This is more of a telling of a personal journey than a technical description or overview of what the conference entails. In other words, it’s meant to be informal so do not take it too seriously (kind of like everything else in blogging).
What is that TAPIA Conference?
Basically, the 2015 Richard Tapia Conference is this conference that promotes diversity in computing. It has been ongoing annually since 2001. The guy that the conference is named after is Richard Tapia, who is this Mexican American math professor at Rice who is apparently pretty effective when it comes to promoting diversity outreach in STEM fields.
Taking their goals from their website…
The goal of the Tapia Conferences is to bring together undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, researchers, and professionals in computing from all backgrounds and ethnicities to:
- Celebrate the diversity that exists in computing
- Connect with others with common backgrounds, ethnicities, disabilities, and gender so as to create communities that extend beyond the conference;
- Obtain advice from and make contacts with computing leaders in academia and industry;
- Be inspired by great presentations and conversations with leaders with common backgrounds.
For pictures of this conference, check out their Facebook Group!
Day 1 – Wednesday, February 18
Norfolk from up high is pretty cool looking with all the snow everywhere.
When I get to Philadelphia, my flight to Boston gets delayed… twice. I end up having to book a slightly earlier flight through Customer Service, but the whole delay was a first.
⛄️ When I get to Boston, I get the idea that the Yeti (not the one from Foundation, just THE Yeti) lives there because it looks like this from the plane…
Needless to say, “this snow don’t play”.
Once I arrive in Boston, I end up hopping on a shared van that the Texas A&M students were using. I didn’t even have to pay for anything because the driver assumed I was with the students. First win.
The best part about the trip to the hotel was that the driver LOOKED and TALKED exactly like the character Gru from Despicable Me. It was AWESOME. It was really hard to stop myself from LOL every time I heard him talk. The massive amounts of snow everywhere was just secondary to the experience of seeing a real-life Gru. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a pic of him because that would have been kinda awkward since I was sitting in shotgun.
Once I arrive at the hotel free-riding, I check into the hotel and then register. My lanyard, like with the triple AI conference, has the same organization associated with my name – FVCproductions. How nice.
At this point, I have roughly 3 hours left until the scholarship recipient orientation. My roommate/buddy, Anisha Carter, who is also from Hampton gets to the hotel soon after and I help her get started. I tell her I won’t be able to attend the ‘Welcome Reception & Fireside Chat’ or the ‘Desert & Career Fair’ session because I’ll be meeting up with my cousin who lives in Boston.
The first thing I notice about the orientation is that there are a lot of minorities, mostly Hispanics and blacks that are relatively attractive. I’m biased because I’m a heterosexual Latina, but seriously, a lot of people here are young and fresh looking. #tapia2015
My cousin is late so I attend part of the welcoming reception and then end up having to awkwardly leave in the middle of it. Eventually meeting up with my coz though was great since we have so much to catch up on. I’m full half way through our Thai dinner.
Anisha tells me the next day a semi-interesting story about meeting this short Hispanic guy named George who invited her and someone she met at TAPIA out to drink beer while she was exploring the Copley Place. But I guess that’s what happens when you take a picture of a pile of snow and reveal you’re a tourist to everyone around you. 😏
Day 2 – Thursday, February 19
- Diversity Tales and Advice from the Trenches: Experiences of Underrepresented Minorities in Computing There was a talk following the meal break that was HILARIOUS. The speakers were so down to earth and real about what specifically they faced in their experiences as a minority in tech. Two of the speakers, Juan Gilbert, and Manuel Perez-Quiñones were just ridiculously funny, I found myself laughing a lot throughout their spheels. There was actually this one part where they talk about ‘statistics’ and that if there was anybody that talked about the negative statistics associated with minorities, then you ought to go ahead and give out some ‘statistics’ out too. For example, which race most represents serial killers? Which race most represents teachers that engage in sexual affairs with their students? Apparently, the answers are white males and white females, respectively. Right back at ya.
- Career Fair – Resumes There was a printer back in the lobby that students went to print their resumes out. 20 pages flowed out of the printer at some point for only one person. These people really take the initiative. I print out 6 and then proceed to get rid of all of them (however I can). I pass my resume out to Facebook, Intel, Bloomberg, Texas A&M, Twitter, and Microsoft. I tell one of the people at the IBM booth that he looks kinda like Tristan Walker and he responds pretty apathetically which makes the idea of working at IBM just slightly less appealing. It’s a pretty shallow reaction on my part.
- Career Fair – Wayne I had a really great talk with somebody called Wayne from Bloomberg because I was able to really chat with the guy. I mentioned my side project, Bootcamp.Me. I was really surprised to find out he knew who David from Fullstack Academy was. I mean, once I found that out, I didn’t really want to stop talking to him because I was excited to see that he was involved in reaching out to the community. He also really added on what I was talking about all the time. Regardless, it was nice finding out Bloomberg was trying harder to reach out to the NYC web dev community. Also, much swag was received. Twitter really had A-game in terms of swag available today. Overall, the career fair was definitely game, mainly because of Wayne. Haha, rhymes.
