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A computer science classroom project without a name

Date: Sep 17, 2013

A little over a month ago now, just as the new school year was about to begin, I had the privilege of attending a meeting of the local chapter of Computer Science Teachers Association here in Austin. I didn't really have any plans - my goal was just to get to know some of these local teachers and see if there was a way that I could help. Help how? I had no idea.

But as we got to talking, it became clear that what would be most welcome - at least for now - would be to get developers into the classrooms, to have them talk to students about their careers and maybe get involved directly, through mentoring and teaching.

And so the gears in my head started turning.

Last year, I volunteered with a local program called Central Texas Discover Engineering. It's a terrific way to reach out to schools and promote STEM: Through CTDE, science professionals can sign up, get paired with an elementary school teacher/classroom, and make plans for a school visit. This past spring, a few of us from PyLadies went to visit a 5th grade class in south Austin to give a talk about how we use programming in our jobs. The kids were so curious and enthusiastic - imagine how receptive a classroom of aspiring programmers would have been?

CTDE has more of a general science focus, but I wanted to adopt their model, so instead I'm working on building a roster of developers that are available specifically for visiting with Computer Science students in middle and high schools. The way I'm envisioning it, these classroom visits could just mean talking to students about what software development careers are like and what kinds of things you need to learn to get there. They might also involve some teaching, one-on-one mentoring, or extras such as helping to run an after-school computer club, if we find developer volunteers who are interested in doing those things.

And now I'm in a little bit over my head, but loving every minute of it. This is the first time I've ever attempted to put together a program like this. So far, we've gotten a huge response from the handful of user groups we've reached out to. Austin's developer community gets it - they're lining up to get into the classrooms and help kids. It's been a little slower getting the word out to teachers, but that is starting to take off as well. My hope is that signups on both sides will continue, so that Austin developers are continuing to work with area educators throughout the school year.

As teachers and developers have signed on, I've generated welcome emails, but the first letters matching volunteers to school just went out today. Volunteers are being asked to contact the teachers, but both sides are getting information about each other: teachers learn about the specialties and expertise of the volunteers they've been matched with, and volunteers get a little information about the classes they expect to be visiting - how big the classes are, what age group, what languages they're working with. It's up to the teacher and volunteer to negotiate what the content of the classroom visit will be. We're suggesting things like career talks, coding demonstrations, and mentoring, but these visits are really open to whatever the teacher and developer agree on.

In the meantime, I'm hoping to focus on getting a web site together - right now, this whole project consists of a couple of Google Drive forms and a spreadsheet. Oh, and a couple of scripts to generate the emails.

My plan is to harness the brain power of our local PyLadies chapter and put together a team to help with a web site. We just need a handful of features - separate signups for teachers and developers, a page of presentation ideas and activity resources that developers can use when planning their visits, some automation for the teacher/volunteer matching, and automation for the assortment of emails that have to be sent.

There is one thing holding us back - the project does not have a name. So if you know how to reach me and you have an idea, please let me know.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what an impact this program makes on local computer science classrooms this year. We're keeping it simple for 2013-2014, but if it's a success, we might expand and do some different things for the next school year.

Once the first classroom visits begin, I'll update on how well it's all working out.

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An open letter to tech conference organizers

Date: May 31, 2013

Make that "conference organizers who are interested in increasing diversity among your attendees, or in your community, or (hopefully), both".

Take what I'm about to suggest with a grain of salt. I'm a programmer and a woman who's been going to conferences for several years now. I have a ton of experience as an attendee, a little as a speaker and teacher, but I'm not privy to the specific challenges that an organizer faces. That said, I've observed a few things over the years, and I have some ideas that may help.

  1. Have a Code of Conduct.

    Have in place some declaration of how you expect attendees to behave towards one another. It doesn't matter what you call it - a Code of Conduct, an anti-harassment policy. The point is to define, in clear language, what you consider to be offensive behavior, and to let attendees know that it won't be tolerated.

    I'm not going to go into why you need a Code of Conduct - that argument has already been made by more eloquent writers than I, but if you still need convincing, I'd suggest taking a look at Jacob Kaplan-Moss' 2011 post, Why conferences need a code of conduct.

