Girl geeks are stocking up on these surprising things during COVID-19.

stocking up during covid-19

Last week, we asked our community: “What surprising thing are you stocking up on right now (aside from toilet paper)?

The answers came flooding in, and while many were things we too were stocking up on or had thought about, there were also some responses that we never would have expected! Here are some highlights:

plastic filament tower
Chung-Hay Luk, UX Researcher at Google is stocking up on 3d filament to print shields for healthcare workers in the Bay Area during the Covid-19 pandemic via Bay Area Face Shield Supply.
  1. “The surprising thing I’ve been stocking up on is plastic filament. My friends and I have been 3d printing visors and creating face shields for healthcare workers in need, and we’ve delivered nearly 1000 shields so far.” — Chung-Hay Luk, UX Researcher at Google.

    This is awesome and so unexpected! Color us impressed!

    Want to learn more? Check out the latest count of donated shields/visors, donate to the cause, or get involved with this volunteer effort at Bay Area Face Shield Supply.

  2. Sayali Kapre, a Firmware Validation Engineer at Zoox, told us that she’s stocking up on fabric and yarn.

    And we are totally envious of her patience and craftiness. Just ask the sewing machine that’s been collecting dust under my desk for the past decade… I had such high hopes!

  3. Sukrutha Bhadouria, CTO at Girl Geek X and Senior Software Engineering Manager at Salesforce, has been stocking up on frozen foods. She shared that with everyone working from home, most of her colleagues have been putting in more hours… leaving less time for meal prep.

    I don’t have any good reason for it — my hours have been impacted in the opposite direction… but I’m still stocking up on frozen foods too! Our freezer is about one item shy of overflowing at this point. 😂

  4. Sue Separk, Director of Financial Analysis at Firewood, is collecting seeds!

    Great idea, Sue! We have a few gardeners on the Girl Geek team, and at least one of us has stocked up on seed packets too! Our CEO Angie shared that she’s been regrowing some veggies from the discarded bits — like carrot tops and celery stems. Whichever way you garden, there’s never been a better time to double down and do more!

    Side note: Sue signed her email “Yours in unabashed excellence, Sue.” And we just needed to publicly say YESSSS, girl. You ARE excellent, and we love it!

  5. “I’ve found myself ordering a ton of ice cream. I’m not sure if it’s my way of coping with the stay at home order or if I discovered an amazing ice cream bar hahaha. It’s the Haagen-dazs Coffee Almond Crunch Ice Cream Bars!” — Lety Gómez, Web Developer at Girl Geek X & Software Engineer at TechCrunch

    Lety’s definitely not alone! I’ve been ordering a different Talenti icecream or gelato flavor with just about every Instacart order. Gotta try ’em all, right? And don’t even get me started on the “Fat Boy” brand icecream sandwiches. So. Good.

  6. In a vote for self care, Jessica Jallorina, an Inside Account Manager at TestEquity shared that since she can’t get a proper mani/pedi right now, she’s stocking up on foot and hand masks from Target.

    “Also popcorn!” she added.

    Yay for self-care! Take care of yourselves, ladies, whatever it is that’ll make make you smile or help you relax — go for it! You finally have the time. And double yay for popcorn! We wholeheartedly approve of the exclamation point, by the way. Popcorn deserves it!

  7. Rachel Jones, our resident Podcaster here at Girl Geek X, said she’s been stockpiling candles.

    I feel this one for sure. I have a habit of stocking up during annual candle sales, and then most of the candles just sit on a shelf until the cooler months or when we’re expecting visitors. But with all the time we’ve been spending inside lately, we’ve taken to rotating candles and lighting a new scent every day or two. If we’re going to be stuck inside, might as well make it smell good!

  8. Ofure Okoronkwo, a Senior Software Engineer at RBC, told us that she’s stocking up on Lysol disinfecting wipes and fruits.

    Us too! Our CEO Angie shared that she’s been trying to keep her kitchen stocked with produce and fruits instead of junk food. Lady Alice Apples are her favorite right now!

    And personally, I’ve been on a berry kick since about January, and Covid isn’t slowing that down! There are always at least 2 types of fresh berries in my fridge… with extra in the freezer for popping into smoothies. We also went strawberry picking last summer, so I still have some homemade jam left. We even found locally made huckleberry and boysenberry jams at a local dairy last month. It’s berry madness over here!

  9. Erica Kawamoto Hsu, Photographer at Girl Geek X, told us she’s stocking up on all things Asian pop culture. “Since I can’t travel and with being isolated, I’ve started taking greater interest in my cultural roots through podcasts, music, tv shows, and language exchange.

    This is awesome, I love it! Sounds like a much more fulfilling way to spend time than binge-watching every movie in the Hunger Games series. Not that I know anyone who has done that this week… 👀

  10. Girl Geek X CEO Angie Chang is stocking up on produce starts for vegetables like kale, broccoli, beans and more!

    It’ll be another week or two before I buy veggie starts — last frost can come pretty late here in PA, but I’ll be doing the same! We stocked up on compost and mushroom soil last month to prep a new raised garden bed. Always a project!

  11. Karina Eichmann, Senior Program Manager at Oath said that she’s stocking up on quarters, because they’re required to operate laundry machines.

    Smart. We wouldn’t have thought of this… but who wants to be handling quarters that have passed through hundreds of hands before getting to you? If you’re stocked up, you can disinfect them all at once and not have to sweat it when you’re doing your weekly laundry run!

  12. “For me (and my hubby), we are stocking up all the time on food for our cat, named Momo. Our household is gluten free and so Momo gets grain free food so that he can stay healthy. He is a rescue and we love him – best sleeping buddy.” 😊 — Aliza Carpio, Tech Evangelist, Intuit Global Engineering Culture (Office of the Intuit Chief Architect)

    The pet caretakers on our team are doing the same. Girl Geek X Communications Coordinator Amanda Beaty recently adopted a 10-year-old “pandemic puppy” from a rescue she volunteers with, so in addition to her usual cat food and litter stash, she’s now stocking up on dog food too!
Momo the grain free cat
Pictured: Momo the grain-free cat, sent to us by Aliza Carpio, Tech Evangelist, Intuit Global Engineering Culture (Office of the Intuit Chief Architect)

As for me, I’m stocking up on mycelium plugs. I’ve been foraging wild mushrooms since I was a kid, and I’ve read up on cultivation techniques a bunch of times. With a little extra time for a project right now, I’m finally taking the plunge! Thus far, we’ve ordered or pre-ordered about 1600 plugs — which are little cylindrical wooden dowels about an inch long, that have been inoculated with mycelium from various mushroom species.

Each mushroom I’m trying to grow has a preferred type of tree and habitat, so it’s a whole project of finding the right trees, cutting logs to the right length/width, and letting them dry for a couple weeks before moving on to the next steps (drilling, inserting the plugs, sealing, watering, siting the logs in the woods / shade, partially burying some of them, etc.)

If it works, the mycelium will take over the new log(s) and produce fruiting bodies (mushrooms) once the conditions are right. We should have 2 types of oyster mushrooms this fall, maybe some lion’s manes too… and then several other species in future years. Fingers crossed!

What surprising thing are you stocking up on?

We’d love to hear from you! Tag us on the Twitters and let us know what you’ve found yourself stocking up on during Covid-19!

About the Author

Amy Weicker - Head of Marketing at Girl Geek X

Amy Weicker is the Head of Marketing at Girl Geek X, and she has been helping launch & grow tech companies as a marketing leader and demand generation consultant for nearly 20 years. Amy previously ran marketing at SaaStr, where she helped scale the world’s largest community & conference for B2B SaaS Founders, Execs and VCs from $0 to $10M and over 200,000 global community members. She was also the first head of marketing at Sales Hacker, Inc. (acquired by Outreach) which helps connect B2B sales professionals with the tools, technology and education they need to excel in their careers.

“Military Transition: Vets in Tech” — Girl Geek X Elevate (Video + Transcript)

Transcript of Elevate 2020 Session

Rachel Jones: All right, so we’re about to start our final panel of the conference. For this one we’ll be speaking with some veterans in tech. So, with diverse backgrounds, careers, roles, and branches, vets are hardly a monolith. There’s so much variety to their stories, but one thing that they definitely all have in common is resilience. So, for this panel, these vets in tech will share the challenges and upsides of their amazing journeys. I’ll hand it off to our moderator, Tiana Clark, who is a director of marketing at Microsoft. Tiana?

Tiana S. Clark: Hello. Can you all hear me okay?

Rachel Jones: Yep.

Molly Laufer: Yes.

Tiana S. Clark: Awesome. I’m super excited to be a part of Girl Geek X today, especially on a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I’m glad that we just have an opportunity and a forum to be able to discuss this. I’m really excited. I think it would be good to start going around and having everyone tell a little bit about your branch, your role, enlisted or officer, and a career highlight or two. So we’re taking a step back and just reflecting on our military experience. I’ll go first. I am prior US Air Force. I was a Staff Sergeant Intelligence Analyst. And a couple of highlights, I was deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom. I won Airman of the Year, and I’ve flown in an F-15 Eagle.

