Good News for the Oil and Gas Industry

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37% of U.S.-based companies surveyed expect to hire new employees in 2019

Looking for a strong industry that is poised for growth and offers a secure, bright future ahead? There’s good news in the global petroleum—or oil and gas—industry. Senior oil and gas professionals in the United States are among the global experts who are confident about the outlook for the oil and gas industry in 2019. Companies across the country are preparing for significant increases in capital expenditure over the coming year. That’s according to DNV GL, a Denmark-based, internationally accredited registrar and classification society that provides risk management and quality assurance services to the maritime, oil and gas, and power and renewables industries.

Full of confidence and buoyed by favorable government energy policies, the majority of senior oil and gas professionals in the United States—71 percent—agree that more large, capital-intensive oil and gas projects will be approved this year than in 2018.

These findings have been published in A Test of Resilience, DNV GL’s ninth annual benchmark study on the outlook for the oil and gas industry. The research is based on a global survey of nearly 800 senior oil and gas professionals and in-depth interviews with industry leaders.

The United States has the highest expectation of capital expenditure increases out of all countries and regions analyzed in DNV GL’s study. As many as 43 percent of respondents from the United States aim to increase capital spending in 2019, compared to just 23 percent a year ago. By contrast, only 30 percent of respondents globally expect to see a rise in capital expenditures this year. There are similarly optimistic findings for operating expenditure, with the 31 percent predicting increased expenditures in the United States outstripping both last year’s 20 percent tally and the 22 percent expectation level globally in 2019.

“Surging oil and gas industry confidence in the United States is built on the foundation of improved financial resilience due to hard-earned cost efficiencies, cost discipline, best practice, collaboration, standardization and the continued recovery and stabilization of oil and gas prices for most of 2018,” said Frank Ketelaars, Regional Manager, the Americas, DNV GL–Oil & Gas.

As the oil and gas industry prepares to increase capital and operational spending, DNV GL’s research reveals that companies in the United States also risk relaxing their tight grip on the cost efficiencies established during the recent market downturn. The proportion of respondents whose organizations will assign top priority to cost efficiency this year has fallen from 35 percent in 2018 to 15 percent in 2019; the lowest globally. In turn, the old spending habits that affected the sector during the pre-2014 period of high oil prices may be returning. A whopping 42 percent of respondents in the United States believe that suppliers will drive notable price inflation this year.

And what does that mean for the industry? Good news—hiring will be on the rise. Senior oil and gas industry professionals report they are looking to recruit new talent this year: 37 percent of U.S.-based respondents expect to hire new employees in 2019, compared to just 20 percent in 2018. New DNV GL research shows that 85 percent of gas and oil industry leaders in the United States are optimistic about the industry’s growth prospects in the year ahead, up sharply from 60 percent in 2018. This compares with 76 percent reporting confidence among respondents globally.

Key Trends for 2019

  • 85% of oil and gas industry leaders in the United States are optimistic about the industry’s growth prospects in the year ahead, compared to 60% going into 2018

 

  • 71% expect more large, capital-intensive oil and gas projects to be approved this year than in 2018

 

  • 42% believe suppliers will drive notable price increases this year

 

  • 15% say cost efficiency is a top priority for their companies in 2019, compared to 35% in 2018

What it Takes to be a Successful Woman in the Field of Architecture

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Gretchen Callejas poses for a headshot in an outdoor setting

By Gretchen Callejas

Frank Lloyd Wright. I.M. Pei. Those are the familiar names of two of America’s best-known architects.

Wright’s distinct prairie-style homes dot the American landscape while Pei’s large but elegantly designed urban buildings and complexes are among the world’s most famous architectural works. Pei’s projects, among others, include the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the controversial glass pyramid in Paris’ Louvre Museum courtyard.

But have you heard of Julia Morgan, who designed California’s famous Hearst Castle?

Or trailblazers such as Marion Mahony Griffin, the first woman to be officially licensed as an architect, and Zaha Hadid, the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize?

