NSF and Oakland University's REU program
Yesterday, I had the pleasure to speak at the Oakland University REU program, for Computer Science students. The program is funded by the NSF to encourage students to pursue graduate programs and careers in computer science.
Students participate from around the country in this 10 week program and it sounds quite interesting. One of the groups is doing some biochemistry/neural net research toward drug discovery. I was surprised to see that the students even receive a stipend to participate in the program (as well as a travel subsidy and housing). I would definitely encourage college students to apply!
Yesterday's program brought in several professional women to discuss, in particular, women in computer science fields. The speakers were all quite different, so I think that the students got a well-rounded view of the industry, from small companies like mine to large companies like Dow Chemical, all of the way to what it's like to direct a university's IT department to what Post-Docs do. Sadly, I had to miss two of the speaker's presentations, but it was an interesting day.
I talked about my journey to becoming an entrepreneur and how unlikely it seemed to me, when I was a student that I would have my own company. I feel like I'm quite risk averse, but I've really learn to accept the risk that comes along with working in my own business as ME being the one who is managing the risk rather than being at the mercy of my boss (who may or may not be truthful with me about the financial status of the company).
I also talked about how I try to stay current, focusing a lot on podcasts and blogs. I told the students about some of my favorite podcasts (all are available for free on iTunes, but also on websites).
- Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders, for business advice
- The Java Posse
- DotNet Rocks
- IT Conversations
I also really encouraged the students to become involved with user groups in their area (and hoping that one of the students comes out for the July meeting of the Python User Group). I told the students that in the Ann Arbor area, our user groups are suffering from an aging demographic and that we all feel that we would really benefit from some younger opinions and participation. I know that it's intimidating, but I got some feedback about how to welcome students. I will likely approach the Ann Arbor Computer Society about doing a program geared toward students and heavily advertise it at the local colleges and universities.
Most of the other speakers discussed work/life balance, which always seems to be a topic at these events, as it was at MICWIC earlier this year. With 2 young kids at home (ages 2 and 4), this is a work in progress for my husband and I. The only advice I can offer to students in that regard is to choose their spouse wisely. Thankfully, I did that right. One of the participants commented that it didn't seem like any of us had any "down time". I assured her that I had plenty of down time before the kids were born! For me at least, it's not the job, but the kids (but they're fun in a totally different way).
We had lunch at the gorgeous Meadowbrook Hall, where photos are prohibited. There are photos and history on their web page. If you're in the Detroit area, and haven't visited Meadowbrook, it's definitely worth the trip.
Anyhow, the students were great and I really think that they did a good job with the Women in Computing Day. By pairing each speaker with a student, they gave each student the opportunity to participate in the process (through introductions). I hope that they had a good time; I certainly did.
Oakland University's REU program
Meadowbrook Hall, on Oakland's campus
Brooklyn Bridges Program
Brooklyn College in City University of New York (also NSF funded)