After hours in Citrix XenServer Engineering, last Tuesday evening

Over the past couple of months Citrix held its annual Global internal engineering conferences for its engineering staff (I’m a software engineer working with ISV partners). These huge events were held on 3 continents and allow staff actually involved in making the products to meet up with people working on different products, similar products, working in different geographies. There was a lot of technology sharing but also the chance to hear the coherent visions, plans and initiatives from senior executives along with some of the bigger picture around market factors, customer sentiment, industry trends and also Citrix’s ethos.

One of the executive talks from Martin Duursma featured the phrase “Learniment”…. Hmm I thought, that’s a bit of a made-up word but I really liked the themes and questions he went on to raise: “What did you learn at work today?”  and “Work as an experiment….” plus some discussion around Machine Learning. Another session featured a talk on big data analysis from guest analyst (Edd Dumbill from Silicon Valley Data Science), that really hammered home how much you could learn from  good data science… A lifetime ago, I spent some years analysing vast quantities of images from the Hubble telescope deep field south survey looking to identify certain types of galaxies and how elliptical they were…. Whilst I loved the mathematical techniques and analysis techniques I was a rubbish Astrophysicist as I didn’t love the data, I never engaged with light from long dead stars and I wasn’t really very interested in how many elliptical galaxies there are or fundamental theories they might prove…. I didn’t feel it was going to change the world, just feedback into other theories that I never really understood (particle physics that is you!)… hell, it wasn’t even rocket science!

The data discussed at our engineering event was real, it was about how to use information to change things, make better products, understand our users and how they work and live and enable them to those things better and differently. A few weeks later we had a further global meeting where another exec. Catherine Courage talked about options to change how we work and our careers etc. there was very much an emphasis on us engaging with company initiatives and taking responsibility to get involved with our own interests. This really made me think a bit about my own (career) direction, I’ve got the concentration span of a goldfish and have flitted from one technology to another without any really plan. I don’t really have a career ladder climbing plan (boxing gloves -anyone?), for me working on a series of interesting projects and technologies with people I like using good processes has always been the dominant driver.

I don’t live and breathe coding, as I’ve got older like most people time becomes scarce and other demands come into play; elderly parents, childcare, commuting, mowing the lawn, fixing a broken gutter etc…. and finding time for downtime and leisure. I’ve no real interest in spending my evenings open source coding, however with technologies and skills changing so rapidly I did realise that if I wanted to maintain the luxury of being able to have a series of jobs in new technologies and get involved in new fields I do need to keep my horizons broad and pick up new skills and learn to use new technologies and techniques…

So – actually doing something about it

By sheer fortune I was lucky enough to come across Catherine Breslin and Jessica Leach on twitter who had just launched a new technology networking group here in Cambridge, UK – “Cam Women in Tech” and were looking for volunteers and companies willing to offer venue space. Catherine is also a leading researcher in speech recognition and machine learning algorithms. Citrix has great offices and with the agreement of a supportive manager or two, this Tuesday we able to host a Python Workshop on Big Data. Some of our staff attended (and one sent his 13 year old daughter).

Cam Women in Tech is doing a great job of showing that it is possible for people to take control of their own “learniment”, those attending including our own staff got access to tuition some of the world’s top data researchers, a chance to network with others doing similar jobs in different companies and all at zero cost!

This was a serious, high-quality learning event with Catherine and a few friends able

Spot the man!

to discuss cutting edge techniques, serious big data challenges based around kaggle data sets as well as incorporating beginner and intermediate coding tutorials. Catherine was well prepared and you read the program online and follow on links for learning about machine data etc.

One of our technical authors found the time and support to write her first code and in a company like Citrix this could allow her to diversify her role but may also just give her a little more confidence or understanding when her work overlaps with developers’.

You can see a few more photos of this event and past CWIT events, here.

Final thoughts…..

CWIT suited my needs very well, it’s something no employer could offer as standard training. I find it easier to talk to female coders and the high-academic input with cutting edge research suits my background. It’s also an organisation and ethos I found easy to personally engage with, we are so lucky at Citrix to have access to so many leading edge technologies that enable flexible working; many women don’t have employers who understand the options and I hope through mine and my colleagues’ involvement we can help others and explore better ways of working and accessing training. I’m keen to explore a GoToWebinar event/talk for those who can’t attend the workshops in person due to lack of childcare or similar.

I also found it uplifting to have instant access to people using different technologies, working in different ways and in different roles and felt like I had a brain capable of learning again (it’s all that email has turned it to mush!!)!

So yes, executive speeches may have the odd made-up word in their powerpoint but the message can be very useful and I think I rather like this “Learniment” stuff….. thanks to a little support offering a venue Citrix helped me find my own “learniment” with the minimal effort of a few emails to make an empty room available! It was that easy (Catherine did the hard work)!

Warming-up with an overview of machine-learning applied filtering spam email - presented by Catherine

And in the Future….

As it was I ended up cover a west-coast customer call for a colleague so didn’t get very far with the Python on Tuesday! However the next workshop is already planned for April 14th to be hosted by another local hi-tech firm RedGate that will focus on data visualisation libraries.  You can sign-up here: http://www.meetup.com/Cambridge-Women-and-technology/events/170864852/ With Jessica specialising in animation and marketing and some of the other attendees very strong in design I expect we will see some very interesting UI and design workshops from this network in the future. As you can see from the second photo our Quality Director also came along and seemed to enjoy himself and whilst primarily a women’s tech network, men are perfectly welcome, we just ask for a reason e.g. “I’m an IT manager looking to support my female staff better”, “I’m particularly interested in data visualisation”, we haven’t had any men say “I want to spend an evening meeting bright, highly educated, beautiful women doing extremely really interesting jobs” but several female attendees have said similar!

 

You can find “Cam Women in Tech”:

 

Yes, for once a blog that isn’t about vGPU!