Category Archives: Resources

5 Professional Organizations Women in Tech Should Consider Joining

Tanya Adams is a freelance writer, content strategist, and lover of all things tech. Not to be confused with her namesake of Red Alert 2 fame, but certainly that cool. Learn more about her at
Tanya Adams

Everyone wants to be part of the in-crowd. As a technology geek, you may have spent high school or maybe even college outside the popular kids table. Or, you had the science club or computer club to hang out with and share stories. In the professional world, we still need groups to help us along our career paths, broaden our horizons, and just make like-minded friends. As a woman in tech, finding other women to share our particular geekiness is incredibly wonderful. And, if we can learn new skills, grow professionally, and boost our businesses along the way, well, that’s great, too. With that in mind, here’s the low down on five national organizations for women in technology.


Association for Women in Computing (WIC)

Who’s it for: Women in the computing professions such as programmers, system analysts, technical writers, Internet specialists, trainers, and consultants.

How to join: You may join any one of the local chapters nationwide or become an independent member by filling out an application online. Independent membership is for professionals in the U.S and abroad who cannot physically attend chapter meetings. Alternately, any five individuals in a particular area can apply to form a local chapter.

Benefits: Career growth through volunteer and leadership activities, networking, and mentoring. Local chapters hold monthly meetings that include dinner with guest speakers and workshops. Job listings, career planning, skill enhancement and scholarships are some of the other benefits.

Cost: Local chapters’ dues vary by chapter but range from $35 to $100 per year. The average is $61. Annual dues for Independent Members is $25.


Women in Technology International (WITI)

Who’s it for: WITI boasts itself as the “leading global business organization for women in technology.” It is for women who consider technology central to their businesses, careers, and professions. WITI encourages men to join as well.

Benefits: They include networking events nationwide, professional development, mentorships, opportunities to establish your personal brand, monthly webinars, teleclasses, and speaking opportunities.

How to join: You can sign up online.

Costs: WITI offers Individual, Small Business, Corporate, and student memberships. An individual yearly membership is $250. Student yearly memberships are $50.


IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE)

Who it’s for: Women in engineering, computer sciences and information technology, physical sciences, biological and medical sciences, mathematics, technical communications, education, management, and law and policy. IEEE WIE touts itself as “the largest international professional organization dedicated to promoting women engineers and scientists.”

Benefits: The mission of IEEE WIE is to facilitate the global recruitment and retention of women in technical disciplines. Benefits include career resources, awards/recognition, continuing education, access to the IEEE WIE electronic membership directory, a monthly electronic newsletter, and award-winning Women in Engineering magazine. There are also local networking events through WIE affinity groups.

How to join: You must be an IEEE Member to join WIE. Professional IEEE memberships in the U.S. are $197 annually. IEEE student memberships in the U.S. are $32.00 annually.

Cost: The WIE membership dues is $25 annually, but free to students.

Society of Women Engineers

Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
Who it’s for: For women and men in the engineering professions including computer software and hardware engineering.

Benefits: Networking, educational development, awards & scholarships, the SWE Magazine, monthly newsletter, online communities, webinars, podcasts, online career center, and outreach; Affinity groups for African-American, Latina, LGBT, Native American, and IRIS (Internationals Residing in the States). Members develop leadership skills by publishing articles, presenting technical papers, leading workshops and seminars.

How to Join: Fill out an application online or by pdf.

Cost: Professional member ship is $100 annually. Collegiate Membership is a one-time payment of $50 that can be renewed every year you’re in college for no cost.

Women Entrepreneurs

Women Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (WEST)

Who it’s for: Women and men involved in science, engineering, and technology.

Benefits: Networking, mentorships, workshops and panels including advice about career advancement, alternate career options, professional skill building, and entrepreneurial thinking. WEST offers encouragement and recognition of women’s achievement in science, technology and entrepreneurial enterprises.

How to Join: You can join online.

Cost: Individual one year memberships are $95.

With such variety, perhaps you’ll find one of these organizations will be the perfect fit for you. (Or, maybe even more than one.) Remember, it’s never to early to start making those important professional contacts.


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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
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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).

