What organizing tech talks at the office taught me

Around June 2014, I started organizing technical talks at my office. The organization I work for is not small and we do have a technical council that organizes trainings and an annual coding competition. The quality of many of the trainings are good. I personally did a series of trainings on advanced algorithms and data structures by Dr. Naveen Garg and it was very very good.

But, I realized we were missing something. The trainings planned by a central team was top-down. It should also be supplemented with bottom-up employee driven informal trainings and technical talks. We write verification tools for the semiconductor industries. Domain knowledge is a very important part of our job. But we essentially build software. If the foundation of software is weak, then in my opinion, even a brilliant domain specific idea can not produce a better product which can be reliably used by our customers. And towards that goal, I thought we should organize more informal tech-talks.

I approached my manager and his manager and both of them were interested. I started off with a video screening of “Insecure coding in C and C++” by Olve Maudal. I thought it would be a super hit since I loved watching it. But it was not! People preferred a more interactive technical session.

So far, in the last six months I organized 5 tech-talks which is far less than what I thought I would do. But I am glad that I got at least 4 people agreeing to present on different topics. What I learned from organizing the tech-talks are –
1. Organizing them on your own takes a little effort but it is definitely a good experience.
2. A technical talk should not exceed 1 hour. People do not have more than one hour to spend on a topic which may not align with their work. And there should be at least 15 minutes of discussion.
3. A technical talk should never happen on Friday post-lunch as people tend to leave early on that day.
4. A technical talk should not focus only on the domain in which we work, but also on other domains too. We had a technical talk on “k-means based document clustering” and it gave us a few ideas which can be applied to our work.

Women in tech industry in India

After an year of starting Women in Free Software and Culture in India, I created a new group named Women in Tech Industry in India on Facebook. The trigger point was GHC India and Adacamp Bangalore last year.

I had thought of creating a platform for women working in the IT industry in India to network with each other when I started WFS-India. But that group was purely aimed at encouraging more women to start using and contributing to FLOSS. Attending both GHC and Adacamp made me convinced how important it is for women in tech to connect with and motivate each other.

Articles like this are proofs that we need such groups. If you happen to read this post and are a person who identifies as a woman please feel free to join the group if you are on the Facebook.

Adacamp – learnings and realizations

I am so so glad that I attended Adacamp, Bangalore last month. First, it was nice to be able to talk freely in an environment where everyone agrees to the basic principles of Feminism. It was a liberating experience because I did not have to think if I am alienating the person (mostly men and sometimes women too) I am talking to. I didn’t have to worry about if I was making myself and whatever I had been doing and talking unacceptable to the person.

I realized a few more things about myself. That I love helping others. And it gave me immense joy to be able to do that. That students were coming up to me and asking me about OPW or WFS-India was wonderful. That I got to encourage them in pursuing what they wish to pursue and sharing opportunities with them and thus in a way mentoring them made me glad.

I learned that the sexism that women face at workplaces can be dealt methodically. These life skills can be learned and practiced to help ourselves get less affected emotionally.

I also learned to be sensitive and respectful towards the choices and preferences that others have. I might not believe in them or follow them, but it’s important to understand them and interact with the person accordingly so that I do not hurt the person or make him/her uncomfortable.

And finally, it was lovely to meet wonderful ladies from different places. Got to connect with them. Learned a lot from various sessions. Unconferences are cool way to learn the things that we the participants decide to learn. Got new ideas to work on them. Hopefully come February, I’ll be able to start on some of them. I do hope to attend it next year as well!

My experience at Grace Hopper Conference in India, 2014

There are 2 types of people I have seen in the software industry. One who just wants to hold on to his/her whatever job he/she has got, doesn’t want to learn new things, doesn’t want to try new things and definitely doesn’t want to take any initiative. And there’s another type – and I must say that I met very few of this type – who are passionate about their work. They drive new things. They bring new ideas and execute them. And I must also confess that before coming to this conference, I haven’t met any such women in the IT industry. I am not counting the women in FLOSS community. They are passionate about technology and open source software but I do not get to see them in the IT industry. GHC India 2014 surprised me. I got to see women, who are passionate about their work, talking on various technical topics that includes machine learning, cyber threats, secure cloud, tends in hardware. These are women who are mothers, wives and they are at senior positions at big multinational companies or have started their own startups.

They are passionate about their work and technology. And it filled my heart with hope. I won’t say that I was clueless or pessimistic about my future, but seeing women entrepreneurs or women at senior positions working in challenging and interesting fields did motivate me to believe in myself and work hard on what I want to achieve.

So my message to all the women in technology, if you are passionate about your work, if you wish to achieve something in your life, then do attend it next year. It will definitely going to be an awesome experience attending GHC.

Day 2 of Grace Hopper Conference India 2014

It’s one thing to know that you will see more than thousand women in computing in one place and it’s completely another thing when you actually see technical women all around you talking, laughing, networking with each other at the conference venue.

The day 2 of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in India started with a bang. The huge Kalinga hall at the Hotel Lalit Ashok was jam packed with women from different cities in India and abroad.

Jayshree Ullal, the President and CEO of Arista Networks gave an inspiring keynote. “Be passionate about what you work”, “Take risk, follow your instinct” were some of her key messages. I do suggest you watch her keynote here.

There were so many sessions going on in parallel that I wanted attend, that I really had a tough time in selecting where to go. The session on Wearable Technology was nice. Also the session on “Technology Trends – Hardware and Software” was informative.

Networking and bonding are very important part of GHC. Everyone of us were encouraged from the very beginning to connect to women working in other software companies. There were booths established by various companies offering quiz and goodies and collecting contact details if any one is interested to explore opportunities. And oh! the food was awesome too!

Day 1 of GHC India 2014


It’s super exciting to attend Grace Hopper Conference India 2014.

The first day had 2 parallel day-long events – a hackathon and a bootcamp on Ruby on Rails. Since I didn’t pre-register for the hackahon, I attended the Bootcamp during the first half and some time in the second half. But most of the second half I sat through the Hackathon presentations! And they were amazing. Women from Hyderabad, Pune and Bangalore teamed up and built amazing stuff over a period of 2 months. There were students and as well as working professionals who took time out of their professional and personal commitments and worked on their ideas to create a product with value to the society.

One of them was a mobile app which connects people who have stuffs which they want to give away with the people who needs that stuff and there’s no money involved in the transaction. Coincidentally, a few days back a friend was looking for just the same thing after he faced the problem of loads of not-being-used-anymore stuffs that he had bought for his baby.

Then there was another app which converted voice to sign languages which can be used to communicate with a differently abled people. Another app made it easy to lodge complaints related to civic amenities and that complaint gets registered to the BBMP website. It was amazing to learn about every one of the presentations!

The presenters at the bootcamp were good too. And Ruby on Rails being a framework where you can actually make your app online in just a couple of minutes it was a good choice. But there were a few technical glitches. But I think it was good enough to invoke interest among those who wish to implement their ideas quickly or pursue learning more about Rails framework.

Business Line covered the Wikipedia Editathon and WFS India

Forgot to post about it. The Wikipedia Editathon that I co-organized along with Shobha from Breakthrogh got featured in Business Line. Nandini Nair, a journalist with the newspaper publishing house, came to attend the event and talk to us and we got this nicely written article – “Page not found“. Enjoy!