Tiana S. Clark: So that’s a little bit about my background. Let’s go ahead and start with Molly.

Molly Laufer: All right. Hi everyone, my name is Molly Laufer, and I spent four years as a Service Warfare Officer in the United States Navy from 2007 to 2011. During those four years, I spent time on one of the Navy’s smallest warships, which is a frigate. I served as the Ordinance Enforce Protection Officer doing counter-narcotic terrorism operations. Then I also spent a few years on the Navy’s largest warship, which is an aircraft carrier. I deployed on the USS Nimitz in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom on an Operation Enduring Freedom.

Molly Laufer: I think some of my highlights include things like swim calls and fishing expeditions off the back of a warship on a Sunday afternoon, as well as spending time … I was the only woman who was a battle watch captain on an Iraqi oil terminal in the North Arabian Gulf. So working with our ally partners and our Bahrani interpreters was really a highlight of my career in the Navy, because I didn’t expect to be somewhere that was not a warship during those four years.

Tiana S. Clark: Amazing. Thank you. Theresa?

Theresa Piasta: Hi everybody. My name’s Theresa Piasta. I served in the Army for six years between active duty, four years, and then Upstate New York in Fort Totten. After my active duty experience, I also did active reserves. So I saw it on both ends, but within the service I was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. Then we deployed to Iraq from ’08 to ’09. We were gone for over 14 months. There, I was in charge of all base offense and access control. So at the age of 24, 25, I had to put on a lot of different hats and do things and teach myself new skills very quickly.

Theresa Piasta: I think that that experience that the military puts leaders in at a very young age was just such an amazing experience, that I think all of us here in this panel probably have those different tidbits of when you’re just put in a situation and you’re expected to do a lot with a lot of constraints as well. So that experience in general, leading base offense and access control on a base that had a 27 kilometer perimeter and thousands of people residing there has set me up for success for the rest of my career.

Theresa Piasta: After I got back from Iraq, it was the financial crisis, so I turned on that resilient leader hat and found and put grid on again, and found a role in the financial services industry on Wall Street. Since then, after six years I moved to the Bay area. I’ve been building a tribe called Puppy Mama, and we’re now over 25,000 people. So, I think with [crosstalk 00:04:42] Yeah, with the military. So, the experience was amazing. Learning those technical skills early on and having that confidence that you can set me up for success to be in the tech industry. I’m looking forward to answering anyone’s questions.

Tiana S. Clark: Awesome. We’re going to get into a lot more, everyone, about our transition out of the military. So we’ll learn more about Puppy Mama and that whole thing, but thank you for sharing. Okay, Claudia, tell us about your military experience.

Claudia Weber: Hi everybody, this is Claudia Weber. I am a US Navy veteran. I was in the Navy for eight years. Five and a half years active duty, and I was stationed at the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center in New Orleans. A highlight for me was being involved in a staff command, seeing the operations real time up front, and in my career, seeing the work I did come full circle during Desert Storm when we had to recall the reservists to active duty and being a part of that team in the Northwest that worked 24/7 during our recall period. So, it was really fascinating to see us going live with everything we had trained to do at that point.

Tiana S. Clark: Wow, thanks for sharing that. All right, Melissa, last but not least.

Mellisa Walker: Hello everyone. My name is Melissa Walker. I spent four years in the Marine Corps, enlisted from 2011 to 2015. I was stationed at Camp Pendleton in SoCal, kind of near San Diego, working in various jobs in the aviation supply field. They supported workups and deployments for the squadrons on the airfield. I was working with the logistics for the supplies that were sent out, as well as personnel. I was also in an accounting division that was keeping track of all the fuel receipts as well. I spent a year and a half working at Squadron 267 as a logistics liaison between that squadron and our supply warehouse as well, so that’s mine.

Tiana S. Clark: I just love that you’ve got these strong women who have done some really amazing things in the military. And as was said before, at young ages. Coming in, I was 19 and I’m training pilots. It’s just a level of responsibility and a level of accountability and knowledge, and being able to take that on and to transition it really outside of the military into a tech career field, I think is very, very impressive. So I want to take some time to help people understand what that transition was really like. Because I don’t know about you all, but it wasn’t an automatic jump for me.

Tiana S. Clark: I’ll tell you a little bit more about my story, but I want to let you ladies speak about it first. But let’s just hear what it was like getting from where you were to where you are today. Let’s go ahead and start with Melissa.

Mellisa Walker: Sure thing, thank you. So my journey into tech was like you said, and like many others on this panel, not premeditated at all. I was actually in my last semester of college finishing up my Bachelor’s degree up here at Cal State, and my veterans counselor sent out an email with an opportunity for a veterans directed internship with none other than the company Workday. So if any of you were able to catch the morning speaker, we had Carin Taylor, which is our fearless belonging and diversity leader here.

Mellisa Walker: The internship is called CAP, which stands for Career Accelerator Program, for anyone who’s interested in kind of learning more. So I applied for the internship, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. At the time I had spent zero time in the tech world or the corporate world. My life was previously consumed on finishing school, working retail during that time, or being in the military before that. The internship itself doesn’t tell you much of what to expect, because all the applicants can be placed in different roles based on what teams have head count.

Mellisa Walker: So they can’t really tell you what kind of description of what you’re going to be doing. So, I landed the internship, which went on for four months. They just put you in a real job, so you’re not treated like an intern. You’re treated like a new employee. This was not an easy process for me at all. I was 27 at the time, and I felt like it was teaching an old dog new tricks with all these new terms and a different mindset that I had to learn. So I know that 27 is not that old, but coming into something totally new made it feel like I was really behind the curve, especially from my peers.

Mellisa Walker: Right now I work on a team called Implementation Tools, which deals with data migration tooling that customers use within their Workday product. Also, we are the gatekeepers of all sorts of data that goes into the factory default data that is delivered to the field. So all these different teams put in their new functionality, and then we’re the ones who have to double check to make sure that it works properly for our data migration tooling.

Mellisa Walker: So long story short, very technical role. It’s been very hard to adapt, but I just celebrated my two year work anniversary, so I’m definitely still trying my hardest to be successful here, because Workday is great.

Tiana S. Clark: That is awesome. So just to recap, so straight from military and your first role is at Workday. How long do you feel that it took you before you really felt like you were in your zone, like you’ve got the information, you’re ready? How long do you think that took overall?

Mellisa Walker: Probably in two years.

Tiana S. Clark: Right?

Mellisa Walker: I’m not going to lie, it took a solid year for me to figure out what was going on. I had other people around me that had the same kind of mentality, so it was hard for me, but easy to see that other people were going through the same thing. But yeah, that was a long transition.

Tiana S. Clark: Yeah. Yeah, I totally understand. All right, thanks for sharing. Molly, you want to talk about your transition a little bit?

Molly Laufer: Sure, yeah. Like Melissa said, the transition from the military to the tech world certainly did not come as maybe smoothly as I look back and remember it with rose colored glasses. I left the military in 2011, and moved up here to the Bay area. It was like a fish out of water, complete culture shock. You could’ve dropped me into another country. The vernacular was different. The acronyms were different. I mean, everyone on this panel knows that the military has a lot of acronyms, and they were all very different from the startup world.

Molly Laufer: You know, what’s private equity? How does that differ from venture capital? What’s a cap table? How do I negotiate equity? What’s the difference between a Series A and a Series D? I mean, I felt like I was drowning in new information. It was honestly like being a 22 year old ensign, showing up and having to learn a complete new navigation system on a ship.

Molly Laufer: So when I joined Silicon Valley, I thought, “Well, I’ll just do what everyone does and I’ll go work at a big tech company, because that’s just what everyone does right away.” I was, again, very clear-eyed, very naïve. I submitted my resume to a lot of different places, and I kept hearing the same feedback over and over again. Which was, “Your background sounds really interesting, but we don’t see an obvious fit. Our company is at a stage such that we need people that are experts in a specific area and aren’t just kind of general managers or general figure-it-outers.”

Molly Laufer: That was really demoralizing in the beginning, and so the advice that I had received from someone was, “Maybe you aren’t really in a position to be able to go to a company where they need someone with very specific experience. Maybe you should translate your jack of all trade, master of none experience from the service warfare community into the startup space.” So for me what that looked like is I actually ended up joining a eCommerce direct-to-consumer snack company as the first employee, where for the first several months I was a jack of all trade, master of none.

Molly Laufer: There was really no job that I wasn’t willing to do or to figure out or to get my hands on.

Tiana S. Clark: What a perfect transition for you, Molly. Gosh.

Molly Laufer: Exactly, exactly.

