Strangeloop 2015

This year, I was fortunate to get a ticket to the Strangeloop conference in St. Louis, Missouri.  This was my second time going.  My first time was 2013, and I taught an intro to Python course there for Girl Develop It.  I was excited to go again this year!

I went to a bunch of talks, but a couple of them really stood out to me.  I went to a talk by Amy Wibowo (@sailorhg) about Sweaters as a Service.  She talked about stumbling upon a knitting machine and altering it to knit memes.  I loved the talk because it sparked my inner creativity as well as made me want to find a group of friends to do awesome technical crafty things.  She emphasized how important teamwork and coming into the project egoless was — I felt like that alone made me feel like *I* could accomplish the something cool, too.  A lot of the talks at Strangeloop were way over my head and made me feel very overwhelmed.  Luckily, I had a couple of friends who were similarly egoless, and we bonded over our confessions of not knowing what was going on.  Amy’s talk reminded me that you don’t have to know everything yourself to make a contribution to a really cool project — you just have to be passionate.  I loved how her talk made me feel like I could combine my hobbies with my profession and make awesome things.  Interestingly, I befriended a variety of people in the audience of her talk and made (and executed!) plans to do crafty things.  I had not really ever befriended people because of the subject of a talk, and I felt like that you’re a really awesome speaker if you can facilitate that happening!

The most emotionally heart-wrenching talk for me was the keynote by Abby/Idalin Bobé (@abbybobe).  I’ve been fortunate enough to know her and consider her a role model.  She talked about her path from protesting to programming.  There were so many incredible messages in her keynote.  She explained how she had to change her name from Idalin to Abby to get jobs — this resonates with me because I changed my name so that it was more pronounceable.  She went into detail about her struggles in college when people assume that you know things that you don’t and shame you for your lack of knowledge.  I loved how she talked about how Ask Jeeves was a safe space to ask any and all questions.  I can go on and on about this talk but I would love it if you watched it here.  Idalin is a fearless and powerful speaker.  I’m honored to volunteer with Hands Up United and the Roy Clay Sr. Tech Impact Program — I’m so glad that she used her tenacity to make the change that she wanted to see in the world.

There was one talk that inspired me to take a second look at my career choices — Abby Cabunoc Mayes’s talk on how the web is democratizing science (@abbycabs). Her talk inspired me to find an intersection of biology and programming so that I can do something more meaningful in my career.  She talked about how important it is to have open source, open science, and open data because it prevents the loss of time, resources, software, and lives.  I think many of my frustrations with graduate school stemmed from annoyances of the lack of open science in general.  I attended a talk two years ago at Strangeloop by some of her colleagues (Angelina Fabbro and Bill Mills), and I remember how the ended their talk with wanting to put programmers in touch with biologists.  It’s so cool to see how Mozilla’s Science Lab does exactly that.  I hope that I can some day find a position that puts me more towards my goal of being in the intersection of science and technology.

For the past two years, I had a lot of friends go to Strangeloop through diversity scholarships, and I think that drastically changed the conference for the better.  I had a much better time this year at the conference because of how the environment shifted through the hard work of the Strangeloop organizers to be committed to having a safe space for everyone.  Special shout out to the organizers for inviting the local CoderGirls to the conference and giving them space to talk about Launch Code in the main room during lunch.

All in all, good conference.  Excited to go again in the future.

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