Sunday, November 6, 2016

Next Year I Will Ace The Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing

This was my first year attending the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing and I am so thankful for the amazing opportunity. #GHC16 is a huge tech conference for women in Houston, TX. The mission is to foster an environment for growth, productivity, and success for all 15,000 women engineer attendees.  

I am sharing my experience and successes from GHC16 with you because, maybe my lessons learned will help you at a future conference OR it will serve as a motivation/inspiration to see someone have a positive experience at Grace Hopper (and/or in engineering).  The title of this blog post implies that I failed at this year’s conference but, no, it was quite the opposite.  Going into this convention with 1 month of prep time, no expectations, no resumes printed out, and a rough game plan for the week, I came out with amazing successes.

LinkedIn Grace Hopper Booth, source

Here are the THREE LESSONS I LEARNED FROM GRACE HOPPER that helped me ace my experience:

1.       Have Your Elevator Pitch Ready!

No one knows who you are or why you are there so be prepared to tell them. Recruiters talk to hundreds and thousands of prospective candidates during the convention so they don’t have time to walk through your resume or get a rambling story about who you are. Make sure you can introduce yourself in 30 seconds. If you want to go even further than that, have a customized pitch for different scenarios.

What will you say to a recruiter at a booth?

What will you say when you randomly meet a recruiter while walking to the convention and need to seize the moment?

Will you have the same pitch for an engineering recruiter and a research/lab recruiter?

How will you pitch yourself to someone the same level or age as you? (undergrad to undergrad, professional to professional, etc.)

My conversations with recruiters were completely different from the conversations I had with other undergrads and casually networking conversations. For fellow women engineer undergrads, I want to expand my network, make friends, add each other on social media, etc.

For a recruiter, I want to see if they are hiring for a position that I want, submit my resume, add them on LinkedIn, etc.

2.       Have A Goal/Objective for GHC

What do you want to get out of this convention experience? A summer internship, job, research opportunity? Having a goal will allow you to narrow down what workshops to attend, what booths to stop by, what after party's to attend, etc. Knowing what you want will help you be more efficient and deliberate in your decision making, however, it is totally okay to go with the flow (if that is what you are comfortable with).

Having an objective/goal was important for me because of 2 things:

One: Recruiters would literally ask me, “What do you want? An internship, invite to an event, etc.” Being able to tell them what you want will get you closer to having that thing.

Two: I attended Grace Hopper as a speaker for Mozilla and as an undergrad. For Friday of GHC16, my objective was to facilitate a successful open source workshop during the Hackathon for Humanity and recruiting for the Mozilla Campus Clubs initiative. For the other 2 days, my goals were different and were centered more around being an undergrad seeking a summer internship.

Women in Tech Book Signing

3.       Make Friends and Connect (sounds corny but this one is my fave!)

I made some pretty cool connections just by talking to the people next time. From arriving to the airport in Boston to leaving the Houston airport, I networked the entire time. In many occasions, it was not deliberate. Sometimes you just end up walking or sitting next to a recruiter or a group of girls that are also from Boston (yay! new Boston women engineer friends *waving hi!*). My favorite random interaction was when I asked this random woman if I could split a taxi with her to the airport, and that I would Venmo her the money. She ended up being a Venmo engineer! How ironic and super cool to Venmo someone that developed the Venmo app? I got to have a ride to the airport with her and some other Venmo engineers, talking and connecting all the way there!

I never know what could happen so, I try to be prepared and open to life and this has helped me tremendously.


How did I do it? Honestly, I love conventions. Which puts me at an advantage point. I love preparing for conventions, submitting my resume to companies early, and just the overall preparation and execution process I talked about in a previous blog post. However, that process usually takes 2 months’ minimum. I didn’t know that I was going to Grace Hopper till 3 weeks before so I couldn’t fully prepare for the convention, amid: midterms, traveling for interviews, and life. Which means that I had to get rid of the anxiety and just get comfortable with impromptu situations and adjusting to my environment quickly. I think that I performed extremely well at Grace Hopper being that I passed out 40 resumes, had 4 onsite interviews/4 phone interviews, and some job offers. Before getting to GHC16, I did have 1 interview already scheduled but the rest all happened at the convention.