It isn’t surprising if you haven’t. According to a January 2019 article in ThoughtCo., which listed 20 famous female architects, the role that women have played in architecture and design often go under the radar.

While architecture has been a male-dominated field, that is not the case at Felder & Associates, where I have worked since its inception in 2012. We have four women and three men on staff. The forward-thinking leadership of the firm’s managing principal, Brian Felder, has played an extraordinary part in making our workplace a gender free oasis in an otherwise industry-wide testosterone-filled desert.

Why is architecture, like so many other professions, such a tough profession for women to crack?

According to a 2016 article in the Los Angeles Times, only 18 percent of licensed practitioners are women although they make up nearly half of U.S. architecture school graduates. This disparity sometimes is referred to as “the missing 32 percent.” Unfortunately, females leave the field in disturbingly high numbers after they’re confronted with lower salaries, given fewer career-building opportunities or find a lack of mentors, who champion for them.

Full-time female architects earn 20 percent less than their male counterparts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Plus, architecture’s history as a male-dominated profession has contributed to an all-consuming workplace culture that leaves little flexibility for women expected to balance work and family. According to the Times article, 75 percent of female survey respondents had experienced sexual discrimination on the job, and 83 percent believed having a child would hurt their careers.

My personal observations and experiences have confirmed some of these disparities, but I consider myself lucky.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to maintain a successful professional career while balancing family because I have a husband who shares responsibilities and encouragement. Without his support, it would be more challenging to continue with a professional career.

And while I have quite a few female friends who are architects, I have never worked for a woman nor had a strong female mentor. Contractors and clients often assume I need to ask my male boss for help in understanding construction, codes or a design issue. When I approach a problem with the same assertiveness as a male architect, I’m sometimes labeled with the “B”-word.

Since I was a kid, I dreamed of designing buildings before I knew what that encompassed. And now as an adult would I encourage young girls to enter architecture? Absolutely. I would tell young women (and men) entering the field that determination and passion go a long way. You will be successful if you work hard, tune out the negativity and chase your goals with perseverance. If you want to be an Architect, then go be one.

I finally believe that I am in a position to give them a hand. I’ve been around enough to help guide them and try to be the mentor I never had. I’m pleased we have two young women working with us at Felder & Associates. Alma Johnson and Cathryn Sinclair graduated with architectural degrees from the Savannah College of Art and Design last year and are interning with us as project associates.

Sinclair says she believes the playing field is more level than ever before but there is always room for improvement.

“I hope to continue to see the gap close,” she says.

For Johnson, success is based on how hard you work.

“Now, the gender gap does exist, but I think that the world is evolving on a more modern idea of a woman in the workplace. I don’t see gender. I see what skill sets I need to acquire to be as successful as the candidate next to me,” Johnson says.

I hope their perspectives will remain true and their positivity high after spending 15 years or so in the industry. I suspect they will reflect on their early days as a time when they had to deal with an old and outdated set of standards.

One thing I know for certain. They are in a wonderful setting to avoid bias and discrimination working at Felder & Associates. We are, thankfully, treated equally regardless of our gender, and we treat one another with mutual respect and understanding.

My hope for young women in architecture is that they will continue to mentor the next generations of women architects, have equal opportunities and respect. One day we will be as well-known as Frank Lloyd Wright and I.M. Pei.

Gretchen Callejas is a project architect at Felder & Associates, where she specializes in historic preservation, adaptive reuse, small scale commercial architecture and high-end residential design. She is also LEED-accredited from the U.S. Green Building Council. Callejas earned Bachelor of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design from Ball State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Historic Preservation from Savannah College of Art and Design.

