Taylor Facen

2019 BlackcomputeHER Conference

10 April, 2019 - 4 min read

"Don't be so focused on the closed door that you don't notice the open windows around it." - Dr. Sandra K. Johnson

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the blackcomputeHER conference (BCH) in Washington, D.C. During this time, women in tech and computing from around the country came together to discuss topics such as data science, tech for social good, AI in the user experience, entrepreneurship, and more. Although I originally came to the conference by myself, I quickly bonded with so many intelligent, connected, and ambitious technologists that I'm sure I'll keep in touch with.

"Sometimes we take jobs at a discount, so us asking for a raise really isn't a raise. It's a catch up. The key is to not start at that discount" - Dr. Tiffani L. Williams

The reason why I say attending this conference was a privilege is because of the amount of wisdom and experience exuding from each panel or session. The weekend started off strong with a fireside chat with Beverly Bond, founder and executive director of Black Girls Rock. Afterwards, we heard from Dr. Sheena Erete about her work in connecting social justice and computer science. Later on in the day, I even got a chance to participate in a live podcast recording from previous blackcomputeHER fellows.

Discussion with Beverly Bond

My first session was "A Taste of Data Science - Hands on Python Masterclass" with Dr. Brandeis Marshall. As you may know, I LOVE a good Python session. However, what really impacted me the most was Dr. Marshall's review of the history of data science and how civil rights leaders used parts of the data science process such as data acquisition, visualization, and distribution to narrate the stories of Black life in America. During the session, she was able to break down the seemingly overwhelming stages of data science into digestible tools that I can use in my career and in my understanding of Black history. On top of this, I learned about a handy pandas method (pandas.DataFrame.where()) that will make my life so much easier.

import pandas as pd

data = pd.read_csv("data.csv")
filter = data['month'] == 'April'

filtered_data = data.where(filter)

Another session that I'll remember the most is "User Experience Research in Tech - Search & AI" led by Titilayo Craig. She discussed the role of user experience in tech and how artificial intelligence can either enhance or diminish this experience, specifically from the lens of "search". Here's an interesting thought. When you search "CEO", the result set is almost all men (white men to be specific). Although it would make you feel better to see a more diverse result set based on gender, ethnicity, etc., would it be ethically sound for search companies to alter search results to make sure that these results are more inclusive? This is an interesting question that can be argued on both sides. However, it's good to know that companies are making an effort to make sure that more diverse minds are in these conversations.

Wooh, does anyone else feel that after-conference recharge?

I've been to a few conferences - some centered around diversity, some centered around tech, and others centered around diversity in tech. However, BCH *felt* different. I've never been in a room where I could assume every person has a PhD and probably guess correctly more often than not. On top of that, I saw myself in each and every woman that I met. Some rocked an afro, others went to HBCUs, a few were members of the Divine 9, and there were a couple who shared my Beyonce addiction. Because I was able to meet these inspiring, educated, and passionate Black women in tech, my eyes were opened to more professional avenues that I thought were possible. Maybe I'll get my PhD, or maybe I'll spend my time specializing on the intersection of AI and social good. Who knows? #RepresentationMatters

"This picture reeks of black girl magic, becoming the change we seek, genius & coconut oil. We are the @blackcomputeHER Fellows, last and present 🖤" - @pamsgibbs

2018 and 2019 blackcomputeHER fellows

Attending the BCH conference was only the beginning of a year-long journey as a blackcomputeHER Fellow. Over the next 12 months, I, along with 8 other members of my cohort, will receive hands on professional development, educational sessions about the latest technologies, and access to CEOs, thought leaders, and pioneers in the tech field.