Tiana S. Clark: Yes.

Molly Laufer: It was a really good … When you kind of said it out loud, it really made sense. Then from there, was able to as the company grew, really focus my interests and experience into customer acquisition. So I’ve spent the last nine years really, really focusing customer acquisition. But it didn’t start out where I am today. I really had to kind of take that ability to get my hands on a lot of things, be willing to learn new things, and be willing to just get involved in every job. And really using that experience from the military at a very, very early stage startup.

Tiana S. Clark: Wow. Now, I have to ask one followup question for anyone in the audience who’s curious. How did you meet this founder, or how did you get to be employee number one?

Molly Laufer: Really good question. It certainly isn’t from submitting your resume to a number of different job boards is what I found. It really came down to a friend of a friend of a friend. It was a former coworker of my husband’s coworker, who happened to be a venture capitalist. I said, “I’m new here. Like, literally new into Silicon Valley. Can you tell me about the industry? What kind of investments do you make? These are the types of industries that I’m interested in. Because, again, I have no tech experience in any one specific industry, so here’s what I’m interested in. Do you know anyone who maybe has a company who’s doing that?”

Molly Laufer: He said, “Actually, I do know someone. A friend of mine is actually starting a snack company. You should talk to him.” I was obviously very grateful for that introduction, and that introduction is actually what led to that four year career, that experience at the startup. But it certainly wouldn’t have come from just applying myself to jobs. It certainly came from putting myself out there and being willing to have conversations with people where I didn’t really know what to say, but honestly more importantly, it was because of people who were willing to have those conversations with me, too.

Tiana S. Clark: That’s amazing. So I hear a lot of that using your network, which we’re going to circle back to as well. All right. Let’s hear from Theresa.

Theresa Piasta: Unmuting myself. Molly, I love everything you just shared, because I have found myself similarly, and actually recently I took a Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment test. Anyone in the audience who hasn’t taken it, it’s been really helpful to have discussions, because to discuss my military days, yes, I served from 2006 to 2012. That included two years of active reserve time as well. There’s something that always goes back to my military training and the DNA of being a former military officer. I was a Captain, as I said before, in the US Army. Is number one, on that Gallup assessment, says activator. Everything that Molly just said is pretty much me in a nutshell, and other veterans I’ve spoken to as well.

Theresa Piasta: So I love to be able to do a lot of different things. I love to be able to be impactful in different organizations. Number three on the list is significance, which I also look at, hey, I also love to be part of missions that I am very proud to be part of. So as I navigated my career after the military, those were things that as I’ve recently took that test, it started to … I understood a lot better how to communicate the overall military experience to other people, is because being an activator, I love learning new things. I love learning new skills, and so right after the military went to convertible bond sales and trading desk.

Theresa Piasta: If anyone has ever tried to be on a trading desk, it’s a pretty … very dynamic environment where you have to make quick decisions under pressure. I stayed in the financial services industry for multiple years, but as I moved back to the Bay area with my husband, I’m from Sonoma County. Anyone know the wine country? I’m from Santa Rosa. I was exposed to all the tech out here, and this was four years ago, that I was inspired, as the jack of all trades type activator, and I love to learn new skills. I’m passionate. I was inspired to start a business three years ago called Puppy Mama.

Theresa Piasta: There’s a lot of negativity in social media is what I have found three years ago, but I saw something beautiful where people were connecting with each other in a beautiful and positive way through dogs, and creating a community of love and support for other women. But since then, being a founder of a pet tech company, I’ve had to really learn new skills constantly, and design. In order to grow a business bootstrapped, I’ve had to be very crafty. I go back to my military days of, hey, constantly needing to learn new skills, be resilient, and keep moving forward.

Theresa Piasta: Everything that Molly said is pretty much what my experience in a nutshell, where what organizations hopefully will recognize that from people who come from the military. Because we do have a lot of skills, and we can be put in a lot of different environments because we are resilient leaders, I would say about military folks in a nutshell.

Tiana S. Clark: Absolutely. And understanding the transferable skills that you have, which we’re going to touch on, is so critically important, and being able to communicate that, which we’ll get to. But I also like what you said about the StrengthsFinder. So, I’ve taken that as well. If you all haven’t done that, it’s like $25.00 or something last time I checked, but it does give you a really clear indicator of what makes you tick, like who you are to your core, which will help you when you’re looking at the next role for yourself.

Tiana S. Clark: You can really see, “Where am I strong? Where can I align that to my next opportunity?” So I’m glad you called that out. Let’s hear from Claudia and your transition.

Claudia Weber: Thank you. My transition was a little different. I also wasn’t looking for a career in high tech whatsoever. I did learn computer programming on the job when I was in the Navy. When I got out, I was working at Children’s Hospital in Seattle in child psychiatry. Later worked in community mental health in a startup experience, and the agency I worked for relocated 50 miles away. I made the decision not to relocate, so at that point I was looking for another job, and I had friends and neighbors working at Intel in Washington State.

Claudia Weber: They encouraged me to apply, and I really thought I didn’t have the skills to work at Intel, but I also knew from my military experience that I was often put in a position and had to go figure things out, learn it on the job, take charge, make decisions, and that I could learn anything I set my mind to. So I started applying for jobs and was hired in 2000 at Intel, so going on 20 years ago.

Claudia Weber: One of the reasons I got hired was because of my military experience, and I believe the ability to deal with rapid change and be adaptable and to be resilient. They also loved my experience with mental health. My career over the past 19 plus years has just continued to grow and grow and grow in the world of technology. Learning to create systems, to land systems, enterprise systems for our employee base. It’s really been that ability to learn as I go and to know that I could do anything that I set my mind to. So, a lot of my military experience has helped me to be successful in this role.

Tiana S. Clark: I love that. I just got to touch on this because everyone’s been saying, about our experience and being able to be calm and resilient. It’s funny, because … I work in corporate America. I’ve been in corporate America for 13 years, and I’ll tell you a little bit about my transition here. But one thing that’s funny is a lot of times people get bent out of shape and anxious about things all the time, and I’m like, “Like seriously, I’ve briefed international generals at the Pentagon on critical intelligence. I’m pretty sure I can handle this conference call.” You know?

Tiana S. Clark: It’s like, “Calm down.” But that is a skill, it’s one of those skills that we don’t talk about often, but is extremely important. So just a little bit about me, when I left the military after almost five years, I decided to go into the field of education, because as a youngster I had always wanted to be a teacher. So I taught at an at-risk school while I was going through my Master’s program using my GI Bill. Then afterwards I realized that I couldn’t really deal with the bureaucracy of the school system. It just wasn’t a good fit for me.

Tiana S. Clark: The kids were great, but the system. I was like, “Oh, I don’t know about this.” So I then went to corporate America because a friend, going back to Molly’s comment about having a network, a friend of mine who, she worked at Valero Energy Corporation, which is an oil and gas company based out of Texas. She said, “Well don’t discount Valero.” I was like, “But I don’t know anything about oil and gas.” She said, “Well, there are other opportunities here.”

Tiana S. Clark: So I really looked at the career list, and one of the opportunities was around change management. It had to deal with a lot of executive briefing and training. I was like, “Oh, I’ve done that a lot in the military.” Sure enough, I was able to make that transition. Now, because that group that I went to resided within the IT organization and I was now more of a business analyst helping to bridge that gap between the business and the IT group, now I’m getting this peripheral, almost, view of IT and I’m working with the people in IT.

Tiana S. Clark: So again, another network situation happened where one of my coworkers leaves to go to Microsoft. He said, “Hey, Tiana, you should think about coming to Microsoft.” Again, I was like, “But I don’t have a computer science degree.” He said, “But it’s really around those transferable skills that you have. You have relationship building, you have executive presence. You know how to talk business value to our customers.” So I thought, “Oh, okay.” Then I interviewed for that role and ended up getting it, so that’s how I ended up at Microsoft. I’ve been here for eight years now. Now I’m a marketing director.

Tiana S. Clark: So, loved hearing about all of your experiences. We talked so much about transferable skills and we talked about resilience being one of the skills, just our organization, our ability to deal with pressure, all these things. Can you each maybe give me two other transferable skills that you think helped you? Because I just want people who are listening in to be thinking of and have a variety of things that they can be applying to that concept when we say that.

Tiana S. Clark: For me, I’ll just give one because I don’t want to take away from something that you might be thinking. But for me, for example, when my role in the Air Force was learning everything there is to know about air to air missiles, surface to air missiles, terrain masking and evading, that’s a technical aptitude. So while I might not have a computer science degree, I wasn’t joining Microsoft to be an engineer or a developer, I was joining Microsoft to have 100 level, 200 level technical aptitude. And I had already shown that I could do that, right? So that’s one example. Let’s hear from the rest of you. I don’t know if, Claudia, if you want to go first.