    Not everyone agrees on the finer points of what should be covered in a code of conduct, but I think that there are some general principles that are widely acknowledged as necessary. A good starting point is this sample conference anti-harassment policy developed by the Ada Initiative, released under a Creative Commons Zero license and hosted on the Geek Feminism Wiki.

  2. Tell me how to use it.

    Don't forget to address this prominently in your policy - make clear how you want attendees to report incidents if they occur. Give us a clear point of contact - either with a single staff member, or better yet, with anyone on the conference staff - and make sure everyone knows what form follow-up will take. If it's not clear to me how I should handle a harassment case, I'm likely to take matters into my own hands - tweet about it, blog about it, badmouth you or your conference. Or I may not report anything at all, which means that bad behavior goes unaddressed and someone else will likely have to deal with it down the line.

  3. Make sure I can find it.

    If I'm thinking about registering for your conference, I should be able to check it out first. That means getting at least a general idea of what the content will be - AND what your anti-harassment policy is. Don't hide it, don't make it impossible to find just because it doesn't fit neatly with your conference site's pretty design. Don't bury it in the registration process - if I can't see it beforehand, I might not be registering in the first place.

    • Good: Make sure the policy has its own page, and that there's a link to it from your FAQ or About page.
    • Better: Give it its own link, placed somewhere in a footer, or along with other general information sections such as an FAQ.
    • Best: Display the link prominently in your site's main navigation.

  4. Identify your staff members.

    If your response process involves having attendees contact a staff member, make sure we can tell who your staff members are. Nothing says "we're here to help" better than a conference staff that makes itself easy to find. If it's practical, maybe you can introduce staff during the keynote or opening remarks. Be sure that staff members have badges that look different from those issued to conference attendees - if it's not practical to order separate badges, use ribbons or stickers as an indicator. And if you can swing it, get special shirts of the same color - I'm at JSConf this week, and the conference runners have stood out in every crowd, unmistakable in their bright teal t-shirts. Now that's what I'm talking about.

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My weird health issues

Date: May 16, 2013

If we're connected on Facebook, you've probably already seen bits and pieces of this story. Is it weird to be talking about my health problems on what is ostensibly a tech blog? Maybe. But there are enough people who have been curious that I thought I'd better explain what's going on. I also don't want it to be a big surprise when I step back a little from organizing and teaching this summer. And when I don't end up submitting all the talk proposals I've been so excited about, it's not out of fear - I just need to scale back my travel plans for the foreseeable future.

Back in November, not long after I moved to Austin, I started experiencing some symptoms - muscle fatigue, dizziness, irregular heartbeat and shortness of breath. They were mild at first, but by January had intensified to the point that I was experiencing them daily, and by February it was almost around the clock. It feels like a blood sugar crash, or caffeine shakes, except that it can go on for hours and hours.

This isn't a case of burning out: I've just started a new job that I'm really excited about. And I'm on fire with ideas - workshops I want to teach, programs I want to start, presentations I want to give, all kinds of things I want to contribute back to the Python community.

It's not about forgetting to take care of myself either - I'm doing all the right things, they just don't seem to be helping. I've been eating a healthy diet. No caffeine, no junk food, almost no sugar, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I stopped working out for a little while, but I'm back in the gym at least three days a week now (I work out around lunchtime, the only time I have the energy).

I don't want to go to into too many details, but I've seen several different doctors over the last few months and had done just about every test known to man (have I mentioned how squeamish I am about having blood drawn?). It's not thyroid, hypoglycemia, celiac, B-12 deficiency, or anything like that. The only thing we've found conclusively is that I'm suffering from a heart condition that runs in my family. It's not dangerous, but it can be very painful.

I am taking medication for that, but that's barely put a dent in the symptoms. By the end of most days my energy is completely sapped, and I'm too exhausted to work on anything else. As far as anyone can tell, the stuff that's going on with my heart is annoying, uncomfortable, and tiring much of the time, but it's not at all life-threatening. Still, it's frightening to feel so weak and fatigued every night and have no idea why. I don't know how to make myself feel better, and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight.

My doctors are stumped. The cardiologist doesn't want to increase or change my medication, and the GP has recommended that I seek second opinions, so that means finding a new endocrinologist and a new cardiologist, at the very least. I'm even considering going to a naturopath - I want to talk to someone who can look at the whole picture and come up with some new ideas, maybe see something that the medical doctors haven't.

