My 2017 Year End Review

At the close of each year, I like to reflect upon my lessons learned as well as any accomplishments. I do this for many different reasons. One reason is that I don’t want to make the same mistake twice. A second reason is that I’m way too hard on myself and often times forget things that I’ve done. My 2017 certainly had its share of ups and downs both professionally and personally. In spite of everything, I must say that I can’t complain. Although there were many low points (very very low) of the year that I don’t care to remember, I’d like to take a moment to share a few highlights from my Ph.D. journey this year:

  • I completed all of the coursework for my doctorate program
  • I passed my Qualifying Exams (See the previous blog post for tips)
  • I passed my Preliminary Exam/Research Proposal
  • I was a Grace Hopper Scholar (See the previous blog post)
  • For the first time ever I traveled to:
    • Fort Wayne, Indiana (presented a co-authored publication and was a Travel Grant recipient for MAICS)
    • Savannah, Georgia (presented a co-authored publication at CogSIMA)
    • Tuscon, Arizona (WiCyS Scholar/Travel Grant recipient)
    • San Jose, California (Facebook Travel Grant recipient for the @Scala Conference)
  • Was a National Society of Blacks in Computing Travel Grant recipient (Atlanta, Georgia)
  • Won the Oustanding Ph.D. Graduate Student Teaching Award (This was the first time my department has ever given this award!)
  • Was an invited speaker at 6 different events
  • Volunteered for 4 different Tech/STEM events (INTech, Boy Scouts of America, FIRST, NSBE)

This is only a portion of what I was able to accomplish this year. Keep in mind that these are only items related to my Ph.D. journey. I share these things not to boast but to share how good God is. When you put the time, energy, and effort into anything, I can assure you that you WILL get a return on your investment. Each one of these achievements came with many obstacles. There were also things that I wasn’t able to accomplish this year that I hope to work on in 2018.

As 2018 swiftly approaches, I hope to do even more this upcoming year than I did the last. I’m currently working on my goals and vision board. What does your Year-End Review look like? What do you aim to achieve in 2018? What keeps you going? Here is a collage of photos from 2017. Let’s make 2018 #legendary.

 

 

 

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A Panelist, Judge, and Instructor. OH MY!

So today is the complete definition of what I’d like to call “A Good Day!” I started my day off by being a panelist for North Carolina A&T State University’s Transfer & Graduate Open House. The panel was comprised of PhD and Masters student’s in various disciplines. We shared with prospective students our experiences, things to know, what to expect, etc. The panel concluded with the Graduate College giving us gifts 🙂

My next stop was to attend the Region 2 National Society of Black Engineers Conference. I had the pleasure of being a judge for the poster competition. I was truly inspired by the young bright minds of the future. I’m in awe of the research that is taking place within the various engineering fields. It is a privilege to be a judge that is able to support the learning as well as to encourage the young scholars.

My last event while at the conference was to be an Instructor for INTech Camp for Girls. I had soooooooo much fun! I was able to share with the young ladies my journey in STEM as well as teach them HTML. The young ladies were in high school and already have very impressive resumes. It was an honor to meet the next generation of computer scientists!

Below are a few videos and of pictures from the day!

#R2NSBE #INTechCamp #HTML #Coding #NSBE #R2NSBE #FUN

 

Qualifying/Comprehensive Exams: You can do this!

Are your qualifying exams coming up? If so, I’m sure you are under quite a bit of stress and pressure. This is normal and apart of the process. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what qualifying exams are, know they are also referred to sometimes as comprehensive exams (or comps). They are exams that demonstrate your core competency in your field as a doctoral student. Failure to pass these exams, result in the dismissal/termination of your doctoral studies. So with that being said, you can see how stressful this is on a doctoral student. To dive a little bit deeper into why this is important, I’d like to break down the structure of the PhD program:

  1. In a doctoral program you will normally complete coursework first.
  2. Upon or during completing your coursework you will take your qualifying exams.
  3. After successful completion of the qualifying exams, you become a PhD Candidate and may move into the doctoral portion of your program.
  4. Next you will do a proposal of your dissertation research (also referred to as a preliminary exam).
  5. Last step is to do your final defense!

Depending upon your program there may be additional items that need to be completed. For instance in my program you must also complete a research examination after passing the qualifying exams before proceeding to Step 4 listed above. You also have another requirement to teach as well.

One thing to note is that you have two chances to pass these qualifying exams so do not fret but do take them very seriously. Here are a few tips that I found to aid in my preparation of the exams:

  • Talk to students who have already taken them and passed
  • If possible, see if you can get any sample exams to look at
  • Any questions you have, make sure to speak with the professor who taught the course
  • Review the slides from the course
  • Review the book from the course
  • Find practice questions to practice with (Use your old exams from the class as well as google or your search engine of choice.)
  • Form a study group with your cohorts
  • Study individually as well
  • Pace yourself (Don’t wait until the last-minute to study!)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • Don’t compare yourself to others
  • DO NOT PUT THEM OFF (This causes additional unnecessary stress! Take them and get it over with! *Remember you can’t move forward in your program if you don’t.)
  • BREATHE

The real work relies on you. Know that you can do this! If you do your part in preparing, you are sure to pass them. If for some reason you do not pass them all remember, it is not the end of the world! You have a second chance. You now know what they are looking for and know what you need to do. Keep pushing and share any tips you might have once you successfully complete them. Leave your comments below and don’t forget to subscibe!