Claudia Weber: Sure, thank you. Two things that are extremely important. One, I would say dealing with change. Change is constant in our world and everything that we do, and being able to deal with change is critical regardless of your job position. The other, I think, is taking ownership, taking ownership to get things done, to drive things to success is critical as well. I think those two skills you can take to anything that you do and hope to be successful.

Tiana S. Clark: That is so true. That’s so true. Theresa, I think you were getting ready to … You were leaning in.

Theresa Piasta: Well, I had already spoken about resiliency and grit, but two that also come to mind between financial services and the tech industry that have been very helpful is diplomacy and knowing how to properly, as you mentioned, Tiana, having to properly advocate for your point, your team, your mission. To advocate for more resources to your senior leadership. I had to do that almost every day in Iraq, and you have to do it incredibly respectfully but still advocate for what you believe and what you need for your team.

Theresa Piasta: So that is something I have seen over and over again for the past 10 years in business related roles that I’ve been in. That is a really helpful skill that I got from the military.

Tiana S. Clark: That is extremely important. Molly?

Molly Laufer: Yeah, I actually … I’m really glad that you said that, Theresa, because I was also thinking in the kind of realm of people, relationship, and relationship management. First is the idea of not just having experience leading a team, but also having a lot of experience managing or navigating things up your chain of command. I know we don’t call it chain of command in the startup world, but managing up the chain of command as well as cross functionally.

Molly Laufer: Again, we might call it cross department. But thinking about all of the experiences that you had having to manage your boss and his boss and his boss. I guess I’m saying the word “his” a lot and that’s going to be part of my second point. But really being able to manage up, and then also manage kind of across the different departments in your division, I think that’s a skillset that translates really beautifully to the tech world because most companies are all about cross departmental collaboration.

Molly Laufer: Then the second point is just being comfortable being on a team that’s very diverse, and potentially managing a team that’s very diverse. I know we talk a lot about diversity in Silicon Valley, and some of us have specific notions about what diversity means, but from my experience one of the most unique managing experience that I had was that I had a sailor in my division who was much older than me.

Molly Laufer: In fact, the first thing he said to me was, “Ma’am, just so you know, I’ve been in the Navy longer than you’ve been alive.” And something along the lines of, “My kid is older than you.” So just being comfortable and able to not only manage, but work with people of different ages, of different backgrounds, is a skill set, that I think is incredibly important in Silicon Valley right now. You can have those little nuggets of examples and you can just whip them out of your pocket in an interview, in a conversation, and you can really point back to that managing in not only uncertain environments, but in really diverse environments.

Tiana S. Clark: I love that. Melissa?

Mellisa Walker: Sure. So I would say a big thing is problem solving, for me. So many times in the military you’re going to hear people say, “Just get it done, I don’t care how,” you know? Even when the task just seems impossible, like you would never be able to do that. You would usually just push it to the side if you weren’t going to get in trouble sort of thing.

Mellisa Walker: So when you’re in the tech world and you’re lost with all these new terms, you need to figure out how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and you need to figure out what you need to learn and how to do it. You can’t be messing up your manager’s schedule every time of the day when you don’t know how to do something. You need to figure out how you’re going to learn, sort of thing.

Mellisa Walker: So problem solving is big for me, and also just kind of the ability to roll with the punches. Sometimes you have to do things that you have no idea how it works on the back end, and you need to learn how to be okay with that and how to stay positive. Sometimes it’s kind of a joke in the military, your higher ups will go make you go outside and sweep dirt. It’s totally useless, and you don’t really understand why you’re doing it, but you need to be able to roll with the punches and be positive.

Tiana S. Clark: Absolutely. I want to touch on, this is something actually Melissa and Molly, you both hit on this. You talked about acronyms, and interestingly enough, so you all talked about it in terms of when you were in the civilian world, the tech world, and there’s all this new stuff coming at you. One of the tips that I’m going to leave with the audience today is also think about how you are articulating that value and your transferable skills to a potential employer.

Tiana S. Clark: We also have to watch our acronyms and our verbiage, right? So Molly talked about chain of command. That’s something that we may say in the military, not necessarily in civilian. The other thing is don’t just throw out, “Oh yeah, at the ASOC, we did this.” They’ll be like, “What does that mean?” So just making sure that you’re taking the examples that we heard today and speak of it in those terms.

Tiana S. Clark: Just make sure that you’re translating that into layman’s terms that people can understand. Otherwise, an amazing thing that you’ve done in the military, it may fall on deaf ears if they don’t understand what you’re talking about. Did anyone else want to comment on that or have any additional points to share or examples?

Claudia Weber: I’ll add to that, this is Claudia. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges I see with transition from the military or other careers is those adjacent skills and how we explain them. And being able to understand the skills that benefit the job you’re applying for or the career that you’re moving into is really important. Even when it doesn’t look like you have the experience, oftentimes it is those adjacent skills where you do have the experience. So, think in terms that are much more broader.

Tiana S. Clark: Yes. Even when you’re reading those job descriptions, be very diligent in making that connection. Don’t count yourself out and say, “Oh, I don’t think I can do this,” because you very well may have already done similar experience.

Tiana S. Clark: Another thing I want to touch on, I know some of you were officers, so meaning that you entered the military with a college degree. I just want to quickly, because we’ve had a previous session today where they talked about the percentage that’s declining of people who have degrees and so forth. So maybe just tell us, did everyone finish at least their Bachelor’s degree before leaving the military, if you didn’t already have it when you came in?

Mellisa Walker: I finished mine up after.

Tiana S. Clark: Okay.

Claudia Weber: I finished-

Tiana S. Clark: So in the last two years? Oh, go ahead.

Claudia Weber: I finished mine as I was leaving active duty, and then continued on later to a graduate degree.

Tiana S. Clark: Excellent.

Molly Laufer: Well, I graduated before I entered the Navy, but I think now that I can say nine years later, those four years in the military were far more formidable and impactful on my career and who I am today than the four years I had spent before that in undergrad. I really believe that that was my training ground and that was my education.

Tiana S. Clark: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Okay, let’s talk a little bit about the networking piece. So we’ve heard from myself and from Molly about networking. I want to first touch on when you came into this new world, as we mentioned before, like you got just dropped into. You’re like, “Where’s this?” Talk about the difference in team dynamics, right? Because I felt that in the military there was so much comradery and then you come into the civilian world and there’s a different type of network and there’s a different type of team dynamic. What did you all find to be the case in your experience?

Theresa Piasta: Tiana, I have learned that outside the military … Well first, I was in the military when Facebook was actually turned off and no one had LinkedIn, and when I was leaving and when I got back from Iraq and needed to network, someone recommended that I create a LinkedIn profile. So, that was a game changer for me, to network newly out of the service. In the Bay area, I don’t know someone who’s in the job or career right now that doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile, so if you don’t have one, highly recommend that. But in general, networking is so important to get the coffee chat.

Theresa Piasta: Even if you, I would argue, are currently in a career that you really enjoy and love, in order to continually understand what you should be doing to advocate for yourself when your quarterly or annual reviews, to recognize where you could go in the next two to three years, having those discussions with other people in a coffee meeting, et cetera. Whether you’re looking for a job or you’re not looking for a job, it’s just really important to do in the tech industry, I’ve found.

Tiana S. Clark: Yeah, absolutely. I just want to add a little bit more to what you’re saying about LinkedIn. I am on LinkedIn a lot, and just to give you all some tips, because some people are a little bit nervous about starting out in that social space. I’m really not into a lot of the other social platforms, so this one is just … It’s so beneficial to me professionally, so I am on LinkedIn a lot. But I would say make sure that you are connecting with people. You can do searches and finding someone in a career that maybe you are aspiring to enter into. Start building up your network early. The best thing you can do is build your network before you actually need it, right? We’ve got to make sure it already exists.

Tiana S. Clark: Then another thing, this is another tip. You can comment on people’s posts. That’s a way to engage with them. A lot of times they’ll say thank you or they’ll comment back. Then later on, a couple months down the line if we say, “Hey, let’s have a 15 minute virtual coffee,” which I like to do, it doesn’t seem like some stranger reached out to you. It’s like you’re starting to develop a rapport just by engaging with people a little bit on LinkedIn. So that’s just a couple of tips, but start early. Please don’t wait, because I have friends who literally just got out the military and they’re just now starting their LinkedIn page.

Tiana S. Clark: I’m like, “You should’ve worked on this a little bit earlier.” So just think about that. I think, Theresa, you just mentioned something about self advocacy, so I do want to talk about mobility in the military versus in the civilian world. For me, when I speak to large groups, often I talk about upward mobility in the military being a lot more objective. It was like you had a list of things you needed to do, so you’re just like, “Okay, check, check, check, check. Boom, I’m done. Give me my stripe.” But in the civilian world it’s very subjective. You have to figure out how to navigate this thing you absolutely have to advocate for yourself.