The Legacy of Grace Hopper

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)

How much do you know about Grace Hopper? In celebration of Women’s History Month, here are some discussion questions to accompany The Queen of Code, a short 15 minute documentary released earlier this year by Gillian Jacobs.

  • What did you know about Grace Hopper before watching the documentary?
  • After watching the documentary, what surprised you most?

“I’ve driven a large number of people at least partially nuts. After all, insisting on talking to computers in plain English was a totally ridiculous idea and you couldn’t do that. Except it worked.” – Grace Hopper

  • Have you had a similar experience where someone thought your idea was totally ridiculous? What happened? What are some constructive ways to approach these kinds of situations?

“Even though she was a trailblazer, she never admitted that a trail needed to be blazed. She was very interesting in that respect.” – Kathleen Williams, Grace Hopper Biographer

  • How would you describe a trailblazer? To what extent should trailblazers advocate for others to follow in their stead?
  • How do you feel about having or needing role models to look up to?

“She’s like an Edison…like a Turing…and yet Hopper isn’t in those names in the history books and it needs to be and that’s one of the things we can fix.” – Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States

  • Who are the most famous people in technology that you have learned about? What are some ways we might help others learn about people like Grace Hopper and the ENIAC women?

“One phrase I’ve always disliked is that awful one: “But we’ve always done it that way.” That’s why I kept that backward clock in my office.” – Grace Hopper

  • What is one way that you can incorporate your own “backward clock” into your life?

Image by miss karen.

Taking Your Coding to the Next Level

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
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You’ve done the Hour of Code and Codecademy, or maybe you’ve taken a couple formal intro classes. Now what? Here are some great resources for staying sharp and taking your coding to the next level.

Code School

Pros: Code School offers fun-themed, polished instruction videos and exercises for Ruby, JavaScript, HTML/CSS, iOS, Git and electives like using the Google Drive API. The developers at Code School are constantly rolling out new content covering topics like Angular.js, Node.js and Express.js. These courses assume you have a basic understanding of the programming language at hand.

Cons: The iOS path has a course on Objective-C but not Swift, though the developers have blogged about Swift and it seems they’ve got a course in the works. If you’re not looking to learn about web technologies, however, this site won’t be very useful to you.

Cost: $29/mo individual subscription


Pros: Treehouse is track-based like Code School, but offers additional topics like Android development, PHP, Python, WordPress and even a track on how to start a business.

Cons: If you want access to industry talks, interviews and workshops, you’ll need a Pro account at double the cost of a basic subscription.

Cost: $25/mo individual basic subscription


Pros: If you’re interested in more than just web technologies, PluralSight probably has you covered with its 3500+ courses. There are some learning paths but the site is largely geared toward current professionals who might be preparing for a specific certificate or who need to learn a very specific topic. Here you’ll find videos on .NET, C#, databases, SQL, and methodology-based courses like agile and unit-testing.

Cons: There’s much less hand-holding on PluralSight, so it’s probably useful if you have an intermediate-level understanding of programming basics and/or are very self-directed. PluralSight videos aim to teach you what you need to know without fancier things like themed learning paths.

Cost: $29/mo individual basic subscription ($49/mo subscription for access to exercises, pre-/post-assessments and certificates)


Pros: TopCoder posts challenges in the major areas of design, development and data science for programmers to compete to come up with the best solution. This is a great place to show off your skills, potentially win prizes and get noticed by companies. Some companies use this site as part of their technical interview.

Cons: TopCoder doesn’t have courses to explicitly teach you skills. Rather, you can learn by taking on a challenge and doing your own research about the topic.

Cost: Free!


Pros: HackerRank easily lets you practice coding (from late beginner skills onwards) in over 30 programming languages. This is a great place to sharpen your skills in algorithms, artificial intelligence or functional programming. HackerRank consists mostly of exercises but has some tutorials like Linux Shell/Bash and Python. The farther up you move in the ranks by completing challenges, the more you could also get noticed by companies. Some companies use this site as part of their technical interview.

Cons: For the most part, HackerRank is more about completing challenges and teaching yourself something along the way. Let StackOverflow be your friendly companion; the forums specific to each challenge have some handy tips, too.

Cost: Free!



