Category Archives: Just Sayin

5 Reasons to Head to a Tech Conference

Knowledge Junkie, Avid Reader and Lover of all things puzzles and cats. Alexandrea is a Biology major and Computer Science/Music double minor at Pacific University. A self-starter who loves a challenge, her passion is developing tools that bring people together to learn.
Alexandrea Beh
Latest posts by Alexandrea Beh (see all)

Spring and summer tech conferences are just around the corner. Here’s why you should consider looking for a tech conference near you.

1. New Ideas, New Inspiration

Whether you’re still in school or an experienced computer scientist, there’s always something new to learn. Tech conferences are great places to share ideas and get inspired. At a tech conference last year, I learned about the origins of the game Portal and also heard a great talk about approaches to innovation. Chances are that you’ll walk away with renewed purpose, a new project in mind or a new subject that you’d like to research.

2. Build Your Network

Networking is easier than ever with the help of sites like LinkedIn. You can use LinkedIn to expand your connections, but it’s great to meet like-minded students and professionals in computer science at a conference too. Some conferences have built-in networking sessions, so always check the conference agenda and make sure you bring your business cards. It’s nice if you have a networking goal in mind (ex. “I want to meet people who can tell me more about cyber security” or “I want to learn how to volunteer my time to a computer science related cause”), but also remember to keep an open mind and embrace learning opportunities in all their forms.

3. Represent Your Organization

If you’re a student, you can represent your school and possibly your school’s computer science club. At local conferences, younger students may look up to you to learn about your experiences and consider attending your school in the future. You can also exchange ideas with fellow students about computer science related activities and events. Professionals can represent their company in its best light and meet potential recruits, business partners or clients.

4. Stay Current

Conferences often have specialized sessions or lightning rounds of discussion topics. These are great ways to stay up to date on what the latest tools, challenges and breakthroughs are in a particular area. It’s a good idea to have a pen and notepad handy for any keywords you might want to remember for later. You can view these sessions as networking opportunities as well – chat with the person sitting next to you, ask a question if the moment is available, or talk to the speaker after the session.

5. Jobs and Internships

Finally, anyone looking for a job or internship has much to gain by attending a tech conference. The conference may have a career fair, in which case you can make use of the time to talk with companies, ask questions and hand out your resume. If you know certain companies will be at the career fair, take the time to do your research beforehand so that you can show how and why you’re interested in a particular company. The conference may also offer resume reviews, mock interviews or advice sessions on finding a job or internship. Don’t overlook the influence of a great conversation though: while you’re networking, mention if you’re looking for a job or internship.  The person you are talking to may not be able to offer you a position, but they might be able to point you in the right direction.

Here in the Portland metro area, the Northwest Regional Women in Computing conference and the ACT-W Portland conference will be held in mid-April, and scholarship applications to the attend the Grace Hopper Celebration are due on April 15th.

Interested in going to a tech conference but not sure about all the crowds and high energy? Rest assured that it’s not just you! Check out An Introvert’s Guide to Tech Conferences.

Image by Donna Cleveland (modified).

What Programming Teaches Us About Failure

Knowledge Junkie, Avid Reader and Lover of all things puzzles and cats. Alexandrea is a Biology major and Computer Science/Music double minor at Pacific University. A self-starter who loves a challenge, her passion is developing tools that bring people together to learn.
Alexandrea Beh
Latest posts by Alexandrea Beh (see all)

Most programmers will tell you that they did not write a working program – or even a working function – on their first try. It often takes multiple attempts and revisions before reaching success. What do I mean by success? There are multiple ways of looking at success too, but today let’s talk about failure.

We tend to celebrate successes and sweep failures under the rug. As programmers,  we should examine failures more closely.

Squashing the Bugs

What do you do when you hit ‘build’ and your program has errors, or when your program runs but it’s buggy? Some people might bang their heads, feel frustrated or angry, and not care as much about trying to solve the problem. Others might be still frustrated but even more determined to smooth out all the wrinkles. Fixing bugs teaches us that it takes perseverance to pinpoint a problem and find a good solution. Mistakes along the way become an expected part of the problem-solving process.

