Women in Technology Panel #sqlsat191 #sqlsatkc

Bill Graziano (current PASS president) and I worked the PASS table most of the day.

Bill Graziano (current PASS president) and I worked the PASS table most of the day.

Last weekend, we went to Kansas City for another glorious SQL Saturday! It was held at an old casino that has been converted into a training center. It was a VERY cool location!  Jason (@StrateSQL) and I sat at the PASS table much of the day, along with Bill Graziano (@BillGraziano) (“El Jefe”, as I like to call him).

I did happen to sneak away for about 2 hours to watch the Women In Technology (WIT) Panel and Jason’s 2nd presentation of the day. I took some notes during the panel discussion. Unfortunately, it was very hard to hear most of what Kathi and a couple of the panelists were saying, and they could have used a little more time. Because of this, my notes were a bit disjointed, but here’s what I’ve got for you.

The moderator of the panel was Kathi Kellenberger (@auntkathi). Panel members included: Leslie Weed (@weederbug), Meagan Longoria (@mmarie), Jennifer Wadella (@likeOMGitsFEDAY),  Janis Griffin (@DoBoutAnything).

Kathi wanted to play the video She ++, but was unable to get it to work on the network. I watched it when I got home. It was a good video that not only talked about how important it is to get girls into technology, but people in general.

024Kathi talked about the importance of exposing children to technology, and encouraging their interests. She’s concerned that kids she knows may be missing out on cool technology.  She said kids these days might not see code, or see how to build a web page, and that’s unfortunate. She was first interested in technology with the TRS-80 code that she first saw in her 5th year of a 5 year degree.

Meagan started with a technology class in high school. She currently works in BI. She says she’s “not a normal Developer.” She loves the ability to use technology to make things better. Meagan has high school aged cousins, helps with family business, and helps with WIT in KC. Technology plays an important role with all those.

Leslie was originally going to be a mechanical engineer. She coached HS volleyball, and thought she might want to be a math teacher, but decided she liked to be on computers instead. She started learning DB applications, thought it was cool, and then started working with SQL. She also talked about her 12 year old twins (a boy and a girl). She said a STEM school opened in the area. She enrolled her son first, then added her daughter later. There is a low number of girls in STEM, parents don’t necessarily think of putting girls in STEM, because it’s not as “natural.”

When it was Janis’s turn to talk, a train came by, and I couldn’t hear much of what she said. 😦 In college, she took microbiology… mostly had typewriter-based opportunities… stayed home, found out she could program from home, and still be home with daughters. It was a win-win. She started out as a part-time software librarian, but took on DBA role right away with Oracle. One of the first places to help get user groups going (Confio? – I apparently had incomplete notes on this.) Janis told us about her niece, a high-schooler, whose school counselors are still trying to sway her towards “girl” careers. Janis also talked about how kids naturally like doing things like Power Point, games, etc. Why not give them skills to take it to the next level?

Last, but not least, was Jennifer. She founded Kansas City Women in Technology (KC WIT), and CoderDojoKC, a site geared towards teaching coding to kids. She went to school for graphic design (building websites), and now writes applications in JavaScript. At her job, only 2 of the 60 people are women. Jennifer started talking about how STEM jobs have highest drop out rate, then the darn train came by again. 😦  Jennifer told us about how the KC WIT group supports women in many different ways. They help women figure out rates they should charge for the work they do, give interview tips, and teach high school girls to find out how cool computers are. She said we need to reach children of all ages K-12. Jennifer referred us to a couple cool websites including: coderdojoKC.com, and codeacademy.com. Both of which appear to be really cool sites! CoderDojo even has a parent resource page, which I love!  The sites are geared towards helping kids learn to build apps, learn to code, and learn that Programming/IT jobs are fun. Kids aren’t getting a lot of encouragement, which is really unfortunate (and surprising to me, considering how digital the world is becoming). Jennifer’s projects help put on the Digigirlz camps.

Women want to make a difference… “Computer Science” is about learning algorhythms, etc. It doesn’t show them how they can make a difference. We want and need to encourage not just girls, but boys and girls. It’s best to catch them young. One way to make this happen, is to have an event/activity exposing kids to programming, or showing cool things technology can do. CoderDojo is putting together a code camp for kids for next summer. Watch their site for future details.

There was discussion around Goldie Blox. These are a toy that encourages kids, (especially girls) to build and be interested in STEM. The premise of Goldie Blox is that children read the book that comes with it, about a girl named Goldie, who is an inventor. They use the “tool box” to build the machines in the book, to get the characters through the stories.

Generally, girls don’t always see the end results in what programming does, or see how the IT behind it brings it to that point. Think of all the cool games and apps kids love to play on their computers, or devices, they might not realize there is coding behind that game, and that they can create things like that.

Other conversations went to Grace From Outer Space, there are also database books (Japanese anime), etc., that can encourage excitement on STEM topics. Karen Lopez (@datachick) said that we need to let kids know that math and science classes are important. Kids are taking less, because they don’t see the importance of it.

An audience member stated that even in Girl Scouts, her daughter has a leader that is a data analyst, but never talked to kids about it. Another group took girls to robotics and robotics competitions. If you are in that kind of position, make sure you are talking to girls about what you do. Another audience member (or was it a panelist?) talked about the “girls’ legos.” She said they helped her daughter find an interest in legos. Now that some legos and other construction type building toys are being geared to girls (colors, girl’s way of thinking), more girls are becoming interested. I have heard many debates on this subject, but I have also heard parents say that their daughters are becoming more interested in these types of toys.

Leslie brought up that some companies are offering more internships to give hands-on opportunities for younger kids too, even high school kids. What a great opportunity!

031At this point, Jason was setting up his laptop, as there was 3 minutes left until his session was supposed to start. I watched his entire session (something I don’t do very often). He did a great job talking about different kinds of Wait Stats. Every time I hear him talk about performance tuning topics, I think it would be fun to do that. Digging around in databases, trying to figure out what’s causing problems… sounds like something I would enjoy doing (though, still not as much as I enjoy teaching preschoolers).

The rest of the day finished up with some time hanging out with the McCowns (@MidnightDBA). We got to meet their 3 children (who I’ve only seen on their web show). We talked books with Jen, Bill Graziano and Mike Fal (@Mike_Fal). Jason showed Jen and her boys some fun games for the tablet/phone/computer.

048Then, a group of us headed to Paul and Jack’s Tavern for dinner. A great live band started about an hour after we got there. Sadly, we had to leave only an hour into the band playing to head to River Aces (around the corner) for karaoke. Karaoke was only going to be for 2 hours, and we didn’t want to miss it! I will write a post on our fun karaoke night on sqlkaraoke.com soon!

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