Tiana S. Clark: So would any of you, and maybe, Theresa, you can start since you brought it up, but I’d love to hear your experiences there.

Theresa Piasta: Yeah. When I was in banking, it was clear that as I mentored more junior employees that they thought it was a structure. “Oh, I’ll meet this and then I’ll get promoted. I’ll have this happen.” Those who didn’t advocate for themselves, their bosses may have thought that they were fine and instead, if they only could promote one person or two people a year, what happens, they have to put a lot of their energy or their one vote to somebody else who really was advocating for themselves. Whether or not that happens with that case every way, I just saw it enough that, talk to people, get over coffee chat. If you really like your current job but you’re thinking about that next stop and trying to get that promotion, et cetera, focusing on mobility and moving upward in your career, building a board of advisors, personal board of advisors. Or people in your network to help train you through that process. Again, I mentioned diplomacy before. You want to do it in a diplomatic way with your senior leadership while advocating for yourself.

Rachel Jones: All right, so we do want to leave a little time for questions from the audience. Our first question comes from someone who is an engineer with a PhD in Biology. They say they get a lot of comments that they’re confused, so how do you communicate that being a jack of all trades can actually be just as valuable or even more valuable than being an expert at just one skill?

Molly Laufer: I guess I’ll jump in and take that since that was my line that got me into the tech world, and that is I think even when you are a jack of all trades, you have to have really specific concrete examples of the things that you’ve done. Whether that’s the impact that you’ve made, something that you’ve started, a process that you’ve improved, a new skill set that you’ve picked up. So that’s,, I think the first thing, is that even when you’re considered that jack of all, being able to have really specific examples.

Molly Laufer: Then the second thing that I would say is it has to be directed towards the right opportunity. That’s where my mismatch really was at the beginning, was that I was trying to find an opportunity as this jack of all trades in an environment where something specific was needed. So my recommendation would be to seek out somewhere where the sort of expert is not needed in that regard and they really are looking for someone who can come in, own multiple things, own different challenges, pick up different projects.

Molly Laufer: Then it becomes a better match for that skillset. When there isn’t that match there of what it is that you’ve done and what it is that they’re looking for, no matter if you’re an engineer, if you were in the military, if your background is in literature, you were an editor, when there’s that mismatch there, it’s just never going to work. So you have to kind of find the right environment to pitch the value of being a jack of all trades.

Rachel Jones: Great. Our next question, what’s one skill that you wish you had had before beginning your transition?

Mellisa Walker: I can answer this one. I kind of already answered it in the Q&A, so if someone else wants to jump in and kind of give their point of view, please go ahead. But you know, what I put is really leveraging my military experience as a positive thing and what I bring to the table. Coming in here, like I said, when I was 27, I didn’t know what was going on.

Mellisa Walker: I immediately put myself behind the other people on my team just because I didn’t deserve to be on the forefront. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t have any experience in the tech world, and I kept bringing myself down for no reason at all. It took me a year or two in this role to really find my confidence and look back and look at this role that I knew nothing about, and now I’m really flourishing in because I’m able to learn on the job and get things done.

Mellisa Walker: So that’s,, I guess what I would say as my skill, is kind of just to make sure that we are giving ourselves enough credit, because we can get stuff done.

Rachel Jones: Does anyone else have an answer for this one? Okay, we can move on. So our next question … Oh sorry, Theresa, were you about to say something?

Theresa Piasta: Oh, whenever somebody wants to learn anything, like with Adobe products or just teaching yourself new skills if you’re looking at that transition. As a startup founder, Adobe products have been so incredibly helpful to me. On the other side too, if you can learn how to code, those skills are incredibly valuable at startups or somewhere else in the tech industry. So taking up those extra classes, et cetera, what you’re learning today, those technical skills are very valued here.

Rachel Jones: Great. Did you expect your military service to be a stepping stone into your civilian careers, and if so were you surprised when you got out and didn’t see a clear path immediately?

Mellisa Walker: Well, I personally did not want my military experience to be my job. I was in supply aviation, which is a glorified warehouse. So I could be in supply logistics, I could do that right now and have a very easy transition. I could be picked up by those people, and I had all the requirements, but I didn’t want to do that. So I pretty much threw everything else that I learned in the military out the window. I was like, “I have to start fresh. I’m going to go to school, get my marketing degree, and I’m going to go into the fashion corporate world and kind of do my own thing.”

Mellisa Walker: So going back on really leveraging what I learned in the military, and I was able to have this really awesome opportunity here at Workday at the CAP program, and that’s based completely off of my military experience, it kind of just brought me back to doing that.

Theresa Piasta: If there are any [crosstalk 00:44:07] I highly recommend just looking at those who have veteran background, as everyone here has been talking about, that the transition of being able to think quickly on your feet and making impact and being that activator and making change, and doing things in harsh environments, veterans can bring a lot to the table. So if you see veteran applications coming your way, consider all those skills that they can bring to the team too, and that they can learn up really quickly.

Tiana S. Clark: Yeah, absolutely. One thing that I also just wanted to mention, at Microsoft we do have a program that you all might find interesting. You can look this up on Bing, not Google. It’s called The Microsoft Software and Systems Academy. It’s an 18 week program that provides training in, I think it’s three different areas. Cloud, application development, cyber security, and then server and cloud administration. So just something to think about. You can go look that up and find a program near you.

Rachel Jones: Great. Well thank you so much, ladies. And thank you for your service. I also want to say a quick thank you to Charles Way Stewart from Workday for providing the inspiration for this panel and helping us put it together. Yeah, so that is the end of this panel. Yeah, stick around for a quick wrap up from the Girl Geek X team.

AI Overlords, Battling Covid-19 and Algorithmic Bias: a conversation about the importance of Human Goodness in AI.

Julie Shin Choi, VP & GM of AI Marketing at Intel AI, at Girl Geek X, Elevate 2020

On Friday, March 6th, senior female tech leaders & engineers came together to celebrate International Women’s Day with over a dozen tech talks & panels during the Girl Geek X Elevate 2020 virtual conference. Today’s blog includes takeaways from a talk by Julie Shin Choi, VP & GM of Artificial Intelligence Products & Research Marketing at Intel AI. Prior to joining Intel, Julie led product marketing at HPE, Mozilla, and Yahoo. In addition to the YouTube video replay, a full transcript from Julie’s talk is also available.

One of the reasons that Julie Shin Choi chose to join Intel, she told us, was the opportunity and the scale that Intel’s AI technology platform would provide from a career perspective, but she never anticipating falling in love with the people of Intel.

“It is really this human goodness at Intel that keeps me here.”

One of the things that we’ve learned in recent years is that AI is a powerful agent for helping people around the world. Intel CEO Bob Swan shared an example from the Red Cross earlier this year at CES. As we all know, the Red Cross is an amazing relief organization dedicated to helping people in times of disaster.

Julie explains that Intel, the Red Cross, Mila (an AI think tank in Montreal), and other organizations recently formed a data science partnership alliance — their objective was to map unmapped parts of Uganda and to identify, through deep learning, different bridges that the Red Cross could take to deliver aid in times of disaster.

In addition to viral outbreaks (a case of Ebola emerged last June), Uganda is also prone to severe flooding.

“Bridges are often washed out or impassable,” said Red Cross CEO Dale Kunce. That “can mean that your 20-minute drive all of a sudden becomes several hours.”

Ultimately, Intel and their data partners were able to examine huge satellite images and come up with algorithms that could automatically identify bridges that could be utilized by disaster relief workers — they labelled and identified over 70 previously unmapped bridges in southern Uganda.

This is just one example of why human goodness matters when we think about AI application development. There are endless applications, some of which are especially current and relevant right now.

AI is playing a huge role in fighting the spread of Covid-19.

Everyone has heard about and is taking precautions against the global Covid-19 pandemic, but are we talking about the important role AI is playing in fighting the spread of this deadly virus?

“Globally,” Julie informs us, “We’re using big data — we’re analyzing different databases of where people have gone and the different symptoms that they may present.”

State, federal and local governments are turning to big data to make policy decisions and measure the impact and effectiveness of their policies in near real-time.

“One novel use case that we [at Intel AI] identified in Singapore is of a company that’s using IoT [Internet of Things] technology to help scan people and identify thermal readings — so basically fevers — without human contact.

Intel AI’s technology is powering thermal screening that’s helping keep people safe by catching more Covid-19 cases earlier, and with less manual input from healthcare professionals.

This AI-aided screening method is proving to be about three to four times more efficient, so they can scan 7 to 10 people with this AI device, as compared to using human healthcare practitioners. They’re able to free up limited resources and keep more healthcare workers on the front lines where they’re most needed right now.”

The utilization of AI is really helping manage a lot of the issues related to coronavirus in Singapore.