Proactive Programming

You know how your program works and how to properly use it. Another person might not. Testing our programs and proactively coding against possible user errors helps the program run properly – it is also a valuable exercise in empathy. Preventing program failures partly means learning to imagine the ways that many different people might approach the program. In doing so, it is easier to create something that other people will find enjoyable to use.

Adopting a Growth Mindset

Think about something you do well. After a few months of programming, concepts like for loops probably seem like no big deal, but they probably weren’t as easy the first time. Learning to program involves making countless mistakes and learning from them along the way. Over time, we develop logic skills and knowledge that helps us learn more quickly. That knowledge was very likely acquired rather than a result of inborn talent. Programming is an example of how we benefit by embracing failures as challenges waiting to be solved, by approaching unfamiliar topics as something to yet be learned, and by seeing perseverance and effort as the keys to mastery.

Image by Bernard Goldbach

For more information about the Growth Mindset, see this video and other works by Stanford professor Carol Dweck.

Productivity Tool Review: Todoist

Knowledge Junkie, Avid Reader and Lover of all things puzzles and cats. Alexandrea is a Biology major and Computer Science/Music double minor at Pacific University. A self-starter who loves a challenge, her passion is developing tools that bring people together to learn.
Alexandrea Beh
Latest posts by Alexandrea Beh (see all)

To-do lists are a smart way to stay organized and be more productive. While traditional pad and paper may work well enough for some, Todoist is the best digital tool I’ve come across. I’ve been using Todoist regularly for the past six months and here’s why I can’t live without it.

Intuitive Planning

Todoist tasks are viewable by default based on what is due ‘Today’ and what is due in the ‘Next 7 Days’. When specifying due dates, Todoist understands what you mean by ‘every day’, ‘tomorrow’, ‘next wednesday’ and ‘every other day’. It also correctly interprets multiple day/date formats (so you can type ‘Wed’ if you’re too rushed to write ‘Wednesday’) and includes a pop-up calendar so that you can choose a date if that’s more convenient. Rescheduling tasks is easy with default options to postpone a task until the next day or the start of the next week. Bulk rescheduling is quick and works well in both the mobile and web versions.

Options for Organizing

Todoist helps you prioritize by offering four color-coded levels of prioritization. Tasks assigned a specific priority leads your to-do list to be automatically sorted from most to least important (priority labels are only overridden if there is a time associated with the task, such as ‘Pick up the mail today at 3pm’). Each project and task can be broken down into several indented sub-projects and sub-tasks if needed. The free version allows you to sort tasks by project and labels, while the premium version allows you to make the labels color-coded.

Screenshot by Alexandrea Beh
Screenshot by Alexandrea Beh

Effective Searching and Filtering

One of the best parts of Todoist is how well natural language processing has been integrated into the service: typing ‘3 days’ into the search pulls up the tasks for the next 3 days only, easily customizing the task view. You can also search by date (in the same variety of ways that Todoist understands setting a due date) and you can search by priority. Upgrading to Premium allows you to search using boolean operators (more on that later) and by task keyword (useful if you forgot when something was due and you don’t want to sort through dozens or hundreds of tasks to find the entry).

Cross-Platform and Cross-App Integration

Todoist is accessible on the web but also syncs through plugins and apps for Android phones, Android tablets, Windows, Macs, iPhones, iPads, Amazon devices, Chrome, Firefox, Gmail, Outlook, Thunderbird, and Postbox. I mainly use the web  and Android phone version, and am happy to say that syncing works well and that the Android app has great functionality. Some of the app’s best features are a widget with a customizable task view, ability to check off tasks or reschedule tasks through the widget without launching the app, and the ability to quickly add one or multiple tasks (through the notification bar) without leaving whatever app you’re currently in. For even more productivity magic, Todoist integrates with services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, IFTTT, and Zapier.

Shortcuts – A Programmer’s Dream

Screenshot by Alexandrea Beh
Screenshot by Alexandrea Beh

The Todoist UI is very sleek, fairly minimalist, and easy to work with for those who don’t want to learn complicated commands. There are options, however, that make the programmer part of me very, very happy. Within the free version, you can save long links and create an elegant-looking task with the format ‘webaddress (Task name)’ so that only the task name appears, but the text has been hyperlinked, making it easy to go to the saved website. In the web version, using ‘!!1’ at the end of creating a new task will mark the task with Priority 1, saving you a couple mouse clicks. The Premium version allows you to search tasks and filter using boolean operators: using ‘today & priority 1’, the AND operator, shows you tasks that are both due today and are top priorities while ‘today | priority 1’, the OR operator, shows you anything either due today or due at any time but labelled with priority 1. It’s not the functionality of the Linux command line, but for a productivity tool I’m more than satisfied.