Why do I list having to teach yourself without formal video tutorials as a con? I wrote this guide with the beginner/intermediate programmer in mind – someone who probably considers themselves a student and isn’t used to the fact that ‘learning by doing’ can also mean solving a challenge by looking up lots of bits and pieces on the internet whenever you need it. You won’t have all the information you need all in one place: I think this is a good thing and more representative of what it’s like to be a programmer on the job. If you’re not used to taking the initiative to find a new tool or feature of a particular programming language, sites like TopCoder and HackerRank can make you feel like you have little direction. If you feel this way, I encourage you to dive in with the mindset that you now have more freedom to choose your direction and how you find new things to learn.

Happy coding!

Image by Alexander Scheffelaar Klots

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
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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.

Sabio sets sights on creating Latino, women developers

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

Sabio is a developer program run by two Latinos aiming to create more women and minority web developers. What’s the best way to get more women and minorities great tech jobs? Train them yourself.

So goes the logic of Sabio co-founders Liliana Monge and Gregorio Rojas, who are set to graduate their first class of four trained web developers in February. Sabio was created in 2012 and the first class was in session in September of 2013.

The 20-week class includes training in a variety of development specialties. Specifically: front end development (HTML5, CCS3, JavaScript); back end development; database development; source control; native mobile development, and more. Plus, mentoring and assistance finding a job, for a cost of $10,000 that participants pay up front.

The idea for Sabio first arose when Rojas and Monge were discussing the need for more women and minorities in the tech industry. Rojas has been working in the Los Angeles tech scene since 2000, and knew from experience that diversity was an issue.

So, with Sabio, Rojas decided to make a dent in the tech industry’s diversity problem and train women and minorities in web development himself.

“It is a win-win,” said Monge. “It is a win to have an underemployed, or unemployed young adult empower themselves with high-tech skill-set. They can literally create a multi-million dollar application with their bare hands.”

Sabio’s two Latino co-founders are proud to be graduating two women and two African-American developers in their inaugural class. The tech industry is dominated by white men, and different people and organizations have many different reasons for why this needs to change.

For Sabio, the main reason is economic.

“The USA must keep its competitive edge,” said Monge. “To do this, it must harness the expertise, and talents of all its citizens: black, white, Latino, male and female. So that we, as a nation, can continue to lead the tech revolution, that is creating an unprecedented amount of wealth and opportunity.”

Ultimately, the tech industry can benefit from all types of creators — not just “young, affluent Caucasian men,” said Monge, noting that one of the most important lessons she’s learned teaching the first cohort is that tech companies will hire people without a formal Computer Science degree. What they want are people who can code, who are willing to learn, work hard, be motivated and do the work.

And people who don’t come from a tech background and work as entry-level programmers if they are dedicated and willing to learn, she said.

Sabio’s first cohort is already being hired as full-time developers, and the organization is gearing up for its next cohort. In the future, Sabio is hoping to create a weekday, and weekend, course to help accelerate the learning process for people who are unemployed, or looking to transition more quickly.

For more information visit Sabio’s website here.

HUB101: startup accelerator for diversity

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

HUB101 strives to be a different kind of startup accelerator, one focused on upping the diversity quotient and bringing the accelerator model to new groups of folks, such as veterans, women, Latinos and others.

A new startup accelerator in the Los Angeles metropolitan area is looking for creative people who aren’t “fresh out of college and eating ramen”.

HUB101 is trying to create a mentor-driven program that helps user-entrepreneurs make the first step into bringing their ideas to the real world. HUB101 provides entrepreneurs with experienced mentors, programs to bring their product to life, and office space. All of this will be available at night and weekend – allowing the entrepreneur access to these valuable assets on their own time.

MásWired and HUB101 co-founder Ginger Zumaeta sat down recently to discuss the program, its services, and what makes Hub101 stand out from other startup accelerators.

Zumaeta’s group is seeking, in particular, “Entrepreneurs who are building scalable businesses (startups) that are focused on top-end growth. I’m talking about the types of businesses that want to make a so-called ‘dent in the universe’. Really big solutions that solve big pain points.” They do respect small businesses, however, Hub101 is seeking to ensure that big solutions for big problems can begin to grow.

MW: What exactly is a “startup accelerator,” and how do they work?

