Tagged: career development

Girls Just Wanna Be Computer Scientists [video]

The world has a big problem.

Developing technology is the primary way we’re advancing toward the future, and yet in 2010, only 18.2% of American undergraduates studying computer science were women. To work in technology is to innovate, and innovation benefits from a diversity of minds, which often comes from a group of people who don’t look alike.

So where are the women? Maria Klawe has an answer.

The president of Harvey Mudd College, Dr. Klawe has helped transform the way computer science is reaching students. She was recently profiled in a New York Times story that examined how Harvey Mudd’s intro computer science class has been made-over to appeal to more learners:

Known as CS 5, the course focused on hard-core programming, appealing to a particular kind of student — young men, already seasoned programmers, who dominated the class. This only reinforced the women’s sense that computer science was for geeky know-it-alls.

“Most of the female students were unwilling to go on in computer science because of the stereotypes they had grown up with,” said Zachary Dodds, a computer scientist at Mudd. “We realized we were helping perpetuate that by teaching such a standard course.”

To reduce the intimidation factor, the course was divided into two sections — “gold,” for those with no prior experience, and “black” for everyone else. Java, a notoriously opaque programming language, was replaced by a more accessible language called Python. And the focus of the course changed [from] computational approaches to solving problems across science.

“We realized that we needed to show students computer science is not all about programming,” said Ran Libeskind-Hadas, chairman of the department. “It has intellectual depth and connections to other disciplines.”

See how inclusion is done? To embrace those who’ve traditionally been left out, it takes self-reflection, broad thinking, and action. 

Harvey Mudd isn’t the only college to revamp its curriculum:

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Strong, Able, and Dyslexic

If you’re dyslexic, this is what you need to know about your self. And if you don’t live with dyslexia, here’s how you may be limited without it.

In “The Upside of Dyslexia,” an opinion piece recently published in the New York Times, writer Annie Murphy Paul outlines the ways that dyslexia confers advantages on workers, especially those related to the arts and sciences. She writes:

People with dyslexia possess distinctive perceptual abilities. For example, scientists have produced a growing body of evidence that people with the condition have sharper peripheral vision than others.

How does this work? Paul explains:

The brain separately processes information that streams from the central and the peripheral areas of the visual field. Moreover, these capacities appear to trade off: if you’re adept at focusing on details located in the center of the visual field, which is key to reading, you’re likely to be less proficient at recognizing features and patterns in the broad regions of the periphery.

The opposite is also the case. People with dyslexia, who have a bias in favor of the visual periphery, can rapidly take in a scene as a whole — what researchers call absorbing the “visual gist.”

If you’re dyslexic, yes, focused reading can be hard. Yet perceiving data on the periphery of your view comes naturally.

Indeed, whole research centers have been founded to study the positive attributes of dyslexia. Consider the recent creation of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, as well as the Laboratory for Visual Learning within the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

So the evidence continues to add up: dyslexia is less of a disability, and more of a different style of taking in information.  If you struggle with reading, knowing the current discoveries about dyslexia can help you find words to describe the strengths you possess along with your struggles.

And if you don’t experience what was once known as “word blindness,” you might seek the help of your dyslexic peers at work.

Especially if you’re striving to see the whole picture.

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Complicated Past? LinkedIn Can Help. [video]

Let’s say you’re a private equity information specialist. And a dancer. An unlikely pair of professions for one person, yet this is exactly the scenario we addressed recently while giving a talk to dancers about how to develop a wholly representative profile on LinkedIn.

While writing the “headline” on her LinkedIn profile, meaning the space directly under her name, a participant asked if it’s OK to write “Private Equity Information Specialist and Dancer.”

You see, she’s a client of Career Transitions for Dancers, an organization that helps dancers take their first steps toward second careers, because the physical tolls of dancing make it practically impossible to be a lifetime professional dancer.

So how did we respond? We offered that her inquiry really felt like the question “Is it OK to be who I am?” The answer to which would be “Yes, it is. Always.”

