If we get Instagram on WP, I will be a happy camper

As of November 2013, the official Instagram Beta on Windows Phone was launched.

aka. My thoughts on Windows Phone 8.  Above is a screenshot of my home screen tiles on a Samsung Focus running a 7.8 custom rom.  This month of October has been filled with big mobile announcements, from 1 platform to the next. The wait is over now that everything has been announced, so should WP8 be your choice? I did a mini review for WP7 a few months back in conjunction with Jellybean. Now that WP8 is coming soon, we have a lot more to look forward to. I did get a chance to play around with the homescreen update from a custom ROM I installed this weekend as I am showing off above. The 1×1 sized icons are good, although a little too tiny.. the medium sized 2×2 default tiles also got a size up since they got rid of the wasted space on the right side of the home screen, also something that looked awkwardly large to me. I really like that I’m able to see more on one screen now, though, it’s a huge improvement. I’m not a fan of the 4×2 so I don’t have any of that size on my homescreen. I’ve only had the ROM for a few days, but I do plan to organize my tiles a little more now that I have the customization. So today’s big keynote. The single thing that really stood out to me was the improved Skype experience – being able to keep it running in the background. Skype has given people a mediocre experience on EVERY platform. Ive done Skype chat and calling on a variety platforms (iOS, Android, WP, OSX, Win7), and they never did a good job of minimizing bugs and user experience. The new experience for Skype really intrigues me. They claim you will be able to have Skype running in the background without decreasing battery life, and having it pick up calls and messages. Considering the fact that no one uses MSN anymore (or AIM for those who are American), Skype has become our main medium for keeping track of messages and video calling. Plus, you can sync it with Facebook chat and video calling (not on any mobile versions yet, but I’m sure it’s coming). The new lock screen is also something to look forward to, and something that devs can certainly take advantage of. Continue reading


GHC ’12 & Adventures in Baltimore

I had such an amazing time at GHC this past week in Baltimore. I was able to connect with so many technical women of various educational backgrounds and ethnical backgrounds, and be inspired by every one of them.

GHC is more than just a conference – for awhile I thought the C stood for Conference. No. It stands for Celebration. It’s a celebration for women in computing, to bring them together so that they can network, learn, and of course, have fun in an all-women environment. I mean it! ~3600 women. I think I saw a few men, most were recruiters or engineers at the career fair, but all of the speakers were female.

Now I’ll be honest, I didn’t attend many sessions due to my high interest in the career fair. However the few talks I did go to – most of them were interesting, especially those in the social collaboration track and the security tracks. The categorized tracks are actually very useful so that participants can understand the target audience that they are aimed towards. For example, I didn’t go to any academic track sessions since I’m not interested in grad school. Although there was a huge number of participants who are doing phDs, or are planning to in the future.

Actually, when I was at the conference, I was given a better perspective about grad school considering how many people i met who were in grad school – although I am still very uninterested in graduate studies. :P

I had a great time at the Career Fair. And I’m not saying this because I got a lot of free swag (pic below), I’m saying this because I got to see a spectrum of companies. I got to talk to their engineers, learn what they do, find out about their processes, etc. Many American companies to boot, and being a Canadian, it’s definitely a different feeling seeing how Americans do this type of stuff (esp. for internship roles). The cool thing about the career fair was that a lot of these companies were doing on-site interviews.

These companies are in high need of technical women. The typical 10-15 min phone screen can be done right at their booths. It was nice seeing how quick the process is compared to doing online applications on the company’s websites. And if they think you’re a great candidate, they’ll probably ask you for an on-site interview.

In the end I had 6 interviews at the conference, 4 of which were non-technical and 2 of which were technical. Wow, it felt like Jobmine all over again, but with less stress since I’m not on a school term. During the conference, I realized something – Interviews are fun. I seem to like the thrill of sharing my past experience and having options and opportunities. I mean, I’m sure everyone does, but the thing with me compared to other students is that I have 2 past internships, and 1 current on my belt. I haven’t been nervous for an interview in ages, and talking about my projects and relevant experience is a cinch. (This is why the career development track also wasn’t that useful to me, although I still went to a few of the sessions). Note that it became harder to get an on-site interview once Thurs afternoon hit, since available slots quickly fill up.

Other than that, many companies had invite-only parties and dinners and breakfasts. Being fed is a wonderful thing.

Beyond the career opportunities and the knowledge to be gained, there were the actual celebrations. There was a dance on Thurs night, filled with women. Dancing on a dance floor of all women is an interesting thing too, and it’s a lot of fun. No creepers asking for your number, definitely! Haha.