GZ: For HUB101 what it represents is a structured mentor-driven program wherein we help startup founders work on the elements that will position them for success over the course of 12-15 weeks. At the end of the day, most startups fail because of a lack of customers, so we spend a lot of time validating how the business will acquire paying customers.

MW: What kind of entrepreneurs does HUB101 take on?

GZ: There are many startup founders who are still in regular jobs and working on their companies on the side or who have recently left steady jobs for one reason or another. That’s a really difficult path for a host of reasons. HUB101 was built to serve this unique type of entrepreneur.

Research has demonstrated that most startups that survive past 5 years are actually started by people who have had a significant amount of work experience. They’re called user-entrepreneurs. They’ve seen different types of challenges and are more likely to have business ideas that solve big problems. We like that.

At HUB101 diversity is in our DNA. I’m a Latina in my 40s and my cofounder is a Marine veteran. We’re really committed to upping the diversity quotient among startups and bringing the accelerator model to new groups of folks. That was a big factor driving our “after-hours” model and mentality.

MW: What are the prerequisites (if any) for an interested entrepreneur to take advantage of HUB101’s services?

GZ: We don’t have any prerequisites per se beyond understanding the difference between a startup and a small business. Ideally you should have at least one additional co-founder, but it’s not an absolute requirement.

MW: What kind of support does HUB101 offer to entrepreneurs?

GZ: Our support hinges around three core elements.

1) We surround the entrepreneurs with experienced mentors from a wide range of industries. Often the most important thing a startup team needs is perspective and access. Our mentors provide that. They really get involved.

2) We offer a rigorous program that takes founders through the process of finding product-market alignment and most importantly doing customer validation to ensure they’re building a product or service that customers will actually pay money for and that is scalable.

3) Finally, we provide office space where the entrepreneurs can interact. We’ll be at great co-working space called OfficeSlice that is hosting HUB101 on nights and weekends so founders can get away from distractions and focus on building their business, but also so they can interact with other startup founders

MW: Are mentors tailored to the entrepreneur?

GZ: Absolutely. Mentorship is harder than it sounds. It’s vital that there’s real mentor-entrepreneur chemistry, so the mentors will meet with teams and there will be a mutual agreement for mentorship based on both parties wanting to work with each other. In reality, most entrepreneurs will likely have several mentors that help them in different ways along the journey

MW: Does HUB101 offer any starting finances to entrepreneurs?

GZ: We’re not offering seed money upon sign-up. At HUB101 the value we bring is more in mentorship and helping find product-market fit. However, we will be actively engaged in helping the entrepreneurs access funds when they need it, and we will have a demo day at the conclusion of the program where we’ll invite angels and VCs to learn about the businesses.

MW: How much does HUB101’s services cost?

GZ: HUB101 doesn’t cost anything for the founders, though we will look for a nominal equity stake in the startups we accept into the program.

TechReads: Fabricated – Part 2 (Controversies of 3D Printing)

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)

3D printers make it easier to produce prosthetics and other custom products, much to the celebration of creative minds and makers. But like pretty much any technology, 3D printers can also bring trouble. Here are some of the top controversies surrounding 3D printing, as mentioned in Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman’s book Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing, along with additional resources for learning about these issues.

A Gray Area of Responsibility

A machine part malfunctions or breaks down, causing a fatal injury. The machine part was 3D printed. Under what circumstances is the death the responsibility of the user, manufacturer, design engineer of the machine part, and/or design engineer of the 3D printer? Michael Molitch-Hou provides industry insight on possible changes in liability issues. The complexity escalates further when we consider that 3D printing is also being used to develop living tissue, which may one day include entire organs.

It Isn’t Easy Being Green

Credit: edie newsroom

How do 3D printers measure up in terms of sustainability and going green? Instead of mass production, 3D printers can be used to manufacture an item only when it is needed, and the additive manufacturing process generates less waste. However, this model works for some products better than others. Factor in shipping/transportation costs, how easily the product can be made out of recyclable parts, and how easily the product can be recycled, and suddenly it’s not so easy to decide how much sustainability we’re really looking at. If you’re curious, Jonathan Bardelline and Catherine Wilson discuss this issue in more detail.

