womENcourage 2015

When I first heard about womENcourage a year ago from Alexander Wolf, I thought I wasn’t hearing right. An international conference for women in computing in Sweden, where I had just moved a month before! It was actually true and Uppsala University, the oldest university in Sweden, held the second womENcourage conference last week: a European celebration of women in computing. Thanks to ACM-W I was able to attend the conference for 2 and a half days full of talks, discussion and meeting new people!

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ACM-W scholars. (By Kristina Lidayová lidayova@gmail.com and Tomas Oravec samotcevaro@gmail.com)

The conference started on Thursday afternoon with an amazing poster session and a great career fair. Engineers from Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Bloomberg and more were around to answer questions about their technology and their work-style while typical Swedish food was served as an appetizer. Meanwhile, the poster session went on, with great research ranging from cryptography to language processing. It was a great opportunity to present our work and network with others with similar research interests.

Presenting my poster
Presenting my poster at the poster session

Day 2 started with a presentation by Alexander Wolf, the president of ACM followed by a keynote by Vicki Hanson on how to integrate accessibility into products. Next parallel sessions started. I attended a panel on Open Source as a career path. Four panelists from FreeBSD talked about how they started doing Open Source and how it has impacted their lives.

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Alexander Wolf opening the conference

After lunch, there were amazing industry talks. Nishita Agarwal, from Facebook London, introduced the hacking culture at Facebook and gave great advice on how to succeed as a woman in tech, be confident and strive for excellence.

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Nishita Agarwal during Facebook’s industry talk

The day ended with a Case Studies session I was a volunteer at. We presented participants different case studies of women in tech at different stages of their career and they analysed and dicussed one of them in order to identify the problems and possible solutions.

The last day of the conference started with a talk by Valeria Varr, from ACM-W, where she explained how they support women in tech, including their local chapters and conference grants. She was followed by Åsa Cajander, who talked about her experience as a female professor.

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The amazing hall of Uppsala University, during one of the breaks

During the morning break, we had the opportunity to improvise a small Systers meetup. We even got some women interested in becoming part of Systers joining us! We shared our experiences being part of Systers as well as how much we have gained from it. We made great connections with other Systers around Europe and India we hadn’t had the change to meet in person before.

After the break, another industry talk followed. Skype explained their audio processing system in detail and how complex it is to deal with noise and different bandwidths. Next, Iria Koitz, 2014 Anita Borg Scholar, shared her experience as a scholar after more than a year. She showed some of the activities her team has done as outreach during this time, including a short movie! This was incredibly inspiring and encouraging for me as an Anita Borg Scholar this year.

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Irina Koitz during the Anita Borg Scholarship presentation

After lunch, I attended what was for me one of the highlights of the conference: a panel called Out of the Ordinary Jobs. The panel, including three professionals in both academia and industry showed very different career paths including startups, PhDs, research at companies and academia. The experiences of all three panelists were incredibly inspiring and eye-opening for the audience, but there was more to it. Mario Romero, professor at KTH, shared his vision on the gender gap in computing as a man. He emphasised how important it is that men also attend Women in Computing conferences in order to increase awareness and change things together.

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Out of the ordinary jobs panel

The conference finished with an unconference, where we discussed Impostor Syndrome and what to do to fight it, and a keynote by Marie-Paule Cani on her research in computer graphics and how it has evolved over the years.

I am very happy of having been able to attend womENcourage, meet great people in my area and share my work. WomENcourage is a great opportunity for discussing gender issues in computing in Europe as well as learn and be inspired. I hope it keeps growing and becomes a reference in this area in the next years. I wish you the best, womENcourage!

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