Friday night was the RockIt celebration, held at the Maryland Sci Centre. Unfortunately I didn’t actually play with any of the exhibitions, but I did have a lot of fun at the Google Photo Booth and ate some great desserts.

Saturday was Open Source day, which was sort of like a Hackathon, but it was non-competitive and the projects were all humanitarian (similar to RhoK). There were a handful of organizations and multiple projects going on. Luckily I was able to contribute.

After Open source day, I finally had the time to explore Baltimore. It’s a beautiful city, I must say! I didn’t end up going to any museums. Instead, I took the Water Taxi from Inner Harbour to Fel’s Point. There happened to be a festival going on, so I decided to do some exploring in the area. Then, I was planning to go back downtown to do some shopping, but I ended up taking the wrong boat. I had to sit there for 50 min going around to various other locations of baltimore (lol), it was truly a scenic route. (pics below).

Once I got to the airport, I was greeted by.. no one. The airport was extremely empty (I was there around 7pm on a Saturday). It’s a small airport I guess, but literally no one was in security with me.

So that was my week, I want to thank Facebook for bringing me to their NY office and to the conference. They have some really awesome recruiters and engineers, and know how to have fun ;)

Pre-Grace Hopper ’12 – Perspective from a Facebook Scholar

I’m very honoured to be a recipient of the Facebook Scholarship for Grace Hopper for this year. I have been told about the conference in the past from a handful of upper years and past coworkers. What truly appealed to me about the conference was the presence of thousands of technical women. So of course I wanted to attend.

Every day (whether it be at school or work) I am surrounded by a male majority.  At school, I’m with a more immature crowd, 100 males in their early 20’s with only 10 or less females in the classroom. To be completely honest, I’ve gotten used to it. But I do miss having female companions that I can work closely with.

Currently at work – my team is mostly male. At my previous co-op, I actually had a female team lead,and our Director of Eng was female, too. So I was a little more comfortable, and had people to relate to.

Cut to the chase, I am pretty excited for the conference. Facebook gave us a little excitement by giving us their own small sessions and gatherings in the past few days. I am with 24 other scholarship recipients and I believe 11 former interns – all female! We were given the chance to check out the Facebook NY office last night, hear a tech talk from Goranka Bjedov (a capacity planning engineer @ Facebook), do some small group chatting + technical interview prac., and explore NYC.

Facebook took us to see Mamma Mia on Sunday. It was my first broadway show, and I really enjoyed it. The lighting was beautiful and obviously well though out, the actors were great. The only issue I had was that any time they started singing, the background music overpowered their voices (maybe it’s only an issue for the balcony level audience).

The tech talk given to us on Monday was about scaling infrastructure. It was very interesting, considering the huge figures Facebook deals with in comparison to other big tech companies. With only ~1000 employees, it’s crazy how Fb can handle so much traffic.

The group chatting was informative, despite my large amount of interview experience from co-op. Went through a problem similar to Scrabble with Amy Platt (Eng @ Facebook Seattle). She briefly talked about her past experience @ MSoft & Google, and encouraged us to always negotiate salaries.

We talked briefly about how males boast about projects they’ve been on, claiming they’ve ‘lead’ projects even though they were just a developer; while females who have lead 1000s of engineers always used “the team”, or “we”, and basically was too shy to be proud. And then we have males vs. females on salaries – females are satisfied with what they are being paid or are not ambitious enough to negotiate, while males will go very far into negotiation.

Jocelyn Goldfein (Director of Eng @ Facebook) also said a few encouraging words. She feels that the purpose promoting women in computing is not because women have a difference in perspective, or whether women are better at creating technology for women. It’s about seeing the use cases of various types of people as an individual, and creating technology to be usable to a diverse groups of people. She also mentioned how we can promote women in computing. Obviously everyone in the room was confident with CS and where it would take them, but to encourage younger women – we need to overcome psychological-influenced thoughts and remove stereotypes as much as possible.

For example, it is a common stereotype that Asians are good at math. But it is another common stereotype that girls are not good at math. So is an Asian girl good at math? Jocelyn mentioned that if a study was done where 1 group of Asian women was given an article to read about Asians excelling in mathematics, another group given an article to read about statistics that women are less capable in the sciences and maths, and one group not given anything, then there’d be significant results. It’s just who we are as humans – we get psyched out easily by what we read and hear about.

Overall, I thought there were some very interesting and inspiring perspectives brought to us by females at Facebook, and with this being my first time attending GHC, I can’t wait to hear more of them at the conference.