Citations:

  1. Craven, Jackie (2019, January). 20 Famous Women Architects. ThoughtCo. Retrieved from: https://www.thoughtco.com/famous-female-architects-177890
  2. Stratigakos, Despina (2016, April). Why is the world of architecture so male-dominated? LA Times. Retrieved from: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-stratigakos-missing-women-architects-20160421-story.html
  3. Newman, Caroline (2019, January). Three Generations Of Female Architects Seek To Bring More Women Into The Profession. UVA Today. Retrieved from: https://news.virginia.edu/content/3-generations-female-architects-seek-bring-more-women-profession

 

 

10 Things Not to Miss at WonderWorks Myrtle Beach

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family of four look at WonderWorks museum exhibit

MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina — As the summer temperatures heat up, many families will be looking for ways to keep cool. They will also want to entertain, make memories and keep their kids active. One good way to do that is to visit WonderWorks Myrtle Beach, where parents can find four levels of indoor nonstop fun, offering plenty of opportunities for people of all ages.

“Most people are familiar with the outside of our building, but they are not familiar with what goes on inside it,” says Robert Stinnett, regional manager at WonderWorks. “The neat thing is that what we offer on the inside is every bit as interesting and unique. We are here for all ages to experience laughter, fun and joy by diving into history, science and releasing energy with our interactive exhibits!”

Here are 10 things not to miss at WonderWorks Myrtle Beach:

  1. Climb. Hit up the ropes course, where guests can test their endurance and locomotor skills as they climb over 28 different obstacles and physical activities in this 3-story indoor course.
  2. Throw. Take your chance at virtual sports, where you can find out what it’s like to pitch to a Major League Baseball player or throw a touchdown pass 50 yards to an NFL player. Virtual Sports allows you to test your athletic skills on a baseball, football, and soccer field.
  3. Ride. Take a seat within the virtual coaster with the ability to turn 360° in every direction. Hold on to your seats, while experiencing virtual physics! You can also feel the sensation of weightlessness like in outer space on the Astronaut Training Gyro Challenge.
  4. Play. Hit up the sandbox and bubble lab! Explore the depths of the ocean, a Jurassic landscape, and a wildlife safari in an interactive sandbox. Interact with various creatures with your hands and mold the sand by building mountains, volcanoes and much more! You can also create bubbles the size of basketballs, and even make a bubble big enough for you to fit inside.
  5. Learn. Test your knowledge about our world’s natural disasters. Show what you know and more from such categories as wild weather, quakes and blazes, manmade catastrophes and extreme disasters.
  6. Imagine. Enter a new dimension of reality and explore the unknown. Visit the Dr. Seuss Taxidermy, where the famous author’s creations come to life. Discover how perception and perspective are used in over 35 exhibits located throughout the Far Out Art Gallery where the unexplainable will come to life and the unusual will be the norm.
  7. Thrill. Enjoy the 12-seat theater that takes guests on an amazing adventure that transcends times, space, and imagination by combining the 3D film with special effects and full motion. Now playing 5 different movies: Cosmic Coaster-Mild, Wild Wild West- Moderate, Great Wall of China-Moderate, Dino Safari- Wild or Canyon Coaster-Wild.
  8. Adrenaline. Take the zipline challenge, where you will soar 50 feet above water and 1,000 feet between towers. This features a constant tension system, which ensures participants a smooth “zip” with intense fun.
  9. Extreme. Check out 360 Bikes, where you will buckle into your bike and start pedaling. You will try to generate enough power to spin a complete 360-degree revolution right back to where you started.
  10. Interact. Get interactive with laser tag! This family fun game combines innovative technology to provide you with a one-of-a-kind interactive experience. The object is to outplay, outlast and outshoot the other players.

“WonderWorks is happy to support energy in motion – we want our guests to feel like each time they come to us, not only are they having a blast, they are using their mind to learn and interact physically with our many hands-on exhibits,” added Stinnett. “Make some fun family memories right here at WonderWorks Myrtle Beach.”

