its hard to think that with so many awesome frameworks like React and Angular that make front facing dev a breeze. Node has made backend programming possible for front end devs but its true the learning curves are a bit challenging.

I’m complaining because I’ve been interviewing front end jr. devs over the last few weeks and have noticed their lack of basic understanding of, well, the basics. Writing simple HTML5 using semantics and simple CSS3 have been a tough challenge. I don’t think its lack of proficiency instead a lack of consistency. Devs these days have a lot of tools to learn and pick up fast thus the hangup on getting the basics down to a T. A real developer can code and spin a solution using many tools while a programmer simply codes for task. Devs these days want to move on before they’ve grasped the simple concepts. I know this for a fact because I was one of those developers. Before I finished learning JavaScript I started learning jQuery. Then bootstrap and so on. I went back to the drawing board and took online courses on things I should have known with the level of tools I was using.

I think Junior Developers can benefit from learning the basics and becoming as good as possible with just those. Any good front end position will care about your level of HTML, CSS and JavaScript skills and if you lack any of these on a basic level your chances of adapting to a companies frameworks and tools are not likely. Once you learn the basics you can move on to more robust features and functionality such as algorithmic design and concept, data manipulation and other heavy lifting.

Networking and the Idea of Being Friendly in Tech

6b4b6b39664429b0b1b74027e410d943To my fellow Tech’s – I’m sure we’ve all been in the situation where we’ve passed by a co-worker at the coffee machine and gave off a smile or friendly gesture, only to be left with a blank stare and no response. “Having a bad day i see…” is usually what’s going through my head at that point but I usually pay it no nevermind and keep it pushing throughout my busy day. The fact that busy people have bad days but deal with them in different ways came even more apparent when I joined a large team as a Lead UX Developer and was coined as “too happy”. There is no way that I don’t get frustrated and want to toss my laptop out the window but I’m not the one to display that anger to the rest of my coworkers. It’s not my nature. There are times I’ve been pushed to the point I had to step out of the “too happy” and into the “fairly pissed” zone. But how do you keep your composure while networking with not so nice people?

I begin to approach my situations differently. Being a female developer, I battled for years to not appear too aggressive in fear of being coined combative or angry. Nothing worse than being an angry Black woman on top of all of that and in tech if you get titled that in the minds of others, it’s a wrap. Did I stop smiling at people at work? No… being a Lead in tech, your looked up to and somewhat expected to have a sort of stance. For that fact, I smiled even more. I wanted my team to know they could rely on me, even though I was going through hell at home and no one knew it. But smiling at everyone doesn’t mean you’re happy! This statement is true and I had to understand that it wasn’t my job to piss others off because I’m pissed off. I realized it was easier to fake a smile than have my bad attitude reflect off on everyone around me, especially my team.

Socially, my understanding of how workplace culture works helped me contribute to its improvement in many of the organizations I’ve worked at. I begin to initiate and participate in networking events that brought togetherness. On a social standpoint, I even begin to attend events out of office which created interest from those internally. They got to see who I was on a social standpoint and I didn’t hide it and still don’t. I’m one to believe that if you can smile your stress off, you can create a more constructive environment which ultimately changes (or doesn’t). Thus my need to network and be around others who are completely different than me became my focus early into my 20’s.

It’s true, tech can be stressful at times, but it is an industry we can learn a lot socially from. Full of unique individuals with a ton of different stories. I remember I met a woman at the cafeteria in one of my old positions who said, “people who smile all the time are annoying”. I laughed and cried at the same time. In some cases, you just can’t brighten the day of someone who is already miserable, it’s impossible. Those type of people I smile at anyways. Not to be annoying, only to share that I am aware that you are pitiful and I refuse to partake in your pity party in any case. Carry on!

I attended an after work social at a bar and grill and everyone was smiling. Perhaps these are the people who are just like me, who found the missing link to happiness at work and are capable of managing stress with a smile [and a drink].

If you find yourself not able to be happy when you walk into your workplace, jump out of your norm and join a new professional organization or afterwork social that will remove you out of the norm. You can’t please everyone but being friendly and networking is a mediocrity ice breaker in my book. Socially, the more you surround yourself with people who are different, the more delighted you are to find peace and substance in new situations thus making being happy everything to smile about!