So I've given it a lot of thought. I don't really want to step back from anything, but I'm going to have to cut back on some community activities until this gets solved. I don't expect much to change with Austin PyLadies - all our members are so motivated and involved that the group is practically running itself these days. I had planned on being very involved with SciPy when it comes to Austin in June, but I may have to withdraw from that. I have started putting together another beginner Python workshop for some time in July - that will probably go ahead, although I may be looking for some help. And PyTexas in August is probably off the calendar unless my doctors have come up with something helpful by then.

And DjangoCon? Well, we'll see about DjangoCon. I haven't missed one yet.

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My next new challenge

Date: May 07, 2013

2013 has brought some big changes - more teaching, my first forays into public speaking, a lot of energy devoted to community organizing, and a newly minted membership in the PSF.

As of today, I'm taking the next great step - this time in my career - by joining the team at Cox Media Group. I'll be part of a crew managing the digital presence of dozens of media properties across the country. I'm pretty excited about joining such an accomplished team - there's a lot of learning and growth in my future, as well as a lot of opportunities to bring some innovation to the media space. I can't wait to get started.

This week, I'm in Atlanta getting up to speed and meeting everyone. However I'll still be based in Austin, so nothing changes in terms of my involvment with SciPy and PyTexas. There's even another beginner workshop in the planning stages (no dates yet, but that will probably take place in July).

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Conference survey - I need your input

Date: Apr 23, 2013

I'm putting together some new teaching materials, and I need your help.

Every day I meet people in the programming community - not just women - who have never been to an open source conference, never experienced all the great learning and networking opportunities that conferences have to offer.

If you have been to one - OSCON, PyCon, JSConf, to name a few - you know that, while sexist/racist incidents do occur, they are not the norm. Unfortunately, every time such an incident does make the news, it makes it a little harder for would-be attendees to justify testing the waters. After all, conferences are expensive, and the travel takes a lot of time and energy.

It's my belief that the best way to reassure novices is to explain what tools they have at their disposal, and to give them clear steps to take if they do face an uncomfortable situation at a conference.

So I'm endeavoring to assemble some teaching materials - something small, just a few slides and some handouts. What I'm picturing is a class that takes the form of brief presentation - a small slide deck to hit the high points - followed by group discussion, or maybe a panel for a meetup night. I'd like to focus on anecdotes about both good and bad experiences that people have had with reporting conflict, and include some discussion around talking about bad conference experiences on the internet.

The goal is not to declare a right or wrong way to handle conflicts, but rather to 1) outline what resources conference attendees have available to them, and 2) start a discussion around strategies and expectations and help each other find reasonable solutions to situations they might face.

To that end, I need your input. I'm looking for a general idea of the kinds of incidents that people experience, so that we know best what to address in a workshop:

http://bit.ly/11EKp9c

This survey is a mechanism for collecting very general information. None of the information gathered in this form will be published - every answer will be treated as strictly confidential (but respondents are given an opportunity to provide an email address if they would like to be contacted further).

Spread the word, send this link around - you have my thanks in advance for anything you have to add to this discussion.

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About


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django people
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Blogs I read:
Julia Elman
Die in a Fire
Simon Willison
The Real Katie
Zed Shaw
Girl Developer


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Resume

Barbara Shaurette

LocationAustin, Texas
Emailbarbara.shaurette@gmail.com
Websitehttp://www.mechanicalgirl.com/
LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/barbarashaurette/
Otherhttps://people.djangoproject.com/bshaurette/

What I'm interested in:

A position that incorporates application design and development, database design and development, and scripting in a Python-focused environment. I'm looking for the opportunity to do work that involves data analysis and reporting - I have some experience already, and that's the direction I'd like to continue in. I'm also interested in putting my project management skills to work in an engineering leadership role.