WonderWorks in Myrtle Beach offers 50,000 square feet of “edu-tainment” opportunities, showcasing itself as an amusement park for the mind. They offer over 100 hands-on exhibits covering natural disasters, space discovery, an imagination lab, a physical challenge zone, a far out art gallery and a light and sound zone. WonderWorks is open daily from 10 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. For more information, log onto its site: wonderworksonline.com/myrtle-beach/.

About WonderWorks

WonderWorks, a science focused indoor amusement park, combines education and entertainment. With over 100 hands-on exhibits – there is something unique and challenging for all ages. Feel the power of 84mph hurricane–force winds in the Hurricane Shack. Make huge, life–sized bubbles in the Bubble Lab. Get the NASA treatment in our Astronaut Training Gyro and experience zero gravity. Nail it by lying on the death–defying Bed of Nails. Conquer your fear of heights on our indoor Glow-In-The-Dark Ropes Course. Don’t miss Soar + Explore, a WonderWorks sister attraction featuring an over water zipline and outdoor ropes challenge course guaranteed to get your heart pumping from total excitement. WonderWorks also hosts birthday parties, group outings and special events seasonally. Open daily from 10 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. wonderworksonline.com/myrtle-beach/.

What Are the Most In-Demand Job Skills?

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By Greg Stuart

Are you in the market for a new job? Is 2019 the year that you decide to make a change in your career? If you answered yes to either of those questions, then you need to get an idea of what skills are in demand.

I’ve written many articles on this subject, and most of them tend to lean heavily on the technical side, certifications, etc. I believe that this year, technical certifications will carry less weight than they used to. I see a trend in companies, inside and outside of Silicon Valley, where soft skills are starting to become more important. Lots of projects are manned not by one person, but by a team of people. To be an effective team player, you need certain soft skills to complement your technical skills to be successful. Let’s take a look at some of the most in demand technical and soft skills for 2019.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is becoming the king of the datacenter. With more and more adoption each year, cloud computing is poised to have a big 2019. Security measures are getting better, government entities are trusting the cloud, and new cloud-based certifications pop up every year. I realize the term ‘cloud computing’ is broad, so what areas of cloud computing should you focus on? Amazon, Amazon, Amazon. Amazon’s cloud computing platform is taking the market by storm. VMware’s cloud offering caved to Amazon’s stiff competition and instead focused on forging a partnership with Amazon going forward. Learn Amazon Web Services—take advantage of some of their online free training. Other options are training for Microsoft’s cloud offering, Azure. Find training on Azure and become proficient at it; Microsoft is staking a bigger-than-expected claim in the cloud space.

Adaptability to Change

Is this a skill? I believe it is, and it’s become a necessary skill to learn. If you work in the IT career field, you already know that it’s an ever-changing landscape. New technologies crop up every year, many companies will adopt these newer technologies and expect you to figure out how to maintain it. If you focused only on Dell storage, your whole career—and all of a sudden, your company—does a forklift upgrade to NetApp storage, you have to be willing to learn a new system, or get a new job. Adaptability applies not just to technology changes but also personnel changes. In many of our job roles we are tasked to work as a team, and sometimes that proves difficult. Learning to adapt to change can help greatly in this area. Adapting to change means being flexible, and being flexible opens up so many possibilities for success.

Mobility/Mobility Security

The ability to work remotely has increased steadily over the years, and mobile and Internet technology has made advances. With a 4G connection, we can connect and work on spreadsheets in real time with other colleagues, hold virtual boardroom meetings with WebEx and Skype for Business, and check and answer emails as needed on the go. Learning to become proficient with enterprise mobility suites, such as VMware Workspace One (formerly AirWatch), can help you to safely and accurately provide corporate resources to your workforce on the go. With more and more corporations allowing their employees to access corporate resources on their personal mobile devices, it has become increasingly important to secure those resources. Mobility security is an in-demand skill set now and going forward.

