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!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

16 Steps to Preparing for a Conference

In March 2016 I attended the National Society of Black Engineers Convention in Boston. Since I attended as a collegiate member but also as an ambassador for 2 tech companies, I had to make sure that I prepared as much as I could pre-conference. 

For the NSBE convention specifically, my pre-planning resulted in; onsite interviews, networking event invitations, job offers, and presentation opportunities.

Comment below if there's a specific strategy that you use to prepare for conferences. 

  1.  Get the conference schedule as soon as possible and start to chart where you should invest your time. If you are attending a workshop, also put together productive questions to ask the presenter.
  2. Check on social media to see if anyone is posting about the conference ahead of time. This gives you a chance to network before you even get to the conference and therefore saving time! The conference most likely has a hashtag that you can check.  
  3.  Look for opportunities that you can pursue ahead of time. For example, submitting your resume to a company’s database (Many companies now tell students to apply online and don’t collect paper resumes so, save time and effort with this step), chances to schedule an interview for the conference, chances to self-promote, competitions, etc.
  4.  Take advantage of the free information online and do your research on attendees. Checking out someone’s site or twitter feed can give you insight that they are promoting a business opportunity you’ve been looking for or that they are interested in the same passions as you.
  5.  Stay up to date on relevant industry news. If you are attending a business conference, check out the sponsors recent news or stock activity. If you are attending an engineering conference, read up on the latest technology and any groundbreaking work that may be a great conversation started to show how involved you are in your industry.
  6. Do your research on the sponsors/recruiters so that you know who you do and don’t need to invest time in.
  7. Make sure you’ve taken care of your current work or to-do list. Try to complete everything and more since you’ll be devoting a lot of time to this event and will possibly even need to rest up post-conference.
  8. Update your online profiles because, after networking people will be looking you up and seeing what you're all about. You want to make sure your online presence is positive.
  9. If you are interested in networking or connecting, make that known. Tweet or post with the conference hashtag with a call to action. Like, “Hey #NSBE42! I’ll be at the Google networking event if you’re interested in connecting about Virtual Reality tech!”.
  10. Use TweetDeck to schedule strategic tweets. You want to be present during conference. Having your mind on your social media strategy takes away from the information and opportunities being presented to you at the conference.
  11. (The night before) Charge your back-up battery if you’ll be taking a lot of photos or using your phone for the conference app.
  12. Order relevant and fresh business cards. I was networking with a company that I was interviewing for and towards the end both recruiters wanted to give me business cards but, didn’t have any on them. I had mine and they were super impressed! Moreover, my cards were good quality and reflected me as a professional.
    Candid photo of Semirah presenting at the NSBE Fire Pit Business Competition and placing Top 3!
  13. If you have a presentation or pitch to give at the conference, practice practice practice! Conferences are usually where people come to see the best practices, network, and exchange advise/opportunities. You don’t want to be written off because you wasted everyone’s time with an unproductive presentation.
  14. If you see someone you want to network with, do it! There’s no time like the present. Also, if this is an event that people have to travel to, it’s going to be really hard to connect with someone you didn’t speak with post-conference. You don’t want to regret a missed connection. You will probably see them next year but, people and situations change so take advantage of the present.
  15. Plan your wardrobe. I brought all of my outfits for the NSBE convention from Banana Republic. It was such a time saver to just pull out a hanger from my wardrobe bag and have my outfit all ready and ironed. Even prepare your evening party outfits.
  16.  Research last year’s conference and the opportunities that may also be available this year. If Twitter hosted a hackathon last year with awesome prizes then, see if that is the case for this year as well.
Grammarly yours, SemirahD

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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Women Engineer in Training: BostonHacks 2015 Hackathon

BostonHacks was a hackathon that I attended October 2015. I've been a beta tester for Microsoft's Azure software ever since then and wanted to share my hackathon experience with you all. 

My Project Learning Outcomes from BostonHacks:

What did I do? My team and I worked on a textbased videogame integrated with the Microsoft band and with a Halloween creepy theme. 

My task was to work on the integration of the Microsoft Band to the game. The Microsoft band is a fitness wearable, similar to the Fitbit. So after playing around with the band, I went to a Microsoft Band workshop hosted by one of the Microsoft engineers to get an idea of how to get started and the band features. 

Here are some quick snapshots from the Intro to Microsoft Band workshop:

Microsoft Band

The Microsft Band is wearable tech with a touch screen displayand 10 sensors . Probably works similar to the Apple Watch.

Microsoft Band

The Microsoft Band does have the capabilty to connect to your phone (assuming phones with Windows or Andriod phones only?). So if you wanted an Apple Watch but you have the new Galaxy, then try out the Microsoft band. 

Microsoft Band

The slide above is a description of the 10 sensors that the band has.  If you want to do a route tracker (i.e. map my run) you need to use a mobile application (i.e. Runkeeper, etc.), because the band doesn’t have GPS capabilities. 

Microsoft Band

This final slide is a list of resources that I could use during the hackathon to be eligible for specific prizes but also complete my project. I ended up using Microsoft Azure and winning a prize for the site I created with Azure.

Notes about the Microsoft Band:

What is it?

  • The main fuction of the band is to take in data and send out data.
  •  My team must build an app that runs on a PC to take advantage of all of the bands features. Building a web app would make it quicker to store data and finish front end development within the 24 hours of the hackathon.
  • Band runs on Bluetooth to connect with your device.
  • Data collected from the band can be analyzed and sent to cloud for later usage. My team wanted to optimize this feature, which is another reason to build a web app versus a mobile app... easier access to cloud storage.
  • The text based videogame can do vibrations (cool idea: Morse code messages or spurts of vibration to creep out players and connect with the Halloween theme)
  • Microsoft band application idea:
“MAN GPS”; Watch vibrates for men to know directions given from phone (1 vibrate = left, 2 vibrates= right). Men don’t ask for directions so, increase your masculinity by not even having to track a GPS on your phone. Look like a man that keeps track of time for his oh-so-important business schedule by, having a watch that guides you instead of a phone map. Map is connected to phone through Bluetooth.

My Halloween costume during the hackathon. AKA a random dress in my closet with a masquerade mask XOXO

One of my team mates and I with free web domains

Microsoft put together software development kits (SDK) for: ios, andriod, and windows. If you are interested in developing a web application, Microsoft has a cloud to store data in as well. 

However, I was surprised to find out that the band is not provided with gesture/movement sensors. Kind of like a Wii remote, the sensors that can track if the user is waving in a specific direction. To achieve such capabilities, I found a Stack overflow site (, this article will help you to:
  1. Recognize gesture on the Microsoft band
  2. Program the gestures ourselves
  3. Look up band SDKs and use sample code to get started
In the end, I had multiple complications with the Microsoft software development kits and was not able to connect the band to our game. However, this conclusion was made after seeking guidance from the Microsoft reps at BostonHacks and asking everyone at the hackathon, who was also using the Microsoft Band, if they were able to get anything work. It was easy to connect with all the teams because, there were only 10 bands being used and not one team could successfully implement the band. So, BostonHacks was a learning experience.

My BostonHacks Team, awesome ladies! When I go to hackathons, I always join teams with people that I don't know and thankfully, my experiences have been productive and positive! Quite frankly, also inspiring! An all-women hacking team...?! Women Engineers in Training!

Comment below: Do you use a fitbit, Microsoft Band, or Apple Watch? What's your fave feature?

Grammarly yours, SemirahD

HackUMass with the Oculus Rift videogame
JP Morgan Chase & Co Hackathon with Web Development
Harvard WeCode Hackathon

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