A fantastic thing about LinkedIn is the expectation that you’ll have only one profile, because you’re only one person. Also, you’ll synthesize your complicated background into a single headline, and then outline it within the various sections of Summary, Experience, and Education. Creating a profile on the “professional” social network becomes an exercise in identifying the breadth of your achievements and interests, organizing your story, and then revealing yourself in a coherent framework.

Watch how things unfolded, starting at 6:00, below:

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Quit Work, Stay True to Your Self

Staying true to your self includes knowing how you feel about your place of employment and working consciously with those feelings. Your emotions might bring you to spring out of bed some workday mornings, to stay late agreeably, or, in Greg Smith’s case, to quit.

And then write about it in the New York Times.

The former executive director and head of Goldman Sach’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa was mad as hell, and not gonna take it anymore.

Among his criticisms:

The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave.

Goldman Sachs today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore. Continue reading

Come Out at Work: As Inexperienced

Try to find someone on LinkedIn who acknowledges his inexperience. OK, you can find a few, yet out of 150 million+ users, rare is the individual who openly claims his lack of practical knowledge.

Until now.

Thanks to Sir Richard Branson, we see that a dearth of experience is less of a problem, and more a path to advancement.

In a recent Q & A at Entrepreneur, the chair of the Virgin Group debunks the stigma of inexperience. He writes:

A lack of experience does not have to be a liability — it can be an asset. It is something you should play up when you discuss your ideas with prospective investors, partners and employees.

He drives his point home with a personal story:

I have always used my own and my team’s lack of experience to our advantage. In fact, at our first venture, Student magazine, we used our newcomer status to secure great interviews and generate publicity — people were excited about our new project and wanted to get involved. Our inexperience fed our restless enthusiasm for trying new things, which became part of our core mission.

Don’t you love the way he turns something potentially mortifying into an opportunity, and seizes it outright? Perhaps it’s time for you to come out at work with your inexperience.

As Branson points out, you have nothing to hide, and a lot of business to gain.

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Come Out at Work: As a Person

It  seems so silly; who doesn’t know that you’re a person?

You might not guess the answer.

In a recent article called “Last of the Cave People,” National Geographic writer Mark Jenkins related his experience following the Meakambut, “one of the last cave-dwelling, seminomadic peoples in Papua New Guinea.”  With him was Sebastian Haraha, an ethnographer whose purpose on the journey is described by Jenkins as:

To pinpoint the exact locations of the Meakambut’s caves with a global positioning system. He hopes to register them under the National Cultural Property Act, so the homeland of the Meakambut will be protected from logging and mining.

Noble work! Then after witnessing the Meakambut men and women struggle for survival without much help, Haraha becomes disillusioned with his efforts. Jenkins writes:

He was compelled to temporarily abandon his plan of mapping the Meakambut’s caves—the goal of which is to save their habitat, and thus ensure the continuation of their culture in the future—in order to save their lives in the present. He says the choice was clear. He is a human first, an ethnographer second.

“Protecting the caves? What does it matter—if there are no Meakambut left?” asks Sebastian.

Haraha invokes his humanity first, and his professional role second. Which may be more profound than we realize.

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What Sheryl Sandberg Didn’t Say at Davos [video]

Facebook Inc.’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg recently spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and related important ideas about women in the workplace. She said we need to be mindful of how we’re socializing boys and girls at home, and called on chief executives to implement equal maternity and paternity leave policies.

Great stuff, right? And yet we’re totally disappointed in her.

Facebook recently filed for an initial public offering (IPO) that’s expected to raise up to $10bn this spring, and which could compensate Sandberg $1.6bn, solidifying her place among the most powerful executives in America.

Because of her newfound perch at the top, when she speaks about her professional trajectory and gender equality, it’s time she acknowledges the full range of dynamics that have helped her get there.

What dynamics?

That her Whiteness has played a role in her success.

Ay, that was hard to write. And we don’t mean to target the newest billionaire simply because she’s a woman. We’re critical of representations of White male leadership, too.

Sandberg’s story goes like this:  Continue reading