Thinking Outside the Box

This is one of the most overused, cliché terms I can think of, but it rings true, especially now. Thinking outside of the box also means creativity or innovation—two terms all over the values statements of major defense industry employers. Companies don’t want employees that will follow the status quo when it comes to bringing solutions to market or managing a data center. There are times when the traditional way of doing things won’t cut it. That’s when you need to get creative and find new ways to do old things. Companies love bringing in a new employee and putting them on a lagging project to see if their fresh set of eyes can see new ways to accomplish what has become stale. Learning this skill can open up lots of doors for you.

…And Much More

There are so many other intangibles that companies want to see in their employees, which is why I’ll go back to my earlier statement—soft skills are king for 2019. More companies will hire you and train you on a technology or process if you have the right soft skills and fit in with their philosophies. Spend some time polishing up your soft skills and see what a difference it can make.

Source: news.clearancejobs.com

Get to Know the Scientist of the Year: Dr. Clarise R. Starr

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Dr.Clarise Starr poses at work smiling wearing a bright red sweater

Dr. Clarise R. Starr—2018 HENAAC award winner for scientist of the year—is a supervisory biological scientist in the Aeromedical Research Department of the Air Force Research Laboratory, 711th Human Performance Wing, United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

As the Deputy Division Chief, she is responsible for the research portfolios for the division. She leads and performs research in biological surveillance, human performance optimization, and force health protection against biological threats. Dr. Starr also serves as the laboratory director for the biological select agent and toxin research mission.

Dr. Starr discusses her career and offers her words of wisdom.

HISPANIC Network Magazine (HNM): What motivated you to become a microbiologist?

Dr. Clarise Starr (CS): I was always fascinated by the way a virus could mutate and the potential impact of outbreaks on mankind. I read the Hot Zone by Richard Preston and the Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett when I was in college, and I was determined to play some kind of role in preventing the end of the world by these pathogens.

HNM: What advice would you give other women interested in pursuing a career in STEM?

CS: Find good mentors and a good tribe to encourage you, especially when you are frustrated, because the path to a STEM career is not always easy, but it is very well worth it. I have been fortunate to have good mentors from grade school all the way to present day that I can bounce ideas and thoughts off of, and I think that has been part of my success. If you are interested in science, tell your teachers, your Girl Scout leaders, your family, anyone, and ask if they know any scientists whom you can talk to. Talk to as many as you can and then find opportunities to participate in science when you’re in high school, either through science fairs, internships or summer programs if they are available. Science fairs sometimes are judged by people in the community who have a science background, so those are easy networking opportunities. The more people you can talk to about what your interests are, the more insight you can get about types of schooling you need and jobs that are out there that you may never thought required your interests or skill sets.

DJ Khaled will get you there as the new voice on Waze

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DJ Khaled standing on a stage with a microphone in his hand

If it feels like DJ Khaled is everywhere in the transit world, that’s because he is. Popping up on Lyft scooters, ride-share driving undercover, and owning a ridiculous car collection, the hip-hop star is all about getting around. Now he’s helping you get where you’re going as a new navigation voice option in the Waze app.

Sure, his voice giving directions is part of a six-week promo with streaming music service Deezer for his new album. But that doesn’t mean you can’t embrace the advice-filled phrases the performer is known for. Waze, Google’s driving direction app, is used worldwide with 115 million users and has featured other celebrity voices for navigation such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kevin Hart, T-Pain, and Shaq. Bringing in known voices to give you driving directions is a feature that’s been incorporated into the app for years. A popular request was actor Morgan Freeman a few years ago.

One of the songs on his newest album Father of Asahd features singer John Legend, who is the latest voice option on Google’s digital assistant platform, Google Assistant. Legend’s AI voice launched last month.

Continue on to Mashablee to read the complete article.

Becoming An Influential Female Leader In Technology

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Professional woman working at desk with laptop

By Spandana Govindgari

The time is now ripe for breaking into technology as a woman. For the past 20 years or so, looking up to role models often meant emulating male leaders like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.

As a woman of color and a software engineer, I found myself in situations where I had nobody who looked like me among the tech leadership. As a result, I doubted my capabilities, skills and confidence.

