awesomewomen

Beyond the Code 2014: a recap

I started this blog post about a month ago and didn’t finish it because well, life is busy.  

I attended Beyond the Code last September 19.  I heard about it several months ago on twitter.  A one-day conference about celebrating women in computing, in my home town, with an fantastic speaker line up?  I signed up immediately.   In the opening remarks, we were asked for a show of hands to show how many of us were developers, in design,  product management, or students and there was a good representation from all those categories.  I was especially impressed to see the number of students in the audience, it was nice to see so many of them taking time out of their busy schedule to attend.

View of the Parliament Buildings and Chateau Laurier from the MacKenzie street bridge over the Rideau Canal
Ottawa Conference Centre, location of Beyond the Code

 
There were seven speakers, three workshop organizers, a lunch time activity, and a panel at the end. The speakers were all women.  The speakers were not all white women or all heterosexual women.  There were many young women, not all industry veterans 🙂 like me.  To see this level of diversity at a tech conference filled me with joy.  Almost every conference I go to is very homogenous in the make up of the speakers and the audience.  To to see ~200 tech women in at conference and 10% men (thank you for attending:-) was quite a role reversal.

I completely impressed by the caliber of the speakers.  They were simply exceptional.

The conference started out with Kronda Adair giving a talk on Expanding Your Empathy.  One of the things that struck me from this talk was that she talked about how everyone lives in a bubble, and they don’t see things that everyone does due to privilege.  She gave the example of how privilege is like a browser, and colours how we see the world.  For a straight white guy a web age looks great when they’re running the latest Chrome on MacOSx.  For a middle class black lesbian, the web page doesn’t look as great because it’s like she’s running IE7.  There is less inherent privilege.  For a “differently abled trans person of color” the world is like running IE6 in quirks mode. This was a great example. She also gave a shout out to the the Ascend Project which she and Lukas Blakk are running in Mozilla Portland office. Such an amazing initiative.

The next speaker was Bridget Kromhout who gave talk about Platform Ops in the Public Cloud.
I was really interested in this talk because we do a lot of scaling of our build infrastructure in AWS and wanted to see if she had faced similar challenges. She works at DramaFever, which she described as Netflix for Asian soap operas.  The most interesting things to me were the fact that she used all AWS regions to host their instances, because they wanted to be able to have their users download from a region as geographically close to them as possible.  At Mozilla, we only use a couple of AWS regions, but more instances than Dramafever, so this was an interesting contrast in the services used. In addition, the monitoring infrastructure they use was quite complex.  Her slides are here.

I was going to summarize the rest of the speakers but Melissa Jean Clark did an exceptional job on her blog.  You should read it!

Thank you Shopify for organizing this conference.  It was great to meet some many brilliant women in the tech industry! I hope there is an event next year too!

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