Since this year’s convention had such an awesome outcome, I wonder what I could achieve with more prep time?

Grammarly yours, Semirah D

Grace Hopper Must Read:

tags: #GHCOSD16 #GHC16 #GraceHopper2016 #GHC2016, hackathon for humanity, open source day, mozilla, open source, Django, webvr, python, aframe, #mozillausa #soundofcharm #semirahd #semirahdolan #mozlove #teachtheweb #community #womenintech #womoz #opensource #volunteer #education #inclusion #digitalinclusion #fsa #firefox #inspire #tech #iloollikeanengineer #mozlearn #mozscience #moztechspeaker

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Being a Speaker/Mentor for Mozilla Campus Clubs at Grace Hopper’s Open Source Day

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Houston to represent Mozilla at Grace Hopper. More specifically, I was recruiting for Mozilla Campus Clubs and facilitating a workshop on WebVR and Mozilla’s A-Frame.

I have been volunteering with Mozilla for the past year. I started volunteering with them because I wanted to strengthen my technical skills. Now I am a Mozilla North American Reps Regional Coach & apart of the Campus Advisory Committee for Mozilla Campus Clubs. For the Grace Hopper Open Source Day, Emma Irwin, Larissa Shapiro, (both very active Mozillian leaders) and I, brainstormed and built the workshop layout for the participants that would be participating in our hacks/projects.

Our mission for the GHC16 Open Source Day was to present on: Mozilla Campus Clubs, Mozilla’s mission and open source barriers/solutions. It was important for us to present this content because our participants had varying backgrounds of open source and Mozilla as an organization.

Before moving forward to our two hacking activities for Open Source Day we walked through the importance of open source. We presented the following questions and participants put their thoughts on big papers we had up.
  1. Opportunities & Barriers: What makes a good open source experience?
  2. How do we design a program that is inclusive of technical AND non-technical people?
  3. What incentivizes students on Campus to engage in clubs at the intersection of technology and activism?

It was great to see other undergraduates do rapid brainstorming around these problem statements and put up their thoughts. These are some of the questions I asked myself when I started my Mozilla journey. I had minimal exposure to the idea of ‘open source’ on my campus and within my studies. I had to do a lot of research, learning, and growing to get where I am now but I still have a long way till full understanding.

The participants had the option to work on a python/Django project with Emma or join me in a WebVr/UX project using Mozilla’s A Frame. It was an amazing and humbling experience to facilitate a workshop. The ladies in my group ranged from undergraduates to legitimate professional engineers. Working equally with someone of a higher caliber than me was wicked cool and stunning (In my mind, if you are a fulltime engineer vs an undergrad, you are of a higher caliber! You graduated from the engineering struggles and now run in the world of solving REAL problems). Don’t get me wrong, undergrads are fully capable of solving real world problems but, ultimately, all of us strive towards that fulltime position after graduation.

Coming back to the topic, the participants all grew from our workshop in their own ways. One FEMGINEER
(Female + Engineer = FEMGINEER)
accomplished her first pull request on Github… another, was wicked excited to try Mozilla’s A Frame when she returned home. To us, these are great success metrics in line with Mozilla’s mission of having the internet as a free and open resource to all.

Overall, Grace Hopper was a smashing success! I could not have planned for a more eventful experience. Merely having a speaker badge with Mozilla’s name on it during the convention, was a huge conversation starter around open source. I was continuously learning, advocating, and growing all 3-days of Grace Hopper. Hopefully the ladies we engaged with during the hackathon are interested in advocating for the open web on their campus.

Grammarly yours, Semirah D 

#GHCOSD16 #GHC16 #GraceHopper2016 #GHC2016, hackathon for humanity, open source day, mozilla, open source, Django, webvr, python, aframe, #mozillausa

Monday, August 8, 2016

Give Back To Your Community: Hair Cuttery Share-A-Haircut Program

Hi yall! Hair Cuttery (a local hair salon/barbershop) is doing a back to school haircut fundraiser. Basically, get a haircut with them and they'll give a haircut to another child in need. SUPER EASY :) For more info about the fundraiser continue to read below.