Is Premium Worth It?

I recently upgraded to Todoist Premium (a year’s subscription is $29) and mostly enjoy the enhanced search and filtering options, as well as the ability to easily add emails as tasks. I feel that most people can get a lot out of the free version without ever needing to upgrade, although the Premium version has more color-coding options and more than doubles the number of projects you can have at one time (from 80 to 200 projects, each with up to 200 tasks in the Premium version instead of 150).

What Can’t Todoist Do?

For one, Todoist is definitely not your virtual personal assistant (it can integrate with Google Now though). It won’t try to be smart and anticipate what you want to know unless you’ve set up integrations for that kind of functionality. I would recommend that if you are looking to use a highly functional yet customizable task-tracker, especially one that works well across multiple platforms, then give Todoist a try!

Disclaimer: This post is in no way sponsored by Todoist.

An Introvert’s Guide To Tech Conferences

Knowledge Junkie, Avid Reader and Lover of all things puzzles and cats. Alexandrea is a Biology major and Computer Science/Music double minor at Pacific University. A self-starter who loves a challenge, her passion is developing tools that bring people together to learn.
Alexandrea Beh
Latest posts by Alexandrea Beh (see all)

Tech conferences are a great place to discover the latest technology ideas, products and jobs.

…tech conferences also tend to be noisy and crowded.

If you are like me and fall towards the introvert end of the introvert-extrovert spectrum, here are some tips for getting the most out of your conference experience. (If the term ‘introvert’ is new to you, I highly recommend looking up work by Susan Cain.)

You Don’t Have to Dwell on the Small Talk

Many introverts aren’t fond of small talk, and instead prefer an in-depth conversation. At a tech conference, small talk might be as little as introducing yourself and briefly touching on where you’re from and what you do. From there, it’s usually more than acceptable to jump into any technical topics you might have in common. Not sure what else to say? Ask and listen to what brings the other person to the conference. You’ll probably be talking shop in no time.

Be a Great Listener

Introverts tend to be great listeners. They often are curious and insightful: if you are tired of talking and find yourself in a conversation with someone who is more than happy to share a good story or piece of knowledge, listen carefully. They’ll feel more appreciated and by being curious and asking questions, you never know what you might learn.

Network and Follow Up

It may take longer for an introvert to think of questions and ways to follow up on a great conversation. If you’ve ever been stuck in a class discussion or meeting feeling like you have no idea what to say, only to have a great thought hit you several hours later, you know this feeling. This is not necessarily related to intelligence; sometimes an introvert’s thoughts need to ‘sit’ before they take on a more definitive form, and it is simply a different thought process from an extrovert’s. Collect those business cards and ask to connect with people on LinkedIn: later, you can strengthen your connection by sending someone a quick follow-up message once you’ve processed your thoughts, perhaps remarking that you enjoyed your conversation and wondered about [topic].

It’s Okay to Take a Break

Let’s face it: extroverts typically feel energized by being around more people and noise. Introverts might have fun in this environment for a while, but it’s also energy-draining for them. You might be having some great conversations but feel like you need a moment of peace and quiet to recharge before rejoining the crowd. Whether that’s a restroom break, time to grab some refreshments, or striking up a 1:1 conversation in a less noisy spot, know that you don’t have to be ‘on’ all the time. Chances are that you’re not the only one feeling a bit overwhelmed by the crowd.

Remember that it’s healthy to step outside of your comfort zone every now and then. The next time you consider attending a tech conference, challenge yourself to take some risks, speak up and be open to new opportunities to share your love of technology with those around you. Use your introvert strengths to handle the high-energy environment of the conference while exploring new ideas and meeting great people. There’s no telling what good things may happen.

I’m back! I plan on returning to my TechReads series in time for the holidays. Keep following iGirl Tech News to catch the TechReads-inspired gift guide I’ll be releasing in December.