Day 3 – Friday, February 20
- Hispanics in Computing It was nice being in a room full of Latinos. So many different backgrounds. Most were Mexican or Puerto Rican. I was the only Peruvian. Manuel Pérez-Quiñones was the head of this meeting though so that was nice because he seemed pretty down to earth so far. As of right now, the only thing they have to communicate with the 300+ members they have is this emailing list. At this point, I decide I resent email because I think it’s holding people back. I suggested Slack after the conference ended and this is the response I got:
Thanks for your input on this. Over the years we have had several proposals similar to yours... I like email, as bad and disorganized as it is, because I can "shape" it into different ways to do my job. I, personally, don't like other sites because I forget to check them. Email is centralized (all my email accounts go to one place). We already have a Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/HispanicsInComputing/ And we also have a Twitter account @HispanicsInComp I don't think most people even know we had those two and some are not updated with any frequency. We have 300+ people in the list, so it will be hard to move everybody to something different. But, if you want to start a group on/with Slack.com for the group, and manage it, I am sure some will follow you... those that exist on both sites can cross post things of interest. - Manuel
- When working for diversity in CS becomes your day job I saw the President of Harvey Mudd at this talk where university professors/chairs/deans/presidents/leaders in general talked about their experience in increasing diversity in their STEM programs. I remember seeing the President on a brochure for Harvey Mudd I received back in high school. It mentioned that she skateboarded around campus. I definitely got that feeling when I saw her in person, you know the feeling she was someone who could potentially skateboard around campus. Pretty cool.
- Increasing Diversity in the K–20 Computing Pipeline: Sharing Strategies & Good Practices Here a bunch of people ended up speaking which was great because I have a short term attention span and listening to one person talk for hours on end is never something I’ve particularly enjoyed unless they were ridiculously good. I even saw Nancy, who was somebody I recognized from a Google Hackathon I went to last November.
- Career Fair – All the Swag in the World Today, Anisha and I decided it would be a grand idea to get a whole bunch of swag/flyers/brochures/etc. from all the booths to bring back to our university. So there I went, frolicking about that spacious room, collecting everything and anything I could get my hands on. I told them I was trying to get some stuff for my department and their eyes lit up at the opportunity since the career fair was almost done for the conference. The issue now was how to get all this back on the plane. Oh, decisions, decisions.
- Banquet This was it. The final event. The way they serve our food this time is the fanciest by far. Did I mention all the food was great? It definitely was. They even had enough vegetarian options to keep me more than satisfied, which is a rare thing. After we eat, the final speaker, Freeman, gives the best speech I’ve heard so far in the entire conference. He really covered a lot of great points. Anyhow, having been inspired by THE Freeman, Richard talks about his background and basically covers the main points of his life story and how he got to where he was. I didn’t realize he had lost his daughter throughout the period where he was getting more and more accolades. That was pretty sad. Awards were then given out and people got cool things such as Google Chromecasts, Lenovo Tablets, an Xbox one, other cool swag I can’t remember off the top of my head.
- Dancing Following the banquet, there was dancing, and boy oh boy, do I love to dance. Unfortunately, the song selection could have been a bit catchier, but I guess beggars can’t be choosers, whatever that really means. Regardless, I got to see Latinos who REALLY knew how to dance and awkward Harvard students move their hips too. SO all in all, it wasn’t that disappointing. Since I’m lame, I get tired pretty fast and end up getting to bed around 11 pm.
Day 4 – Saturday, February 21
Today really sucked because my plane got delayed 6 hours so when I should have arrived home at 3 pm, I actually arrived around 9 pm. Get ready for an airport horror story.
The first time I got into the plane, we were a few minutes from lifting off when the airport decides it’s not safe to fly. We wait for half an hour back in the terminal and then it’s finally decided we have to deplane.
Consistently throughout the process, I faced the dilemma of whether or not to take the initiative on finding a different flight or just sayin’ “screw it, let me get some pizza and a smoothie or something to pass the time (which I did do once or twice – I mean, Sbarro’s is just irresistible)”. I eventually decided to try and get a different flight through customer service.
Half way through waiting in this 1-hour line, I call this help line # that this lady from Toronto gives me since the help line only helps with domestic flights. It’s officially from US Airways but then the help line goes on to offer me a $100 Walmart gift card and insisting that I give them my personal info to get this card. I’m pretty gullible, so I give them my name and address but then they ask for my debit card # and I go crazy and ask why they haven’t help me out yet. I’m still in the ridiculously long line and hang up on the stupid help line and then all of a sudden, US Airways announces that the flight I’ve been waiting for 4 hours so far now is now boarding.
When I got home, I took all my anger out on the snow which wasn’t really a fun process either.
The Tapia Conference really ended up being a grand time. I met some cool people, like Britney and Sean, who I friended on LinkedIn. I even ended up joining 2 organizations, Hispanics in Computing and Afro Movers & Shakers. I’m hoping to help out HIC out because they only have a e-mail listserv right now which isn’t very effective in distributing information. I actually ended up recommending Slack to the organizer of Afro Movers & Shakers and he thought it was a cool idea and made one.
With all the swag, flyers, and brochures I received from the conference, Anisha and I were able to decorate the CS department more effectively, kind of like a refurbishing of the entire area. We can also now use the swag we received as a way to offer prizes for any events we have for our ACM Student Chapter.
Tips or tricks?
contact me @fvcproductions