Zach loved his haircut!

Hair Cuttery to Support Thousands of Underprivileged Children with Back-to-School Share-A-Haircut Program. For each haircut purchased, one will be donated to a child in need—just in time for the new school year.

Hair Cuttery, the largest family-owned and operated chain of hair salons in the country, will be donating back-to- school haircuts to children who need it most this summer. From August 1-15, for every child up to age 18 who purchases a haircut at one of Hair Cuttery’s nearly 900 salons, one free haircut certificate will be donated to a disadvantaged child in the community.

“A new haircut for a special occasion is something we all take for granted,” said Dennis Ratner, Founder and CEO of Hair Cuttery. “Our Share-A- Haircut program ensures that children in our communities aren’t deprived of that simple, but essential, service. If we can send those students back to school with added confidence and a smile on their faces, then we’ve done our job.”

This summer, Hair Cuttery is aiming to donate tens of thousands of free haircut certificates ahead of the new school year. Certificates will be distributed with the help of more than 100 local government and non-profit organizations in communities across the country. Since 1999, the Share-A- Haircut program has donated more than 1.89 million free haircut certificates valued at nearly $30.35 million.

2016 marks the 17th year of Share-A- Haircut, with Hair Cuttery’s most recent campaign donating 55,000 haircuts to victims of domestic violence this past spring. The company has an established history of charitable giving and has supported a range of local and national causes, including St. Baldrick’s Foundation, American Red Cross, The National Network to End Domestic Violence, American Cancer Society and Girls on the Run.

About Hair Cuttery
Hair Cuttery is the largest family-owned and operated chain of hair salons in the country, with nearly 900 company-owned locations on the East Coast, in New England and the Midwest. A full-service, value-priced salon, Hair Cuttery offers a full complement of cuts and styling, coloring, waxing and texturizing services with no appointment necessary, as well as a full line of professional hair care products. Hair Cuttery is committed to delivering a delightful client experience through WOW Service including a Smile Back Guarantee. Hair Cuttery is a division of Ratner Companies, based in Vienna, VA. For more information visit:

Grammarly yours, Semirah D

*Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. However any views or opinions belong solely to the blog owner. I received compensation in exchange for this review*

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Spotlight on Scientific Sisters: Sqaure's Saqi Mehta

Saqi featured me on her Reigninit women engineers appreciation blog so, I wanted to do the same and share with you guys an inspiring story of another women engineer inspiring others to find THEIR inner engineer.

Between post about hackathons, company acquisitions, and conference tips, I hope to build a little corner of encouragement and positive perspectives.

Tell us a little about yourself along with a fun fact.
My name is Saqi Mehta and professionally I love to wear a lot of hats: Career Counselor, Writer, Manager, and Women in Tech + Diversity advocate :)

I started off my career working at MIT and later on Harvard Business School (Boston pride!) as a Career Counselor and Coach for engineering + business students. I loved seeing all of these companies come in to recruit and wanted to experience the other side of it, so eventually went to VMware, The Walt Disney Company, and now Square. I now lead the University Recruiting Team and help to bring in the next generation of talent to the company in the form of interns + new grads. I honestly think I have one of the best jobs at the company as I get to travel to different parts of the country and am invigorated by the education space and meeting so many passionate students like you!

Fun fact: My favorite sport is trapeze flying: I've done it in NYC and highly recommend prior skill required :)

What # (hashtag) would define your life journey?

Favorite website/app:
Soul Cycle! I'm obsessed with their high energy workouts and love booking bikes on their app :)

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted (if any):
Outside of work I co-founded ReigningIt, which profiles women in tech. I'm so inspired to read their stories everyday :) I've learned that no matter what your background or past experience is, it's never too late to learn something new. Follow your dreams and wish big as something bigger and better than what you imagined may come true for yourself. 