This is when I first came across the Grace Hopper Conference. I was lucky and fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to attend the conference for free as a student. For any woman interested in software engineering now, the GHC is the go-to place for getting inspired, finding jobs and life-long mentors — along with similar conferences like the NCWIT Summit on Women and IT and the Girlboss Rally. After I met so many amazing women like me at the conference, I returned to my job feeling much more empowered to make changes to our recruiting pipeline to hire more female engineers.

Flash forward to today, and there are more women stepping up to become mentors, many women taking leadership roles to become role models for the future generations, and groups on social media are connecting women everywhere and helping them feel inspired and empowered to break into technology. I’ve noticed more and more workplaces are starting to recognize women in prominent leadership roles by offering them opportunities to mentor and enabling tough conversations about diversity and inclusion to take place at work.

It is truly the right time to be a part of this movement. As a female software engineer and rising entrepreneur, I would like to share some tips for women trying to break into the field of software engineering and ways to thrive at work by challenging the status quo.

Help People Without Any Expectations
You get what you give. Consider the skills or knowledge you currently possess in a specific area — for example, databases, bots, Java, Python and so on. You could share this knowledge through free courses on Youtube or Udemy. There are various resource groups on entrepreneurship, engineering, and design. One of the most famous is the Hackathon Hackers group on Facebook, and another popular one is Ladies Storm Hackathons. Consider joining a group and helping college students who need assistance with making career choices or advice on obtaining internships and jobs, or people looking for co-founders on a project.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

There’s a Massive Gender Gap in AI, but Tech Education Programs for Young Girls Aim to Close It

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Tara Chklovski att he podium at a Technovation speaking engagement

Tara Chklovski had the weight of her family on her shoulders.

Growing up in India in what she calls a lower-middle-class family, it was difficult not to notice the poverty around her — especially the pivotal role chance plays in determining the family someone is born into, as well as their access to education, healthcare and opportunity.

Chklovski’s parents encouraged her to pursue a subject that intrinsically advanced the world, hoping it would also advance their family’s situation. “That is definitely the mantra of the times in India,” says Chklovski. “The lower middle class has this drive to get a degree in engineering or medicine or technology so you can lift your family out of poverty.”

She came to the U.S. to study aerospace engineering and quickly found that that same drive to pursue tech didn’t apply — especially in the women she met. The U.S. may be a more developed country, she thought, but here, women actively kind of closed doors to their potential, making blanket statements like, “I’m not good at math.” Chklovski was stunned someone could say that with a straight face, but she was also intrigued. She did some digging and concluded that the “huge, transforming lever” that is education was at the root of the problem.

Chklovski wanted to become a pioneer in the area, so she left her PhD program to start Iridescent, an educational nonprofit that says it’s helped train more than 114,000 people from 115 countries since its 2006 launch. The organization sets its sights on empowering young girls and mothers to become tech leaders in communities across the globe, partnering with the likes of Google, GM and Boeing in its mission to teach AI and entrepreneurship to people who have identified problems they’d like to solve in their own communities.

Continue on to Entrepreneur to read the complete article.

Out to Innovate™ 2019 Summit for LGBTQ People in STEM

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NOGLSTP presented its 5th biannual Out to Innovate™ Summit for LGBTIQ People in STEM on March 16-17 at the location of its first summit, the campus of the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, CA. 

These summits are meant to support and encourage the open participation of the LGBTIQ community in STEM activities. With this year’s theme, “Igniting STEM with PRIDE,” over 200 attendees participated in 20 workshops and 4 plenaries, increasing skill sets, broadening their knowledge, and making new friends.

Early arriving attendees attended a tour of the USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) and in the evening NOGLSTP hosted a reception for workshop organizers, panelists, and exhibitors at the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries where the NOGLSTP history and files reside and were on partial display.