8 things harder than learning to code

We created Más Wired to show the incredible contributions Latinos are making in the digital space. As the largest growing demographic in the U.S., Latinos are more than just a market and are making important contributions in technology.
Mas Wired

Coding is hard, but it’s not as hard as other things I’ve already done. So even when I get discouraged, I remember that I’ve already succeeded at many harder things than coding.

Recently I was chatting with someone about my experience learning to code and they asked me a point-blank question I think lots of us often wonder but never say out loud: “Is it hard?”

I thought it was a good question, because I think we often make the assumption that it is hard before we even ask. The truth is, I told him, coding is hard, but it’s not as hard as other things I’ve already done. So even when I get discouraged, which is more often than I’d like, I remember that I’ve already succeeded at harder things than coding.

In that vein I wanted to share a list of things that I personally think are more difficult than coding. Read this list and think about the amount of energy, brainpower, time and failure it takes to learn these things. Compared to most of this list, learning and memorizing a specific way of presenting information to a computer is almost easy!

Please share and feel free to leave your comments.

1.)  Not learning to code

I don’t know about you, but I want to be part of the current and future professional world — which is increasingly about technology and gadgets and computers. To me, it would seem that being left out of this loop would, in the long run, be much worse than not being a part of the loop.

2.) Getting a college degree.

It’s reasonable to assume that we all had different experiences in college, either harder or easier, but the fact that you work at a singular goal for four (or more years) to yield just one result is pretty difficult. If you did years’ worth of work to get a degree, you can learn to program a computer.

3.) Becoming fluent in another language.

As someone who considers herself bilingual, I’m also painfully aware of the fact that my English is light years better than my Spanish. The sheer amount of work it would take to learn Spanish as well as English seems astronomically more difficult to me than learning to code.

4.) Learning calculus and trigonometry.

I really struggled with these subjects when I was in high school but I was determined to figure them out, between three high schools, after school tutorials and copious hours of exasperated frustration. But I did it!

5.) Becoming a great cook.

I’m not a huge fan of cooking, but I know enough to be healthy and get by. I have friends and family, however, who take cooking and baking to the next level by making things from scratch, messing with recipes, adjusting temperatures, letting things marinade a certain way, and a seemingly infinite number of other techniques that, while yielding a delicious result, seems just baffling to me. Considering there are people who spend years learning to cook a particular cuisine, or have spent years learning to cook multiple cuisines, picking up a few programming languages seems easy by comparison.

6.) Learning how to responsibly manage your finances.

Since we don’t learn this in school, and many of us may not be well schooled by our parents, learning to navigate finances between credit cards, school loans, car payments and bills can be super difficult. In my case it took several years to learn to do it well — but I did it!

7.) Being in a serious romantic relationship.

Learning about another person — everything from their likes, moods, memories, families, thoughts, feelings, preferences and whatever else — is exhausting. It takes time, it takes energy, it takes a lot of willpower, patience, and understanding. Ultimately, this is something most of us will do, and something that takes years, and in some cases lifetimes, to do well. If you can figure out how to make it work with another person whose thoughts you can’t read, learning to code is a cakewalk.

8.) Figuring out what you want to be when you grow up.

I didn’t study journalism in school, but became a journalist. I didn’t study digital media, but began working at digital media start-ups. I’m not sure I want to be a code monkey for the rest of my life, but I’m going to study it and figure it out! If anything, coding — like journalism and digital media — will be one more skill in my professional tool box that will help me in my current endeavors, as well as my future ones.

What do you think of this list, anything you would add?

Image by Remko van Dokkum

Latina learns to code: JQuery, JavaScript, SQL & frustration

We created Más Wired to show the incredible contributions Latinos are making in the digital space. As the largest growing demographic in the U.S., Latinos are more than just a market and are making important contributions in technology.
Mas Wired

Learning to code has been a very humbling experience, one that’s teaching me how to learn in a totally different way, and I’m grateful for that.

If I’ve learned anything about coding the past few weeks it’s that you have to make some very real mental adjustments to the way you approach learning. As a lifelong overachiever and typical “Type A” personality, I’m used to being able to learn new things pretty easily and with minimal effort.