Song that makes you want to dance:
Shut Up And Dance by Walk The Moon

Technical and/or life challenge you've faced and how you overcame it:
I've moved many, many times: attended at least 14 schools before college and have lived in 7 states. It was tough to adjust to new environments and classmates, but over time it's taught me to be tough and embrace uncertainty - something that's helped me a great deal in the workforce!

Ideal job / where you see yourself in 10 years:
I'd love to be my own boss! I envision starting my own company where I can consult on recruiting, career counseling, and diversity. I'd also love to see ReigningIt grow into its own force, perhaps with an annual conference like GraceHopper!

If you could help Women Engineers in Training flourish upon entering the industry, how would you do so? 
I'd like to think I do this everyday through my work, but there is still way more to be done. All companies should start a mentorship or buddy program to pair women together for any questions or technical help. We need to support professional development like attending conferences like GHC and Blavity. Companies need internal programs like Lunch & Learns, Tech Talks, and Hack Weeks to support Talent Development. Last but not least, remember that there is no "I" in "Team" - when one woman succeeds, we all succeed collectively!

Thank you Saqi for your time!

Grammarly yours, SemirahD

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Microsoft's LinkedIn Acquisition from Millennial's View

So Microsoft just brought LinkedIn… Crap… I was just getting a hang of LinkedIn and its quirks and secrets. However maybe Microsoft acquiring LinkedIn will give me an advantage. There are bound to be some changes to LinkedIn in the future, even though the Microsoft CEO claims that, “We know that near term there will be no changes” and that they’ve merely instructed the LinkedIn CEO to "Manage LinkedIn with key performance metrics that accrue to our [Microsoft's] overall success”…
That’s confusing 1) If he’s (LinkedIn CEO) not reporting to a group of Microsoft execs that will inevitably draw up a new vision for LinkedIn then where is the change? 2) I must be missing something here ….. *digs deeper*

LOL I’m most likely confused because I don’t know what historically happens to companies that acquire other companies. But from a millennials view with a small background in business I’ll continue to comment on the news of Microsoft acquiring LinkedIn. Especially since I'm low key a huge LinkedIn fan and aspire to become a LinkedIn Expert

“This deal is all about bringing together the professional cloud and professional network,” - Mr. Nadella (Microsoft CEO)

-What is the professional cloud?

-How can those two merge or help each other out?

-Like as a LinkedIn user what will Microsoft bring to the table….?

Someone mentioned that Microsoft plans on implementing a help chat line. The way it works is that you’ll use LinkedIn as normally and the interface will now include a help chat line (assumingly in the corner of the screen) so that if you have any questions on how to complete a LinkedIn task you could just ask someone. I mean, there is a large problem amongst my peers where people don’t know what’s the benefits of LinkedIn, don’t know how to use it, it’s a waste of time, etc. I obviously don’t believe that… blatantly shown in the amount of hours I spend on the site and my quest to build a LinkedIngroup.


Ahhh.. now I’ve learned from Tech Crunch that Microsoft will bring over LinkedIn features into some of it’s software. “Outlook to become More LinkedIn”. So in addition to someone’s profile having their email, job title, etc. it will now include their LinkedIn profile. Admittedly, that does accelerate the process of making virtual and actual professional connections.

Microsoft is so smart. The more I read the more I give kudos to Microsoft. A large portion of the uses for Microsoft products are professional and office uses. LinkedIn is a prominent professional social network aka the playground for a lot of Microsoft users/customers. Microsoft is going where their customers are and taking a peek at all of that data of our behaviors to make their [Microsoft’s] products better. “Microsoft, meanwhile, would get a peek at your work history and connections.” *mind blown*

CNN Money said it best,
“Microsoft wants to use LinkedIn as a database of professional information and distribution channel for its software systems. LinkedIn gains additional financing and access to millions of people who could potentially join its network.”