The meeting opened with proclamations and greeting from the region, followed by Kei Koizumi, Visiting Scholar in science policy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), gave an inspiring motivational speech, reminding everyone to pursue their dreams in STEM as LGBTQ people

Over the following day and a half, attendees participated in 4 breakout sessions containing 20 workshops covered a wide range of topics; titles from “Proposal Writing Workshop: Understanding the Federal Money Process,” and “Careers in Government and Policy for LGBTQ STEM people,” to “Out on the Academic Job Search,” “Forming Student Groups: Experiences and Organizing”, “a LGBTQ+ Health Initiatives”, “Queer in STEM Demographic Studies”, ”LGTQ Portrayal in Arts and Media” and “Intersectionality – Bringing All of Your Identities,” provided learning and discussion opportunities over a broad spectrum of issues and ideas.

Plenaries included an “Out and Accomplished panel”, where “out” panel members provided their perspectives on serving in industry, government, and academia. Saturday evening’s Gala Recognition Awards Reception and Dinner was held at the USC Town and Gown hall with keynote speaker David Bohnett, founder of GeoCities who spoke of his journey, from being a closeted undergraduate student at USC, the early days of the World Wide Web and founding GeoCities.  2017 and 1028 Out to Innovate™ Scholarship recipients (funded by Motorola Solutions Foundation), and poster session winners were honored at the dinner as well as 2019 Recognition Awardees: presented the 2019 Recognition Award Winners: Dr Benny Chan, Professor of Chemistry at the College of New Jersey (LGBTQ Educator of the year), Dr Arianna Morales, Staff Research Scientist at General Motors Global research and Development (LGBTQ Engineer of the year), and Dr Jon Freeman, Associate professor of Psychology and Neural Science New York University (LGBTQ Scientist of the Year).  This year’s Walt Westman Award went to Dr. Lauren Esposito, Curator at California Academy of Sciences and creator of 500 Queer Scientists website.

Amazon’s VP of Alexa Devices on Working in Voice Technology, Taking Risks, and Alexa’s Hidden Tricks

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Amazom's Miriam Daniel smiling and standing in front of a poster for Amazon Alexa

By Alyse Kalish

Let’s say you want to be a part of building something great in your career—something people can tangibly benefit from, something no one else has thought of, and something you can point to and proudly say, “Hey, I made that.” If that’s the case, look no further for inspiration than Miriam Daniel.

She’s currently the VP of Alexa and Echo Devices at Amazon. That means she and her team are the brains behind the imaginary woman who answers all the random requests you make, from “Alexa, tell me what the weather’s like” to “Alexa, set a reminder to pick up milk” to “Alexa, play ‘Baby Shark.’”

We sat down with Daniel because, quite frankly, her career path is pretty cool—from working as a developer to joining the leadership team at Intel (and staying on for more than 14 years) to transitioning into AI and eventually landing her role at Amazon. Besides joining Amazon at a time when AI and speech technology was just taking off, Daniel has had the pleasure of building a product from the start that can help people—especially those who are disabled—lead more efficient and happier lives.

Here’s how she broke into this creative field, how she balances being a tech leader and a parent, and what advice she has for aspiring innovators.

Tell us a bit about your career path and how you ended up at Amazon.

I spent the first few years of my career working as a developer in various service industries, and then moved on to work at Intel for more than 14 years. I started there as an engineering leader before transitioning to product and business roles, eventually becoming the Director of Innovation Strategy and Product Management.

Then five years ago, I received a call from Amazon. After going through a rigorous interview process and consulting with a couple of my mentors, I decided to make the move. Today, I lead a talented, multidisciplinary team that spends a lot of time thinking about customers—what they want out of voice-driven devices and specifically how Alexa can make their lives easier and more convenient.

What made you want to enter this field?

I started dabbling in speech and AI while running the innovation group at Intel. The power of voice as an intuitive and natural means of human interaction with technology fascinated me. When presented with the opportunity to lead the Echo product line at Amazon, I jumped at it, knowing that this could be a transformative leap in using voice as the ultimate simplifier, cutting through many layers of friction to access information and services in the cloud. I was also excited to be a part of an early-stage innovative product with the ability to shape it from the start. I was ready for a big challenge.