We’re seeing other innovations like this cropping up all around the world as technologists team up with big data partners, healthcare providers and policy makers to help track and slow the spread of Covid-19.

AI is new to us, so folks sometimes fear the capabilities… but our kids understand it. And they’re the ones who will be programming them.

“I have two children, 8 and 12. A couple of months ago, we were talking about the world, and the one in junior high, he said, ‘Well, I think that my generation is going to be spending most of its time solving the problems that your generation created.'”

Julie continued, “And then my little one, who’s still in elementary, chimed in right away, and he said, ‘With the help of our AI overlords, right?’

These kids already, they’re so aware, and I think the advice to our children would be to really read books, play with one another, learn how to have friends from many different backgrounds, become the best humans they can be, because it’s not going to be robot overlords. We’re going to need good humans to program those AIs.

Good humans are the key.

“In AI, good humans are needed because it’s such a powerful technology and it’s such an accelerant that really depends on algorithms at the heart, and these algorithms are coded based on assumptions that we make about data.

AI starts with data but ends with humans. It’s technology that’s being built for humans. I think it’s very important that we partner with people who really understand the human problems that we’re trying to solve. We need to partner with domain experts.”

AI is going to take a diversity of talents and tools.

There’s really no one size fits all, Julie explains: “We’re going to need CPUs, GPUs, FPGAs, these are all different kinds of hardware. Tiny edge processors. We’re going to need a host of different software tools. We’re going to need data scientists and social scientists, psychologists and physicists, marketers and coders to all work together to come up with solutions that are creative. It’s really going to take a village. Be open-minded.”

“And let us always be thoughtful,” she added.

“I know that in Silicon Valley, people often say it’s important to go fast and to fail fast, but in AI, I don’t think so. I think we need to take time. We should be thoughtful and really, really careful and considerate about the assumptions we make as we create the tools that create the algorithms that feed the AIs.”

Good humans will be needed every step of the way.

A lot of people worry that AI is going to take our jobs and replace humans.

Julie Shin Choi, Vice President & General Manager, AI Marketing at Intel AI

“I’m a firm believer that AI will not be replacing humans, it will be augmenting humans. So it’s helping us, not replacing us.

For example, radiology is a major transformation area that’s being transformed by AI faster than most because of the applicability of computer vision for x-ray imaging. “But what we’re seeing is that physicians actually are welcoming the help of AI. It’s a great double check.

When you have a 97% accurate algorithm that’s going to ensure that your patient gets the right diagnosis — even though the algorithm is sometimes even more accurate than you, especially if you’re tired — it’s an absolutely phenomenal double check. The end goal for the human in that case, in medicine, is to go and help that patient with the most accurate information that the human doctor has.

What we’re seeing is that AI is helpful to humanity. It’s truly an augmenting type of technology and not a replacement.”

We talk a lot about the impact of bias in AI and how to limit it.

“Bias is certainly a problem and it’s something that we, as a community of technologists, policy makers and social scientists — all different backgrounds — we need to attack this together.

A lot of it just comes down to being intentional. There are audits of algorithms. There are ethics checklists, actually. There are best practices that have been set up, and I can actually introduce [the Girl Geek X community] to Intel’s AI for Good leader, Anna Bethke, who is an expert in this domain and a wealth of knowledge.

We need to address bias with intentional and very purposeful conversations, because again, the algorithms are based on assumptions that humans code. So the only way that we can eradicate and deal with the bias issue is by talking to one another. The right experts in the room ensuring and asking, ‘have we checked that bias off the list?’

Don’t just assume that coders know how to create a fair algorithm. I don’t think we can assume that. This is a very intentional action that we need to build into our AI development life cycles. The bias check.”

For more from Julie Shin Choi, watch the full video on YouTube, read the transcript of Julie’s talk during Girl Geek X Elevate, or follow her on Twitter.

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“Intel AI Coffee Break: Making Connections at Work”: Banu Nagasundaram with Intel AI (Video + Transcript)

Transcript of Elevate 2020 Session

Angie Chang: We are back. In this Intel AI coffee Break, we will hear from Banu about optimizing connections to win at work. Take it away.

Banu Nagasundaram: Hey everybody, thank you for having me here and I’m very excited to be sharing what I have. Today, I just wanted to share with you a little bit of who I am, my background, and how do I use connections in order to provide value, and add value to those in my network. So, with that a little bit about me. So I started off in 2006 in STMicroelectronics, and moved through different semiconductor companies.

Banu Nagasundaram: So, I’ve always been a semiconductor girl moving through these different roles that I have had in manufacturing, in design, in engineering roles. And from within Intel, in the last four years, I transitioned from an engineering to a product marketing role, and I’ll go through a little bit more of that, as well. So currently I work in the Intel AI group, where we focus on multiple technologies across the company, be it like evangelizing our products, hardware, software, having the ecosystem work with us, and then also focus on the software products for AI, where we are putting our customer needs first, and building the industry standard open platforms.

Banu Nagasundaram: And then of course, the hardware where we have a focus on AI products from the edge, which is user touch devices, hardware for those, up to the data centers, either in the enterprise or in the cloud segment. So this is the landscape, within which I fit in. So, to give you some background about my role in this landscape, I work, like I mentioned, in a product marketing role, and the best way that I have realized to explain my role to people, is that I’m like a Netflix within the organization. On one side, where you have content generators, and content producers, and Netflix connects them to consumers. In the same way I connect with engineers, and product managers on one end, who are closer to the hardware and software products we build.

Banu Nagasundaram: I learn from them, I work with them in order to aggregate content. I create content myself and then evangelize it on the other end, to the customers across different segments, and different modes and channels to reach those customers, evangelize our products, our use case to our ecosystem of software developers. And then I also work closely with the sales team, where I translate the value prop of our products to sales in our organization.

Banu Nagasundaram: In this background and landscape, one of the things that I’ve taken upon myself is that I’m also a student at Berkeley Haas. I’m currently doing my MBA program. And on a typical day, this is how I look, trying to juggle the school, work, and life. And I know many of you may relate to this graphic here, but this is me trying to balance the different opportunities, and the different learnings that I have across the board. And as I go through this, one of the things that I’ve realized that has helped me be successful in building this balance, has been the power of the connections.

Banu Nagasundaram: And the best way to explain that, I felt was through a Candy Crush analogy. So most of you know this game, it’s on the phone where you connect candies of the same color, so that you get points. So this is how I interpret my role, is I help make connections between people across the board, that is relevant. They may have needs which are mapped to, maybe the colors on the board at a given point. And when I make these connections or try to bring people together, then there are associated network effects that happen on the side because of the connection that I enabled. One thing that is different from that of a Candy Crush environment to what happens in real life at work is that I’ve had to build this board for myself.

Banu Nagasundaram: Who are these people who I can rely on, who I know have… And what are the qualities that they have to offer, and connecting whom with whom makes most sense, is something I have had to figure out throughout my career in terms of building that board, and making those connections. One of the examples when I’m asked is, how to think out of the box in order to make connections. Let’s say you are looking for your next role or an opportunity, and you come across an executive VP in that process, who says they’re hiring for a VP. Hey, maybe you can connect your current manager to that executive VP to make that network happen. Even if there is nothing in it for you, but you are acting as an agent in order making that connections that makes you a better networker.

Banu Nagasundaram: And that is what has helped me throughout my career to achieve the best out of the network that I’ve built. But through this, it’s not been of course, a smooth ride. All of us face challenges every day in terms of pushing forward or trying to get to the solution or facing failures and trying to bounce back from it. That portion is what I define as resilience. They are able to push the ceiling and take control of the situation, and then find the solution in that situation, and bounce back. That has been the resilience part. But what I’ve learned through my years of working in large corporations has been that resilience is one part of it. But when you are faced with opportunities that try and test you, what are the opportunities you can find to grow in those is key.

Banu Nagasundaram: So what I mean by that is, as an example, in 2015-2016 time frame, the organization that I was in went through a lot of changes in terms of organizational movement. I used that as an opportunity to explore, how I can switch from an engineering role to a marketing role. What are the skills that are needed? I took public speaking classes, I did a technical course in AI, and I built my profile and used that tumultuous situation as an opportunity to grow. 

Banu Nagasundaram: That is how the analogy of starfish plays into the picture, where you are finding that opportunity or the challenge that is posed to you as a way to regenerate and move forward. So, that is most of what I had to share today. And in this process, a lot of people have been super supportive in helping me grow, and as I make these connections, there’s more people who offered to help, and you just build that network in a Candy Crush environment and think of yourself as the starfish and you’re able to grow.

Banu Nagasundaram: And that’s been my experience. So with that, I’m open to answering any questions you may have and you may also reach out to me on LinkedIn. Feel free to ping me, and we can connect through that. And quickly, for the lift as you climb theme, I also have my VP who has helped me climb and who has lifted me through this process and she’s talking later today, Julie Choi, and I’m excited to hear from her.