Recently I ran into some serious frustration with some of the advanced JavaScript classes I was taking online and felt like I’d hit a wall where I could no longer learn anything because I was so frustrated. The last time I remembered feeling that level of frustration was when I was in fourth grade and I couldn’t figure out how to divide and multiply fractions! I remember crying about it, but eventually I learned how to do it, and to this day I still know how!

Through this frustration, though, I’ve learned a new and very important lesson: just because something isn’t easy, doesn’t mean it’s not something I can do. Perhaps I’ll get it the second time, or the third time, or however many times it takes until I figure it out, but I’ll get it.

Learning to give myself the space to fail a little bit, and be okay with frustration and confusion, is probably one of the best gifts I’ve given to myself since I began my coding journey.

Learning to code has been a very humbling experience, one that’s teaching me how to learn in a totally different way, and I’m grateful for that.

There are times when I feel like I don’t know anything, but then I’ll click on a website or have a conversation with someone, and I’ll know how the website is working or be able to explain a concept using technical terms. It’s in those moments when I know that, despite the frustration, my perseverance will pay off.

Learning to learn in this new way has actually helped me see the world from a whole new perspective, similar to when I lived in Mexico and learned Portuguese in college. I’m looking forward to starting my Sabio classes so that I can continue to grow as a coder, and as a person.

Beauty And The Not So Geek

Technical Recruiter at Jobspring Partners in Los Angeles. She hails from the land of cheese-steaks (Philadelphia), but is loving her current life as an LA transplant. A travel and adventure fanatic, Robin is passionate about anything related to art. She also currently plays for a co-ed flag football league!
Robin Sawla
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My title is in reference to a show called Beauty and the Geek produced by Ashton Kutcher back in 2005. Today, my company hosted a Tech Meetup called Demos & Drinks at Maker City LA in Downtown Los Angeles. The event showcased various apps in the tech space including the ever so popular alcohol delivery app Saucey, as well as Postmates and Causecast.

As I scanned the room looking for interesting characters to mingle with, I realized that technology wasn’t the only thing to evolve, PEOPLE evolved. Years ago, lets just say, 15-20 years ago, images of Steve Urkel would conjure up in our minds whenever we would think of the typical “nerd”. We thought of the geeks dressed in overalls, thick rimmed glasses and the extra nerdy types that would carry around pocket protectors.

Fast forward to 2014, our society has become so integrated.  Women who were most likely the “popular girls” in high school were in attendance.  Twenty years ago, could you picture the popular girls and the nerds sitting at the same table during lunch? One of my good friends is an embedded engineer who designs rockets. I, however, hail from a marketing background. I wonder if our social circles would have crossed paths 15 years ago.

In the past, the word “technology” corresponded with nerd, geek and brainy. In the present moment, technology signifies innovation, it signifies simplicity, and it signifies creativity. Saucey, the app designed by the so-called “nerds” is used by techies, athletes and the businessmen of the world. So what is the bigger picture? One way or another, the advancement of technology has brought us all together.

In that moment, I took a sip of my drink, smiled, and celebrated the fact that we were all together, no matter what our background was.

Picture by Nathan Rupert

Manos Accelerator selects another 7 Latino startups

We created Más Wired to show the incredible contributions Latinos are making in the digital space. As the largest growing demographic in the U.S., Latinos are more than just a market and are making important contributions in technology.
Mas Wired

Manos Accelerator has selected its next class of Latino-owned startups. They include everything from wearables, games to payments and more.


Manos Accelerator has selected its next batch of Latino startups, and they are listed below. As you recall, Manos partners with Google for Entrepreneurs, and helps Latino-owned startups take their products to the next level. We recently interviewed CEO Edward Avila about his work, especially since less than 1% of venture-backed startups are founded by Latinos.

Bandbazaar (San Jose, CA): Bandbaazar connects music enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels — It is a web app that’s pioneering a new way for people to convert their skills, musical instruments & gear and space into a source of income.  Represented by:  Alex Murillo and Sophia Boettcher

CoupleCare (Mexico City, Mexico): CoupleCare is the first app platform guide to fertility.  It allows couples to track, monitor and manage monthly menstrual cycles together as a team.  Represented by: Alonso Salcido, Sebastián Abramowicz and Alfredo Reyes