Getting the Red Light

3D printers are becoming cheaper, and the Internet provides increasingly ready access to design files for countless objects. This puts a strain on the concept of intellectual property.  How does this change the safety of items such as food, drugs and guns, which are currently regulated to some extent in many parts of the world? For example, in early 2013 the US government ordered a man to take his design files for a 3D printed gun off the Internet, but not before many other people downloaded and shared the file.

A Changing Job Market

Will 3D printers eliminate jobs or create jobs? You could argue for both sides, but let’s reframe the scenario: 3D printers seem set to eventually replace many of today’s manual laborers. However, the authors of Fabricated highlight an increasing demand for the design engineers that will continue to drive the creative side of using this technology. In this article, Rodolfo Lentejas explores some other ways that the job market could shift, including impacts on retail. For a more historical perspective, check out this column by History, Future Now.

Machines Making Machines

Credit: MIT Technology Review
Credit: MIT Technology Review

It would save a lot of time if a 3D printer could fix itself and print its own replacement parts. What if it had enough artificial intelligence to make better parts for itself or print entirely new, more sophisticated machines? The author, inventor and Google Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil made popular the concept of the singularity, which includes the idea that machines will keep developing smarter machines until one day, artificial intelligence will have surpassed human intelligence. Kurzweil calculates that the singularity could be upon us by 2045. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen argues the flip side here, reasoning why the possibility of the singularity is much further down the road.

This article is part of a series called TechReads, my ongoing series of technology-related book reviews. If you would like to suggest a book for a future TechReads article, please leave a comment below – and if you’ve read Fabricated, I’d love to hear what you think!

Featured Image: Evan Leeson

3 Tips for Becoming a Better Programmer

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)

Apple recently announced the release of Swift, a new programming language intended to make programming easier and more efficient than Objective C, the current language used for programming OS X and iOS devices. Some people wondered whether novice programmers should still bother learning Objective C (the consensus is pretty much a ‘yes’). At the same time, Apple’s announcement was a reminder that since technology is constantly changing, a savvy programmer never stops learning. Here are three habits you should adopt to help yourself become a more efficient, knowledgeable and well-rounded programmer.

1. Stay Informed

Read the headlines or articles from places that cover the area of technology you’re interested in – this could be a formal news outlet, someone’s blog, or a subreddit. Some general places to start are TechCrunch,, PCWorld, The Next Web and of course, iGirl Tech News. For news about new programming languages, you can check out the Codecademy and Code School blogs. For news specifically related to women in technology, check out the Anita Borg Institute and also the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT). If you’re someone who knows about prominent companies, trends, and new developments, you’ll have a better sense of your field as a whole; you’ll know how those changes might affect you, and you’ll also be among the first to know about cool up-and-coming opportunities. I like to use Feedly to keep track of all my news – both its mobile and web versions are pretty great.

2. Don’t Just Memorize – Pay Attention to Patterns and Concepts

If you look through the job descriptions for programmers, software or web developers, you’ll quickly realize that you’ll need to know more than one programming language, but that it would also be hard to learn all of them. What to do? Many (but not all) programming languages share similar characteristics but use different words and syntax. Build a solid foundation in one language like C++, Java or Ruby, and pay attention to patterns and concepts like object-oriented programming and how logic statements work. Once you start learning another language, you won’t be starting from scratch if you look for transferable skills and concepts. You will also be better equipped to pick up new languages and platforms as they emerge.

3. Watch Out for Imposter Syndrome

This one applies especially to women and other minority groups in tech, and becomes more prevalent in high-achievers. If you have Imposter Syndrome, that means you tend to feel undeserving of your successes, and you feel like you owe much more of your accomplishments to luck or other people rather than yourself. More than just feeling like you don’t belong, you might worry that one day the people around you will realize you’re an ‘imposter’ or a ‘fake’. Don’t fall for this!

[tweet “You worry . . . you’re an ‘imposter’ . . . Don’t fall for this!”]

We all owe part of our circumstances to luck, and other people can certainly influence our lives, but that doesn’t mean that you are unworthy of the work you do. Give others credit where it is due, but don’t hold yourself back: take ownership of your own achievements.

Photo by: Ben W

Should You Apply to the Ada Developer’s Academy?