Angie Chang: Awesome. Wonderful. We are out of time. In fact, we’re running a little over into Julie’s time. So, I just wanted to say thank you so much to Intel AI for being a sponsor of Girl Geek X Elevate and to check out their job opportunities at And now we will be going to our next speaker. So thank you so much, Banu-

Banu Nagasundaram: Thank you.

Angie Chang: … For your talk and we’ll be back soon. Thank you.

“In AI, Human Goodness Matters”: Julie Shin Choi with Intel AI (Video + Transcript)

Transcript of Elevate 2020 Session

Rachel Jones: Doing our afternoon keynote is Julie Shin Choi. Julie is the Vice President and General Manager of artificial intelligence products and research marketing at Intel Corporation. Prior to Intel, she led product marketing at HP, Mozilla, and Yahoo. So we are so excited to have Julie’s expertise this afternoon. She will be talking about how, in AI, human goodness matters. So welcome Julie.

Julie Shin Choi: Thanks so much. So let me just… I do have some slides. All right everyone. It is really good to be here with you today. Thank you so much for the intro. I am so glad to be here. It is Women’s History Month and in two days we’ll be celebrating International Women’s Day and what better way than to be together here at Girl Geek X Elevate Virtual Conference. Thank you so much to the Girl Geek X team and everyone behind the scenes for giving us this platform and this opportunity to connect. So let me share a little bit about myself. I am a VP at Intel, responsible for AI marketing, but really it’s been a long journey to get to this point. I absolutely love the job that I’m in and I thought it would be good to just share a little bit about that journey.

Julie Shin Choi: It’s been a 20 year career in tech, so far, mostly in Silicon Valley. I started my career in Boston and moved to the Valley in 2003, I think, so I’ve been here for about 17 years. When I thought about how my career has unfolded, I created this two by two, basically dividing the way I’ve been focusing my energy over the past 21 years. And as you can see, it’s an interesting graph that shows roughly 50% of the energy has been around life and 50% has been around career, and there’s different peaks and dips in how much I spend on each of these portions. But what’s been fascinating is that life and career converge in the same space time continuum, and it’s been an incredible journey. What I’ve learned about career and life is that it really is a series of choices that lead to opportunities and that these opportunities ultimately have led me to personal and career learning and growth.

Julie Shin Choi: So a very important choice that I made in 2016 was to join Intel, and joining Intel really did… It was a rocket ship moment for me. By that point, I joined Intel, I was a director at HPE prior to Intel. That was an amazing time as well. In between HPE and Intel, I met a startup called Nirvana and the CEO and the founding team of that startup and they got acquired into Intel and asked me to help do this AI thing at Intel. I did not know much about Intel other than it was the giant of computer processors and a hardware company and it was just too much of an opportunity to pass up. And so that choice was really profound because it led me to begin the AI journey with Intel. And we’ve come such a long way in the past nearly four years and we have evolved to really understand our place in the AI universe.

Julie Shin Choi: This is just a small slide. I want to thank Banu for the excellent talk she just gave. I had a chance to listen in and I’m just going to say a little bit because she did such a great explanation, but Intel AI, you can think of it as all the parts that you would need as a technologist, from hardware to enabling software to the memory, storage, and fabric. So many components go into building AI, and Intel is massively passionate and committed to building those components so that we can power this AI evolution and transformation across virtually every industry. But one of the reasons that I chose Intel was the opportunity and the scale that this technology platform would provide from a career perspective, but I did not anticipate that I would also fall in love with the people of Intel.

Julie Shin Choi: It is really this human goodness at Intel that keeps me here. At Intel we are really building technology to enrich the lives of every person on earth, that’s what Bob says, and I really believe that and I think it’s for the team that I remain, and it’s an incredible team. So let’s talk about some of the work that the team is doing. The title of this talk was “AI and the Importance of Human Goodness,” and one of the things that we’ve learned over the past three years is that AI is a powerful agent for helping people around the world, and this example comes to us from the Red Cross. We shared this example earlier this year at CES. Bob actually talked about it and there’s a video and I will tweet the video out after this talk, but basically this partnership is between Red Cross. Everyone knows Red Cross, it’s just an amazing relief organization dedicated to helping people in times of disaster.

Julie Shin Choi: And this partnership between Intel and Red Cross, as well as Mila, which is an AI think tank in Montreal, and other organizations, basically it was a data science partnership alliance, and the end result and objective was to map unmapped parts of Uganda and to identify, through deep learning, different bridges that relief agency Red Cross could take in times of disaster. At the end of the day, we were able to examine huge satellite images and come up with algorithms that could automatically identify the bridges, over 70 bridges in Uganda. So this is our first example of why human goodness matters when we think about AI application development. The second example is a little bit more current and relevant. I’m sure everyone has heard about and is taking precaution against the coronavirus epidemic that’s going on globally. And basically, what’s important is to use AI right now. Globally, we’re using big data, we’re analyzing different databases of where people have gone and the different symptoms that they may present.

Julie Shin Choi: But one novel use case that we identified in Singapore is of a company that’s using IoT technology to help scan people and identify thermal readings, so basically fevers, without human contact. And this is proving to be about three to four times more efficient, so we can scan 7 to 10 people with this AI device, as compared to using human healthcare practitioners. So in this way AI is really helping manage a lot of the issues related to coronavirus in Singapore. And we see other innovations like this cropping up all around the world. Another example of the intersection of AI and human goodness can be found in a collaboration between a company named Hoobox and Intel. Hoobox is a really fascinating company based in Latin America with North American operations as well, and they are dedicated to robotics for helping people with mobility issues and other novel uses of computer vision to aid humans, and this use case is a fascinating one where we collaborated with Hoobox. Intel provided the hardware, so you can see a camera here, it’s a RealSense camera, as well as a micro controller, so Intel NUC, and the Intel camera and the microcontroller were used to help detect up to 11 facial expressions.

Julie Shin Choi: So now the wheelchair user can operate and move using his own facial expressions. This is a whole new range of mobility that was unlocked because of AI. Such a powerful and memorable use case, and it’s just another example of the intersection of AI and human goodness. One more example from the field of healthcare, and I’m really passionate about healthcare and the AI applications that we’re seeing. This application that we see here is found… Again, it’s a collaboration between Intel and GE Healthcare, and in this case, what we see are deep learning algorithms that are inferenced at the edge in this powerful x-ray scanning machine. And the purpose here is to use AI and deep learning to identify cases of pneumothorax, or lung collapse, in record time. And the objective here is to augment physicians and to help prioritize cases so that doctors can get to people who are at higher risk faster than before. And this is really also helpful for parts of the world where doctors are scarce. So places like Asia and Africa, where the percentage of doctors is so low, and this type of AI can really help physicians get to patients much more quickly.

Julie Shin Choi: And one last example I want to bring up is the power and role that AI can have an accelerating diversity and inclusion. Last week, I had the privilege to go to North Carolina and attend an inclusion leadership summit that was organized by Lenovo and Intel’s chief diversity officers. And as we met, we brainstormed ways that AI could be used to eradicate bias in hiring practices, to accelerate ensuring that we have diverse and qualified candidates joining us and our organizations. We had a host of different chief diversity and inclusion officers in the room, as well as experts from law and policy and just AI research. So again, proving that when we bring disciplines together, we can really learn from one another to accelerate the kind of change that we all want to see at our companies.

Julie Shin Choi: So I want to kind of close with a summary slide on key takeaways and then we can have a conversation. In AI, good humans are needed because it’s such a powerful technology and it’s such an accelerant that really depends on algorithms at the heart, and these algorithms are coded based on assumptions that we make about data. So number one, we have to keep in mind, AI starts with data but ends with humans. It’s technology that’s being built for humans. So let us keep the end in mind as we design our AI products and solutions and keep the humans in the loop. Number two, I think it’s very important that we partner with people who really understand the human problems that we’re trying to solve. The Red Cross example, it couldn’t have been possible without the wealth of information that the Red Cross had, and it was truly a cross disciplinary effort. So we need to partner with domain experts.

Julie Shin Choi: Number three, be open-minded. AI is going to take a diversity of talents and tools. There’s really no one size fits all. We’re going to need CPUs, GPUs, FPGAs, these are all different kinds of hardware. Tiny edge processors. We’re going to need a host of different software tools. We’re going to need data scientists and social scientists, psychologists and physicists, marketers and coders to all work together to come up with solutions that are creative. It’s really going to take a village. And finally, let us be thoughtful. I know that in Silicon Valley people often say it’s important to go fast and to fail fast, but in AI, I don’t think so. I think we need to take time. We should be thoughtful and really, really careful and considerate about the assumptions we make as we create the tools that create the algorithms that feed the AIs. And certainly good humans will be needed every step of the way. So that is my last slide and I’m going to just now thank you all for listening and open up for questions.