What gets you excited about your job?

I’m excited by the fact that I get to innovate every day. Sometimes I feel like a kid in a toy factory—I dive right into putting the puzzle pieces together to solve hard problems that in the end simplify lives.

Building an entirely new way of interacting with products through voice and visuals was an incredibly difficult problem to solve. When we started, this was a completely new means of interacting with machines, and to see how far we’ve come (of course, there’s still so much more to do) motivates me every day.

What’s the biggest challenge in your role? The biggest reward?

The challenge is that building an Echo device is about so much more than just creating a piece of hardware—it’s about designing an experience, and it’s an experience that’s getting smarter every day. There’s no playbook here or precedent to go off of—we’re exploring and innovating as we go. There’s no such thing as “done.”

The biggest reward is when a customer tells me that they love the products we’re building and how much voice technology has changed their lives for the better. We hear anecdotes from parents, grandparents, teachers, distant family members, and customers with disabilities all the time, and their stories are truly heart-warming.

What’s one thing people don’t know Alexa can do?

Alexa is always getting smarter and is now starting to do things for customers that once were considered science fiction. One example is a feature called “Hunches.” As you interact with your smart home, Alexa learns more about your day-to-day routine and can sense when connected smart devices—such as lights, locks, switches, and plugs—are not in the state that you prefer.

For example, if your living room light is on when you say “Alexa, good night,” Alexa will respond with “Good night. By the way, your living room light is on. Do you want me to turn it off?”

Continue on to The Muse to read the complete article.

Katie Bouman: the 29-year-old whose work led to first black hole photo

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Katie Bouman sitting at her computer with a smile on her face and hands up to her mouth in excitement

This week, the world laid eyes on an image that previously it was thought was unseeable.

The first visualisation of a black hole looks set to revolutionise our understanding of one of the great mysteries of the universe.

And the woman whose crucial algorithm helped make it possible is just 29 years old.

Katie Bouman was a PhD student in computer science and artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when, three years ago, she led the creation of an algorithm that would eventually lead to an image of a supermassive black hole at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, some 55m light years from Earth, being captured for the first time.

Bouman was among a team of 200 researchers who contributed to the breakthrough, but on Wednesday, a picture of her triumphantly beaming as the image of the black hole materialised on her computer screen went viral, with many determined that Bouman’s indispensable role was not written out of history – as so often has been the case for female scientists and researchers.

The data used to piece together the image was captured by the Event Horizon telescope (EHT), a network of eight radio telescopes spanning locations from Antarctica to Spain and Chile. Bouman’s role, when she joined the team working on the project six years ago as a 23-year-old junior researcher, was to help build an algorithm which could construct the masses of astronomical data collected by the telescope into a single coherent image.

Though her background was in computer science and electrical engineering, not astrophysics, Picture of a Black HoleBouman and her team worked for three years building the imaging code. Once the algorithm had been built, Bouman worked with dozens of EHT researchers for a further two years developing and testing how the imaging of the black hole could be designed. But it wasn’t until June last year, when all the telescope data finally arrived, that Bouman and a small team of fellow researchers sat down in a small room at Harvard and put their algorithm properly to the test.

With just the press of a button, a fuzzy orange ring appeared on Bouman’s computer screen, the world’s first image of a supermassive black hole, and astronomical history was made. In a post on social media, Bouman emphasised the collaborative efforts that had made the imaging of the black hole possible.

“No one algorithm or person made this image, it required the amazing talent of a team of scientists from around the globe and years of hard work to develop the instrument, data processing, imaging methods, and analysis techniques that were necessary to pull off this seemingly impossible feat,” said Bouman. While their discovery was made in June, it was only presented to the world by all 200 researchers on Wednesday.

Continue on to The Guardian to read the complete article.