Tanya Adams is a freelance writer, content strategist, and lover of all things tech. Not to be confused with her namesake of Red Alert 2 fame, but certainly that cool. Learn more about her at
Tanya Adams

Even though there has been an increase of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) occupations since the 1970s, women in the computer sciences remain sorely underrepresented. Just 15% of software jobs are held by women and 1.5% of open source contributors are women.

The Ada Developer’s Academy (Ada) — named for Ada Lovelace, purportedly the founder of scientific computing — is addressing this skill gap by training women to become software developers.

Ada is currently accepting applications for its second class slated to begin September 2nd.

“Ada is increasing opportunities for women in the traditionally male-dominated tech industry while addressing an acute and ongoing shortage of local developer talent,” said Elise Worthy, Program Manager & Co-Founder of Ada. “Our program is providing women with a solid footing in technical careers and tackling head-on the gender imbalance at local software companies, who recognize that Ada is a great opportunity to create a more equitable, diverse culture in tech.”

Established in 2013 as an intensive software developers training school exclusively for women, Ada offers six months of classroom-based instruction followed by a six-month internship  with Puget Sound-area tech companies. The internships prepare students for the transition into junior developer positions. Students completing the program also receive a certificate from Bellevue College.

[tweet “This extensive education is offered for free to all women accepted.”]

Because of the immense time commitment (classes meet from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays), the women are awarded a monthly stipend.

Why a full year program?

Search the web and you will find 8-week hacking programs, but those programs are not sufficient enough to prepare students with limited or no technical background.

“We want to make sure that students are fully prepared. Learning to program in a classroom only gets you halfway there. The internship component is key: students experience being on software teams, working with legacy codebases, deadlines, and production code,” said Bookis Smuin, Lead Instructor at Ada. “The internship is just as important as the classroom experience in preparing the students to be productive and successful developers.”

The first class of students numbered 16. For this upcoming class, 24 students will be admitted.

Potential students do not have to possess prior programming experience, but should demonstrate technical aptitude.

According to Worthy, a majority of the women interested in programming are novices and have had limited access to technology education in high school and college. In fact, many of the students in the previous Ada class were switching careers. They held bachelor’s degrees in everything from theater to linguistics.

Of this first class, 25% relocated to Washington State from as far away as Florida  and half were women of color.

Ada did not release any information as to the specific ethnicities of the first class; however, according to a 2013 government report, African-Americans and Hispanics, regardless of gender, have been consistently underrepresented in STEM employment. In 2011, 6% of STEM workers were African-American and 7% were Hispanics.

So, Ada may be helping fulfill an ethnic diversity deficit in STEM jobs as well.

What do the women learn in the classroom?

The curriculum covers web development, how to work on agile development teams and lead software projects. Students work on projects that simulate real applications under real deadlines.

Specifically, students learn the Ruby on Rails tech stack (Ruby, Rails, JavaScript, HTML/CSS) and Agile Methodologies (pair programming, test-driven development, user-story creation).Through their training the students become adept at information gathering and creative problem solving as well.

“We’ve been so impressed with the student’s progress over the past six months. They’re developing full, production-ready applications on agile teams. They’re not only becoming fluent in code, but in the development process,” said Scott Case, COO of EnergySavvy and Ada Co-founder.

In May, the current class of Ada students held a demo of the civic apps they created as part of they’re coursework.

How can this education be offered for free?

As part of the Technology Alliance, Ada relies on sponsorships from Seattle-area tech companies who cover the students’ tuition, actively engage as mentors, and provide hands-on experience through internships.

Sixteen Seattle-area tech companies, including Expedia, EMC Isilon, EnergySavvy, Zillow, Marchex, Redfin, and Nordstrom, are now sponsoring Ada students.

Ada’s Future

Ada is on its way to training software developers who will fill a few of the 20,000 open STEM positions within Washington State.

Perhaps other organizations will take note of Ada’s approach to training software developers and duplicate the model. The need for diversity in tech is nation-wide.

Interested in applying to Ada Development Academy? The application deadline for the upcoming class is June 16, 2014 at 5 p.m. PDT.

Women interested in making a career change to software development are encouraged to apply.