Rachel Jones: Thank you so much, Julie. That was really fascinating. So yeah, everyone please send your questions. I’ve seen some people sending questions into the chat, but please make sure you’re putting them into the actual Q&A, that way people can upvote your questions and make sure that they get asked. So now our first question, is there any industry that you see where AI isn’t being used and what can humans do to bring AI into that industry?

Julie Shin Choi: Yeah, I mean that’s a great question. And honestly, we are seeing AI impacting virtually every industry that our customers are engaged in, from healthcare, to life sciences, to transportation, to retail, to finance, robotics, manufacturing. So most of those classic enterprise verticals are being transformed, are going through their AI transformations. What I will say is it’s still early days, even though it’s been about… I mean, I’ve been working in this space for five years. I always kind of mark that beginning… When you talk to researchers, they’ll say the beginning of AI really was deep learning, which really was 2012, but I kind of count from 2015, because that’s when Google really came out loud and proud as a machine learning company. So virtually every industry is being impacted by AI. Still early days. We’re about five years in and it’ll probably take the rest of, certainly my lifetime, the most of our lifetime, to kind of get to the maturity level that this technology is capable of.

Rachel Jones: Wow. So our next question, a concern that a lot of people have when they hear about AI is, “Oh, this is going to take all of our jobs and replace all the humans.” So what are your thoughts on that kind of anxiety?

Julie Shin Choi: I mean it’s very popular to say that, but I’m a firm believer that AI will not be replacing humans, it will be augmenting humans. So it’s helping us, not replacing us, because the whole… What we’re seeing, even in radiology, for example, radiology is a major transformation area that’s being transformed by AI faster than most because of the applicability of computer vision for x-ray imaging. But what we’re seeing is that physicians actually are welcoming the help of AI. It’s a great double check. When you have a 97% accurate algorithm that’s going to ensure that your patient gets the right diagnosis, even though the algorithm is sometimes even more accurate than you, especially if you’re tired, it’s an absolutely phenomenal double check, and so the end goal for the human in that case, in medicine, is to go and help that patient with the most accurate information that the human doctor has. So what we’re seeing is AI is truly helpful. It’s truly an augmenting type of technology and not a replacement.

Rachel Jones: All right. We just got another question. So this person says, “My daughter is still young, and if you had to mentor her so she’s prepared for the new AI world, what would you tell her?”

Julie Shin Choi: Yeah, that’s a great question. I have two children as well. I have 8 and 12. It’s funny, I will share an anecdote from dinner. A couple of months ago we were talking about the world and I have a junior high and an elementary, and the junior high, he said, “Well, I think that my generation is going to be spending most of its time solving the problems that your generation created.” And then my little one, who’s still elementary, chimed in right away, and he said, “With the help of our AI overlords, right?” These kids already, they’re so aware, and I think the advice to our children would be to really read books, play with one another, learn how to have friends from many different backgrounds, become the best humans they can be, because it’s not going to be robot overlords. We’re going to need good humans to program those AIs.

Rachel Jones: What’s the best way to learn AI?

Julie Shin Choi: Okay, so you guys probably have heard of Dr Andrew Ng and Coursera. Everything from on demand digital learning courses like the ones that Dr Andrew Ng pioneered, to tutorials on Intel’s AI website. There is so much knowledge out there right now around machine learning and deep learning that’s friendly for all levels and certainly Intel, we’re very committed to investing in preparing that kind of content and training. But I would encourage folks to check out all of those resources. We have certifications on our Intel developer community resources and we can connect you to those types of classes that take you step by step. Another partner organization that we like to work with on content delivery is O’Reilly Media. They have great courses online. A lot of these resources are free. I would say similar to the mobile revolution, when iOS and Android, all of those tutorials were popping up and hackathons every other day, we’re kind of seeing the same type of resources becoming available for AI and AI developers.

Rachel Jones: How pervasive is AI in the transportation industry?

Julie Shin Choi: Yeah, transportation is another really fascinating domain. Autonomous vehicles are a huge vertical being invested in. A lot of startup investment, a lot of institutional effort as well, so your established car companies and even airplane companies and shipping companies. We have a great use case from Rolls Royce that we’ve shared in the past. I didn’t realize that Rolls Royce also did transatlantic oceanic transportation autonomously, but they do, and it’s running on Intel. So transportation is going through a renaissance. It’s amazing. I think that actually–my husband works for an autonomous transportation startup, but again, early days. I always tell him, “You take that self-driving ride. For me, I think I’ll wait a little bit longer.” It’s still early days. A lot of innovation, a lot of promise and, yes, transportation is getting transformed.

Rachel Jones: So a big part of the AI conversation is about bias and how it can affect it. So what are your thoughts on that and how to limit bias in AI?

Julie Shin Choi: Yes, and bias is certainly a problem and it’s something that we, as a community of technologists and policymakers and social scientists, all different backgrounds, we need to attack this together. This was something that we discussed at the diversity and inclusion conference last week. A lot of it just comes down to let’s… There’s audits of algorithms. There’s ethics checklists, actually.

Julie Shin Choi: There are best practices that have been set up and I can actually introduce this community to our AI for Good leader, Anna Bethke, who is an expert in this domain and a wealth of knowledge. But we need to address bias with intentional and very purposeful conversations, because again, the algorithms are based on assumptions that humans code. So the only way that we can eradicate and deal with the bias issue is by talking to one another. The right experts in the room ensuring that have we checked that bias off the list? Don’t just assume that the coders know how to create a fair algorithm. I don’t think we can assume that. This is a very intentional action that we need to build into our AI development life cycles. The bias check.

Rachel Jones: All right. This is where we’re going to wrap it up. But Julie, thank you so much again. This was really great.

Julie Shin Choi: Okay. Thank you guys so much. Have a great day. Happy International Women’s Day.

Rachel Jones: Thank you. Happy International Women’s Day.

Best of Elevate 2020 Videos – From Imposter Syndrome to Managing Managers, and the Diversity Imperative!

The 3rd annual Elevate virtual Conference in March 2020 hosted over 3,000 people from 42 countries around the world—the largest gathering yet of mid-to-senior women in tech (48% of attendees have 10+ years of work experience, 28% have 15+ years) celebrating International Women’s Day via Zoom web conferencing. By the numbers, Elevate hosted four keynote speakers, 17 sessions, 32 speakers, seven sponsors. Check out their jobs—they are hiring!

Watch the Top 10 Highest-Rated Sessions on YouTube!

Based on the votes of attendees in the post-event survey, here are the top-rated talks:

  1. What’s Holding You Back Might Be You: Imposter Syndrome – Sara Varni of Twilio
  2. The Link Between the Future of Work, Education and Care – Jomayra Herrera of Cowboy Ventures
  3. Military Transition: Vets in Tech – Claudia Weber of Intel AI, Mellisa Walker of Workday, Molly Laufer of HomeLight, Theresa Piasta of Puppy Mama, and Tiana Clark of Microsoft
  4. Leveling Up: Becoming a Manager of Managers – Arquay Harris of Slack, Bora Chung of, Gretchen DeKnikker of Girl Geek X, and Ines Thornburg of Splunk
  5. Jumpstarting Your ML Journey in Cyber Security – Melisa Napoles of Splunk
  6. Investing In Others – Erica Lockheimer and Shalini Agarwal of LinkedIn
  7. Lift As You Climb: Morning Keynote – Carin Taylor of Workday
  8. The Imperative of Diversity in Clinical Trials – Alekhya Pochiraju of Genentech
  9. Every Job is a D&I Job. Every. Job. – Aubrey Blanche of Culture Amp
  10. Girl Geeks Gone Gov – Lisa Koenigsberg and Martha Wilkes of United States Digital Service

The Girl Geek X Team livestreamed 2020 Elevate virtual conference: Gretchen DeKnikker (COO), Rachel Jones (Podcast Producer), Sukrutha Bhadouria (CTO), and Angie Chang (CEO).

Special Thank You To Elevate 2020 Sponsoring Companies

Thank you to the warm folks at Intel AI, Checkr, Workday, United States Digital Service, Intuit, Splunk and The Climate Corporation for supporting Girl Geek X: Elevate 2020 virtual conference!

Don’t forget to check out their jobs—they are hiring!

Sponsor A Virtual Girl Geek Dinner in 2020

We have been excited to bring Girl Geek Dinners virtually to sheltering-at-home girl geeks globally during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Similar to Elevate, we are looking for sponsors for virtual Girl Geek Dinners on Zoom. In the sponsorship prospectus, please note the sponsorship benefits grid on the final page for “REACH Webcast”.

We have hosted three virtual conferences successfully and are excited to partner with companies on virtual Girl Geek Dinners with our community of over 20,000 women in tech.

Email us at to learn more about sponsoring a virtual Girl Geek Dinner in 2020!

Thank you,

Angie Chang