 

2017 Grace Hopper Celebration

Wow! What a high I’m still on from the Grace Hopper Conference! I came, I saw, and I conquered 🙂

Who is Grace Hopper?

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Grace Hopper is considered a pioneer of computer programming. As a computer scientist and admiral, she invented one of the first compiler related tools which led to the development of a programming language called COBOL. See more about Grace Hopper.

About the Grace Hopper Conference

AnitaB.org hosts annually the Grace Hopper Celebration. It is the largest conference held for Women in Computing/Technologists. This year it was held in Orlando, Florida at the Orange County Convention Center for 3 days (October 4-6). There were approximately 18,000+ attendees at the conference. There were keynotes, ABIE awards given, sessions/panels, a career fair, and interviews scheduled/completed for job seekers.

About the Grace Hopper Scholarship

This was my first time attending the conference and I had the privilege of being selected as a Grace Hopper Scholar (see badge above at the very top). I was so excited to receive the scholarship, as it is truly competitive. There were somewhere between 15,000 applicants and out of that number 657 applicants were selected. Out of the 657 applicants, 93 identified as Black or African-American and I was one of them. There were over 500 reviewers who selected the scholars. To my knowledge, I am the first African-American graduate student who has received this honor from North Carolina A&T State University. The scholarship provides many amenities including:

  • Conference Registration
  • Flight
  • Hotel
  • Stipend
  • Meal Card

I encourage you if you’ve never been to attend the conference and also apply for the scholarship.

What you need to know

Be prepared to walk

I walked anywhere from 5-10 miles each day (way to get in my 10k+ steps)! So when you come to this conference bring your walking shoes and also wear comfortable clothing. Also, you may need a sweater for the sessions and keynotes (a bit chilly at times).

Be prepared to network

At a conference as large as this, be prepared to connect with various people from all walks of life. If you are an introvert and not good at getting out of your shell, practice your elevator speech and make it a point to connect with at least 5-10 people per day. You’d be surprised at who may be from your same hometown, state, have similar research interests, or what you may have in common.

Another reason you need to network is that many companies have receptions each night (some invite only). Take full advantage of these opportunities to engage with their staff and of course to have fun too.

Be prepared to learn

As you attend the keynotes, panels, and sessions be prepared to learn. Bring something to write with as you may want to take notes. There are so many nuggets of wisdom shared during the conference as well as inspirational stories. Also if you have interviews scheduled take notes on what answers your interviewer gives you on all the questions you have. You may want to take notes on any questions you need to better answer for your next interview too. Be engaged and present!

Be prepared to get swag

As you pack your suitcase to attend the conference make sure to leave space for the gifts, door prizes, and the swag that may be raffled or given to you during the conference. My suitcase gained an additional 20 pounds of goodies on my return flight home at the airport. Luckily I had room in my suitcase to bring these goodies home.

Upload your Resume to the GHC database

One way to get interviews scheduled, invitations to company receptions, and or events is to load your resume to the GHC database. I did this and I had so many opportunities at the conference as a result. Check your spam folder occasionally as well. Some of my best invitations got lost in spam so check your spam folder prior and during the conference.

Print out your resume and bring it to the conference

Since this was my first time at the conference I only printed out a few copies of my resume (20 to be exact) and I ran out 😦 I would recommend printing anywhere from 50-100 copies of your resume to give out. One touch that may make your resume stand out is adding a photo. Every company that I handed my resume to was impressed with its appearance and loved the fact that I included a photo (this may help in them remembering you). Check out my resume and cv here: www.siobahncday.com.

Send follow-up emails

At the career fair and along the way during the conference, you will give out or receive many business cards. Make sure to follow up with those people via email and reference the conference and or how you met them. People are very impressed with this and it may gain you an interview, internship, or more.

Enjoy Yourself

Lastly, I want to conclude with just to enjoy yourself. You may get overwhelmed at the conference because there is so much going on. That’s normal, however just make sure to be your best self and have fun! Don’t forget to enjoy the moment and take as many pictures, videos, snaps, etc. as you like! Here are a few of my photos from the conference!

 

@Scale Conference

I tweeted earlier this year that I wanted to visit California before the year was over. Why? Well because I’ve never had the opportunity to go to California and it’s where many of the major tech companies headquarters are located. I attended the @Scale conference where I got to learn more about tech, meet other techies, and experience a new terrain. I’d call that a win-win 🙂 Facebook made this all possible for myself and many other students. I’m forever grateful to have such an opportunity provided.

So about the conference, I chose the machine learning track because it’s of immense interest to me. Machine learning is used for many things: classification, predictions, etc. Machine learning, in a nutshell, is essentially a computer that learns. This is the future people and oh so exciting. The other tracks were hot topics, data, and dev tools and ops. In addition for the Facebook scholars, there were sessions where myself and the other students had the opportunity to ask questions to Facebook representatives. I met so many people and even used the Lyft app for the first time while at the conference.

While also in the San Jose/ San Franciso area I had the opportunity to get a tour of the Menlo Park Facebook campus as well as the San Franciso area. I wasn’t able to take many photographs while at Facebook but here are a few photos from my short and brief trip to California. Just know jet lag is real but it was so worth it!

Welcome

Hello and welcome to my blog on technology, research, and anything related. I’m not sure how this blog will evolve, but I’m looking forward to the journey. Any comments or topics you have an interest in please provide feedback.