And apparently Microsoft has an evil plan to give Cortana the tools to become the world’s best and crazy efficient personal assistant *evil laugh muahhahhahahah*. (source)

Awweee Microsoft spent $59 on me and I haven’t even started working for them yet, that’s a good sign right? All jokes aside à “Microsoft is spending $26.2 billion, or about $59 per user, for LinkedIn.”
According to the experts, this is a great 'cost per customer' price. (source)


Side note: This isn’t Microsoft’s first rodeo… they purchased a social networking site called, “Yammer” in 2008.. never heard of them. What if Microsoft likes to think it’s making these grand investments but really these purchases are actually not needed or worth it… Like when I “invest” in Chanel handbags (side side note: any designer handbag lover could argue that designer handbag purchases are indeed investments). But yeah what if Microsoft is doing just that…. (source)

Grammarly yours, Semirah D
More Women Engineer in Training:

Additional Resources:



Monday, May 30, 2016

6 LinkedIn Tips for College Students

6 LinkedIn tips and hacks for college students/recent graduates. There are a large amount of Do's and Don't's on LinkedIn however, this is a start to what your LinkedIn profile should look like.

Photo source
I'm sharing with you the secrets to LinkedIn success because, after becoming one of the top 1% LinkedIn profiles amongst my University, I have to do something with the hours of research I put into learning about the different LinkedIn features. 

As the new Vice President of my school's NSBE club, an academic and professional development group, I've discovered that many students still see LinkedIn as the "Facebook for Old People." There has not been one professional event or hackathon where I didn't connect with someone on LinkedIn, therefore building my network for future reference. LinkedIn has also noticed this deficit amongst college students and built an app to cater to our needs.  

1. Study what everyone else is doing. Look at professional’s in your industry profiles, take note on verbiage and tactics you can bring to your profile. However, some things are customized or may not be suited for you. Throw these ideas out of the window and be selective of what you put on your page.

2. Start by bringing your personal page to your family/friends. Add family/friends to not only build your network internally but, also to receive feedback on your profile. You may not realize how confusing it is to be looking for a tech job and have a profile full of irrelevant positions about your cooking experience.

3. Don’t only say what you’ve done- show it! Post samples of your work or share articles about your achievements, it gives you more credibility. 

4. Find out where is your community engaging? What are the most popular groups? You must be interested in your professional development so start by JOINING this group: Professional Development in College. 

Once you join a group, aim to post in it at least once a month... Then gradually become a weekly contributor. This will depict you as a knowledgeable resource in a given topic.

Photo source

5. Get creative: Post updates on the LinkedIn feed, ask questions, and link to other sites. OR if you have a blog, cross-share these post on LinkedIn to gain blog readers AND prove your expertise WHILE getting recruiters and future clients to notice you.

6. Continuously update your profile and your connections. Alongside having a relevant profile, you need relevant contacts. Maintain connections by annually reaching out to your connections by asking about their professional endeavors since you last saw each other.
These tips are hacks and secrets because, they are steps that the general public neglect to take. The current LinkedIn practice has been to create a profile, throw up your work experience, and add the recommended profiles. Then, you sit and wait till your profile miraculously baits recruiters to gift you a job. 

WELLLLL…… in such a competitive job market, it’s going to take a bit more effort to differentiate yourself from the 300+ million LinkedIn members. This can be done by taking an hour of your afternoon or study break to check out updates in LinkedIn groups or send a quick message to the recruiter you met at the NSBE convention. 

This guide is for people who have already set up a profile and these 6 steps should be taken to enhance your LinkedIn experience.

Join my LinkedIn group to connect with me and others interested in Professional Development!

LinkedIn's University team put together a checklist for students who need assistance setting up their profiles here.

Grammarly yours, Semirah D

P.S. The Just Apply Inc. non-profit for professional development in colleges is building a community of STEM and business students who are interesting in professional development. You can join on LinkedIn here. Also, I would greatly appreciate some feedback about the LinkedIn group since this is a new venture. You can tweet me like "hey Semirah, maybe the LinkedIn group would be better suited for professional tutorials!" OR "Yo Semirah, I just applied to a scholarship through your LinkedIn group, thanks!" Either message would be greatly appreciate. xoxoxo

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored or paid post. I am truly just obsessed with finding all the cool features on LinkedIn and exploiting them. And then sharing all of these features with fellow college students and friends puts more value into the hours I spent. However, LinkedIn you are more than welcome to reach out to me! I'd love a tour of the Mountain View or NYC headquarters.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