Cycle Money (Guayaquil, Ecuador):  Cycle Money is a web and mobile application that helps people to recycle their electronic waste.  It connects directly the recyclable elements from people’s e-waste with the recycle companies, redefining in this way, the Urban Mining.  Represented by: Luis Bajaña (Palo Alto, CA / Bogotá, Colombia): is an Internet platform that allows users create questions to leaders, organizations or people of influence.  By supporting these questions, they become relevant, inspiring leaders to provide answers.  Represented by: Alejandro Quintero

FashionTEQ (Aliso Viejo, CA):  FashionTEQ is a fashion-forward, wearable technology company, created Zazzi, a smart and stylish jewelry collection that allows women to remain connected to their smartphone.  This stunning line of smart jewelry disguises your tech as a fashionable accessory and offers a discreet way to stay connected while allowing you to leave your phone inside a purse, bag or back pocket.  Represented by: Judy Tomlinson and Nancy Banuelos

My Bigame (Bogotá, Colombia):  My Bigame is a company that innovates, so does your API users to bet on your favorite platform game in multiplayer mode. My Bigame is the unique system that offers the possibility of realizing bets in way multiplayer in different games and different platforms. Represented by: Jesus Contreras, Roger Diaz, Jorge Meneses and Armando Saenz

saySquare (Tegucigalpa, Honduras):  saySquare is a payments platform that allows fast social electronic transfers and lets small business accept money using mobile devices as POS.  Represented by: Cristian Garner, Leonardo Amador, Wilfredo Guevara and Armando Alvarado.

Congrats to all the startups selected!

Finding Your Writing Voice in a Digital Age

Knowledge Junkie, Avid Reader and Lover of all things puzzles and cats. Alexandrea is a Biology major and Computer Science/Music double minor at Pacific University. A self-starter who loves a challenge, her passion is developing tools that bring people together to learn.
Alexandrea Beh
Latest posts by Alexandrea Beh (see all)

Finding your personal writing voice can be incredibly liberating and fun: finally you’re sharing your thoughts and it actually sounds like…well, you.  What is still a tale as old as time, and what has changed in this digital age?

Tell Me A Story

Writing is not a science, and there is no single way to find your personal writing voice. Instead, it is an ongoing set of experiences that you can pick and choose to learn from. Writing regularly, online and offline, is what has helped me the most.  Here are a few other tips and food for thought:

Regardless of the medium, writing is usually a form of communication from one person to another, so write to be understood. With this in mind, think of several positive adjectives that describe your personality. Then think about how you connect with other people as a result of those traits. Do you make people laugh? Unite your friends with a common cause? Ask questions from a different angle than most people? These traits can serve as a framework for what makes your writing voice sound like you.

Read other people’s writing, be it from blogs, news, trade journals, or books. Pay attention to what resonates with you, and why. Maybe it’s a casual phrase that is semi-professional but puts you at ease, or maybe it’s an analogy that helps snap an idea into place.

Credit: Arielle Nadel
Credit: Arielle Nadel

Take time for introspection and revisit things you’ve written before. What qualities are you most proud of? What do you wish you could improve? Be your own critic, but a constructive one. It also helps to seek feedback from outside sources, whether it is from an online forum or someone that you know.

Imagine that someone just gave a raving review of your writing (in the sense that film critics or book critics describe tone, content and how the piece makes the reader/audience feel). What would you want that review to say?

Going Digital

First, remember that online content is harder to truly delete compared to paper content, so proofread and make sure you’re reasonably comfortable with what you’ve written before sending it out to the world.

Writing in a digital medium means that you have even more flexibility in how to reach a potential audience:

If you don’t like writing long-form content but love digging up resources, Twitter might be the way to go. If you love using images to make a main point, explore blogs, Pinterest and Tumblr. Pinterest and Tumblr in particular provide a quick way to add your insight to another user’s content. Blogs and Facebook are probably the most versatile mediums of all, where you can write in short-form, long-form, post images and videos in any combination.

Of course, one of the biggest differences about writing online is that all of these mediums can be easily connected. Perhaps the content is not the same across all types, but your personal writing voice can unite them in a powerful way.

Due to upcoming personal obligations, I am sad to say that this is my last article. I’ve had so much fun writing for iGirlTechNews and I sincerely encourage anyone interested in writing to give it a try. Go out there, find your personal voice and share your thoughts and inspirations!

Featured Image by Alan Cleaver