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“Bold Women, Bold Tech” Conference at BC

Panelists Kaitlin Thaney, Jessie Wu, and Shanna Gregory with panel moderator Nishat Anjum. PHOTO/ Sheba Antony
Panelists Kaitlin Thaney, Jessie Wu, and Shanna Gregory with panel moderator Nishat Anjum. PHOTO/ WiCS Club Facebook Page

By Sheba Antony

Published: April 5th, 2017

The first annual “Bold Women, Bold Tech” conference was held in the penthouse of the Brooklyn College Student Center on March 24. The full-day conference included a keynote speaker, an “Own Your Shit” panel, and technical workshops.

The event was hosted by the BC Women in Computer Science (WiCS) club in honor of Women’s History Month “in hopes to inspire others to be bold for change while celebrating some rad women in tech,” WiCS vice president Nishat Anjum said. The event sponsors included the CLAS student government, the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) from New York University (NYU), and the NYU Robotic Design Team.

Open to the public, the event hosted forty attendees. The event started by getting attendees comfortable with a full breakfast and a welcome from the WiCS club. Then, keynote speaker, Kaitlin Thaney, a senior fellow at Mozilla, took charge of the room. Thaney is a true trailblazer as a woman in the technology field. She not only has a fulfilling career but also is an advocate for other women with similar goals, empowering them through the numerous programs she has directed in various companies and organizations.

Thaney spoke about the importance of having and giving support in your fields of interest: “The support that you lend to others in that similar space is a really, really powerful thing when it comes to being able to withstand usual pains of moving forward in a career but also the additional levels of bullshit you’ll inevitably deal with.”

Her anecdotes of her personal experience showed the trials that women truly face in this high-demand, fast-paced field, and her extensive list of achievements and triumphs against career obstacles resonated with the attentive audience.

Thaney gave sound advice on how to respond to racist, ageist, misogynist, and other deterring comments and actions: “It is part of the game to deflect and move forward, how to still be able to raise your head high…Always remember that the best thing you can do is pick yourself up the next day and move forward.”

After a quick networking break to get to know the amazing students and speakers in the room, the “Own Your Shit” panel kept the excitement buzzing. Panelists included keynote speaker Thaney; Jessie Wu, an associate software engineer at Buzzfeed; and Shanna Gregory, the dean of an all-women’s coding boot camp program called Grace Hopper and a director of the WomenWhoCode NYC chapter. The interactive panel answered numerous audience questions, with central themes including advocating for yourself, reflecting on yourself and your career, and measuring your own success.

BC Computer Science major and the WiCS club’s president Noam Swisa tweeted about the panel: “It was such a privilege to hear from @kaythaney @jessie__wu & @shannagregor today! Thank you for coming to Bold Women, Bold Tech!” The conference also had its own Twitter moment and Snapchat filter to enhance the event.

After a lunch recess, instructor Rachél Bazelais led the first workshop on the Unreal Engine 4 interface, a game engine. Bazelais taught attendees how to develop their own games in Unreal Engine 4 and navigate through its interface.

A second workshop taught attendees how to find and install Arduino, a prototyping platform that enables users to create interactive electronic objects, and then led them through the activity of making circuits play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and light up.

Anjum found the second workshop to be especially informative. “The Arduino Workshop at the Bold Women, Bold Tech Conference was laid out in an easy-tofollow manner,” she said. “We later built upon the starter code and got the Arduino to play music with a buzzer and a small breadboard. It was enjoyable experience and a fun way to get into Arduino.”

Attendees left the conference with pictures with colleagues and speakers, gift bags filled items sporting the Bold Women Bold Tech logo, and the invaluable inspiration and empowerment to pursue successful careers in technology.

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