What I'm good at:

Why I'm good at it:

Active side projects:
http://www.mechanicalgirl.com/ (Python/Django)
http://www.fivesongsdaily.com/ (Python/Django) (test account available upon request)

Github projects and code samples:
http://github.com/mechanicalgirl
https://github.com/jnoller/PythonSecretSanta
http://resume.github.com/?mechanicalgirl

Conferences and Training:
DjangoCon 2008/2009/2010/2011/2012
PyCon 2009/2010/2012/2013
PDX Python Workshop mentor
PyCon 2013 - Young Coders tutorials, instructor
Austin Women's Python workshops, instructor

Organizations
Python Software Foundation (April 2013 to Present)
Member
Computer Science Teachers Association (September 2012 to Present)
Industry advocate, helping to mentor students and develop primary/high school CS curriculum
PyLadies (November 2012 to Present)
Founder, Austin chapter

Employment History

10/2012 - 04/2013
Texas Tribune
Software Engineer: Python/Django and PostgreSQL/MySQL work on data applications that illustrate the workings of such institutions as the Texas state legislature and prison system for TexasTribune.org.

11/2008 - 09/2012
Live Nation Merchandise
Senior Software Engineer: PHP, Python, Django and MySQL work on high-profile, high-traffic sites for artists such as U2, KISS, and Madonna (including CMS, media processing, reporting tools); API development; database design and management; dev/ops (release management, internal environment administration)

11/2007 - 11/2008
Tippit, Inc.
Senior Software Engineer: Development work on ETL, internal CRM and business intelligence tools, and restructuring of the data warehouse - this work involved Python, Django, PHP, mySQL and other related technologies

07/2007 - 11/2007
Live Nation Merchandise
Senior Software Engineer: Rewrite of the ecommerce site (in XCode/WebObjects), and development/maintenance of artist web sites - this work involved PHP, MySQL, and a significant amount of shell scripting

03/2007 - 06/2007
Live Nation Entertainment
Senior Applications Developer: Development and support on the event search site, Zend Framework upgrade for internationalization and cacheing - this work involved PHP and MySQL, XML/XSLT, and some C++

03/2004 - 03/2007
Adteractive, Inc.
Senior Applications Developer: Platform engineering/data warehousing, ETL, development on our PHP framework, APIs for Java validation service, coordinating the release of new PHP applications
Team Lead/Application Development: Managed developer teams through build/launch/maintenance cycles
Application Developer: Writing data models to evaluate and transfer transaction data - most of this work was in Perl and MySQL

07/2003 - 03/2004
Self-employed
General web development work, contract web design/development for local clients, primarily using HTML, JavaScript and CSS

07/1999 - 07/2003
Vivendi/Universal Inc.
Game Producer/Developer: Writing original game engines for online casual and casino games, primarily in Flash/ActionScript, with some Java work. Developed and supported a network of gaming web sites.
Web Developer: Development and support of Berkeley Systems and Sierra Online gaming sites. Most of this was front-end work - HTML/CSS and JavaScript (with some ColdFusion).

References and Recommendations

References are available upon request. A number of professional recommendations can also be found on my LinkedIn profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/barbarashaurette

Last updated: September 18, 2012

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A computer science classroom project without a name

Date: Sep 17, 2013 | Category: CS Education

A little over a month ago now, just as the new school year was about to begin, I had the privilege of attending a meeting of the local chapter of Computer Science Teachers Association here in Austin. I didn't really have any plans - my goal was just ...

Read More

Powered by Django

An open letter to tech conference organizers

Date: May 31, 2013 | Category: Personal

Make that "conference organizers who are interested in increasing diversity among your attendees, or in your community, or (hopefully), both".

Take what I'm about to suggest with a grain of salt. I'm a programmer and a woman who's been going to conferences for several years now. I have a ton ...

Read More

Powered by Django

My weird health issues

Date: May 16, 2013 | Category: Personal

If we're connected on Facebook, you've probably already seen bits and pieces of this story. Is it weird to be talking about my health problems on what is ostensibly a tech blog? Maybe. But there are enough people who have been curious that I thought I'd better explain what's going ...

Read More

Powered by Django

My next new challenge

Date: May 07, 2013 | Category: Personal

2013 has brought some big changes - more teaching, my first forays into public speaking, a lot of energy devoted to community organizing, and a newly minted membership in the PSF.

As of today, I'm taking the next great step - this time in my career - by joining ...

Read More

Powered by Django

Conference survey - I need your input

Date: Apr 23, 2013 | Category:

I'm putting together some new teaching materials, and I need your help.

Every day I meet people in the programming community - not just women - who have never been to an open source conference, never experienced all the great learning and networking opportunities that conferences have to offer.

If ...

Read More

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