Highlights from my attendance at @DevColor 2016 #DevColorInMotion 1st Annual Conference at Facebook HQ

​When? Fri, September 29, 2016

Wow. It finally came around. The buzz had been looming around Dev/Color for a while but “what would it be like?” I remember asking myself this when the Announcement email arrived in my Yahoo inbox. Yes, I still use yahoo mail! 

The day of the conference came around and I spent much of my time not just socializing but observing as well. I’ve been apart of a few other local groups and have travelled to some amazing tech companies and met some the worlds most talented contributors to the world of Web and Software. The Dev/Color annual conference proved it was more than just a meetup and very much different than what I had been apart of in the past.

It was about 130 (give or take) or so Black Software Engineers. At one point during the Keynote by Founder Makinde Adeagbo, we were actually all in one room and it was monumental. All of us Black Software engineers in one setting at Facebook HQ. Epic! 

“Wow!” That’s how I felt. This was the best feeling I’ve had in a while because it was my first time seeing so many of Us [black] developers in one setting, smiling, laughing, socializing, learning and being 100% comfortable around one another. It was almost as good as a family reunion in which you see many distant cousins some of whom you’ve never met or even knew you had. Seriously, the event was small but epic to say the least.

Impactful information delivered by tech greats including some of our very own colleagues and tech associates. What a great feeling it was. The dev/color Team, Ariel Belgrade and her amazing crew of black professionals showed off once again. They work very well under pressure and seemed to float through the conference always bracing a smile and being nearby when needed. 

The day started out with an intro and welcome by Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s CTO following sessions by other pros like Ben Horowitz, founder of Andressen and Horowitz and Silicon Valley VC Hugh Molotzi. The keynote speech was delivered by non-other than Dev/Color founder Makinde Adeagbo outlining the growth and span of the organization.

Quick talks by others including dev/color members were just as rewarding.

Here are some pics with highlights of the day.

Dev/Color’s Makinde Adeagbo (right) alongside Programs Director Ariel Belgrave the other amazing dev/color team members.

Facebook’s CTO Mike Schroepfer welcoming the Black devs

Great talk by Mekka Okereke, Manager at Google about making the transition from Engineer to Manager

02-Squad – Pearl, ME, Rudi, Jahmon and Jayson / Black Engineers

Quick game of mass RPS (rock paper scissors)

Dev/Color founder Makinde Adeagbo giving his parting comments

Excited to see what next year holds for this progressive group. Excited for Makinde and the whole Dev/Color team bringing together Black Software engineers and helping us reach our goals by providing a network of success and resources.

Reggae on the River 2016 from a Campers Prospective

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I’ve been to many Reggae festivals but nothing like Reggae on the River. I’ve returned as a festival goer this year and this time as a camper.

In previous years I was at the festival on behalf of the artists. With all the great vibes that go on behind the stage/scenes, I knew the ‘festival goer’ experience had to be just as pleasant. Honestly, pleasant is an understatement. Reggae on the River, in its 32nd year of irie vibes, is one to enjoy and one me and my hubby will put on our calendar to prepare for every year. 

Below is a compilation of our video – it was shot on my Canon 70D, LG G5 and my hubbys iPhone 5. Appearances by my son Nick and my nephew Jeremiah. Enjoy! #reggaelove #reggae #festivals #rotr #humbolt #gerberville #bigfoot #august #roots #culture #irievibes
A Campers Experience – Reggae on the River 2016

Can’t load the video? click here.

 

Tech Talk at GitHub HQ

The event was cool… I walked a good 20 blocks from Bart to get there but once I got in the GitHub HQ doors, I realized my walk was well worth it. I could probably walk another 20 for that experience and what I got from the Dev/Color Tech Talk that night.

We met at about 6:30pm. I was late and arrived at 7:00pm. The bar and began tacos were calling me from a distance. I met my team members at the large picnic tables in the center of GitHub’s lounge. After a glass of wine and a few veggie tacos it was on to the board room (very unconventional by the way). A couple of GitHubs software engineers talked about their experiences working at a tech company. They went in and spoke about being in leadership while being black and minority, the challenges and rewards. 

I enjoyed GitHubs team very much but The real kicker for me was the intro to Hack Programming language and the statistical subjects a couple of our dev color members brought up during their 15 minute lightening talk. I won’t go into the talks but I will tell you they are beneficial and enlightening. 

Overall, my view of start up culture is changing. I’m viewing tech as a race that few are embracing. Even few African Americans. Why is it? Ill dig in another post but keep posted here for more updates on my tech journey.