MIT Hacking Medicine Grand Hack Competition 2016

I applied to the MIT Hacking Medicine competition and the Grand Hack committee accepted me as one of the 40% out of 2,000 international applicants. After being informed about how many people were turned down from this event, I knew I couldn’t miss it or casually opt out. This was my first healthcare hackathon so, I didn’t really know how to prepare (compared to a tech focused hackathon where I can think of ways to use the sponsors software or devices). I planned to enthusiastically join a team and devote my services at the MIT Hacking Medicine competition.

Day 1 of Grand Hack, I arrived early and as I’ve learned at past hackathons, I have to jump right in and just start networking. I was at MIT, (there was no harm to networking with every professional in site.) I sparked up a conversation with one of the sponsors and it was actually her first hackathon so, after hearing that I’m a veteran/ ‘expert’ hackathoner, she asked me for some advice. This was surprisingly a reoccurring conversation. It was many participants first hackathon so, after learning that this was not my first rodeo, people would lay out a set of beginner hackathon questions that I was happy to share my insight on. MIT Hacking Medicine was different so, I’ll tell you why this was many attendees first hackathon (being that you would expect MIT to recruit a plethora of hackathon experts). The Grand Hack team pulled a very diverse pool of talent to make this event medical focused. Only 20% of the attendees were your traditional programming software engineers. The other 80% were clinicians, doctors, medical students, venture capitalist, techies, and more!

To top that diversity, there were 20 countries present. I ended up meeting a young doctor from Ireland! My table alone had 6 countries represented.

After the introduction of the Grand Hack team and the sponsors, it was time for team pitching and forming. For Day 1, there is no time to waste. I had to keep reminding myself that when I would sit down and not introduce myself to the stranger next to me. It took me a little bit to warm up but, I shook hands with my seat strangers and asked about people’s backgrounds. 1) Because I was curious and 2) Because I was scoping out who I’d want on my team. Many of these medical professionals and engineers did not end up on my team but, they ended up being people to talk to the next 48 hours and later LinkedIn contacts to call on for future reference.
The teams were pitched and I narrowed my options down to three teams. I spoke to each presenter of those three teams and decided to join one of the engineers who was an employee of a company that was sponsoring the hackathon, Validic.

Day 2) long story short for Day 2 was that we spent hours brainstorming and walking around our original idea. All the while, we had 4-6 mentors come by and offer their insight. It wasn’t until 10PM did the lightbulbs go off and we decided to run with our idea.

Day 3) The mentors from yesterday checked in with us to see our growth. Our mentors included; an Emergency Medicine doctor from Massachusetts, a representative from the TCMx accelerator, a venture capitalist, another clinician, and a healthcare entrepreneur. Thank you Grand Hack team for offering the services of 100+ professionals and experts in the healthcare industry. I mean, they got doctors to take a whole weekend to help a bunch of college kids with ‘pie in the sky’ ideas. Having time with just 6 of those 100+ mentors was an invaluable opportunity that I hope I took full advantage of. Time with these mentors not only evolved our project for the competition but, it also helped out the mentors. The mentors and participants networked, saw how each other worked in teams (aka future job opportunities here and future program participants, etc.), and overall everyone walked away learning or gaining something new.

This competition exposed me to the innovative side of the healthcare industry as a mechanical engineer and opened me up to a community that could aide in bringing my ideas further. Spending the weekend at MIT for Grand Hacks was definitely a spark in my early engineering career and I know it will help me later down the road.  

Resources used during this hackathon:
Datasets from: Allscripts, Intersystems, and more.

Grammarly yours, SemirahD

Previous post in my Women Engineer in Training series:
WeCode Harvard 2016: A gathering of really cool women engineers
NSBE42 Convention: Sharing tips to excel academically and professionally 
BostonHacks: My intro to using wearable technology (aka Fitbits/Garmins/etc. for non-fitness uses)
NSBE Biz Competition Video: Watch me on Youtube!!

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