<b>🐝</b> : tales of #GHC15

Finally! I was able attended Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference(GHC) for the third time this year. My first year I went as a Facebook Grace Hopper Scholar in 2012 and the second year I went with my university in 2013. I skipped last year’s but heard I missed out on a lot so I made it my mission to go this year. This conference is about the CELEBRATION of Women in Computing whether you identify as a woman or not. With that being said, male allies often attend the conference as well, however of the ~12,000 attendees about 99% of them were females.

Be Bold.

This blog is named after one of my favorite t-shirts I received from GHC in the past. The shirt was from Rackspace so I made it my mission to go past their booth at the career fair to see familiar faces and find out what type of opportunities they were offering this year. The career fair is where it all goes down. Not only are you passing out the 50+ resumes & business cards that you printed out, but your are receiving swag to reward you for your superb navigation of the massive fair. Many companies will have raffles for attendees to win cool tech. While speaking to companies at the career fair you often get invited to private events, which were great to make the large conference seem intimate.

#GHC15 BWiCs Capital One Lunch
#GHC15 BWiCs Capital One Lunch

A couple events I went to were the CODE2040&Pandora Evening Mixer, Facebook Research Brunch, and the Qualcomm Yoga. It was good to have casual conversation with people especially since I wasn’t actually looking for a job. As with all conferences, this one is about networking and stepping outside your comfort zone to meet new people. These smaller intimate events make it easier for that to happen and it feels so much more natural. I think I met the most amazing people at these events and formed stronger bonds at these events.

My favorite part of the conference was attending the BWICs events. BWICS stands for Black Women in Computer Science. I am on their systers mailing lists in their facebook group, but aside from that I have not have the opportunity to meet the people on the list. GHC was a great venue for that. It allowed other black females in computing to be able to identify with other females in computing who are going down similar paths.

The next conference of this type that I will attend will most likely be the ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference. Many attendees at the BWiCS event mentioned that it’s an amazing conference and coincidentally has been on my radar for some months now.

As much fun as I had this time at Grace Hopper this year, it will probably be last time going for a while. The conference has grown to be about 12000 attendees and for me that is not as intimate as I would like. It was actually a real challenge for me to navigate the sessions and attend the sessions that would really benefit me as a researcher. Honestly, that was one of the most discouraging parts.  Honestly, I would claim the size of Grace Hopper to be a good problem to have. It shows that the field and support system is growing for women in technology, but doesn’t give them all the opportunities to meet each other.

The next time I will probably attend the conference is when I am actively seeking full time employment in about 2-3 years.


Want to see what all the commotion was about? Feel free to go back and review my live tweets during the conference @DenaeFord. The tweets should be tagged with#GHC15.


So it has officially happened. I received my first paper rejection. It actually did not burn as bad as I thought it would. It did however take me a whole month since the rejection to start writing this blog (and after the next submission to post it), but that is not the point. Actually, all in all, it was a beautiful experience. The beauty in this process came from the confidence of writing the 1st paper to begin with and then moving foward to write the next version of the paper. This was my first full paper, 10 pages, that I have written, therefore I’m not too hurt to find that I still have a lot of work to do.

I am very thankful for my supportive team of authors. The follow up to the paper was also a good example of teamwork and hope for the research. The comments from my team of authors was encouraging. My team of authors was very active throughout the paper writing, rejection, and reworking of the paper. Everyone was excited to shift the paper for another venue and we have successfully completed that now.

To help with that transition, I developed a timeline for our next venue and we began to task out what needed to be done to make this next paper awesome. Initially, things were moving pretty slow since I was at my internship and had little time outside of the lab to work on the new paper. Drafting out the timeline was a good way to stay focused on the new goal and not dwell on the past rejection. Another way to avoid dwelling on the past rejection was to read the reviewer comments with a grain of salt. My research group uses GitHub to collaborate on paper writing and a member of the team volunteered to turn all the reviewer comments into GitHub Issues. This definitely helped us make the reviewer comments more manageable and not just a big block of “negative” text that no one wanted to read. We assigned these issues to individuals and made new ones to get the paper up to par. As we began to assign and close issues, we got closer to a more complete and acceptable paper.
Throughonward this entire process I want to acknowledge the perspective I had coming into this paper.  I knew this research was interesting, it was just a matter of how I communicated how interesting and valuable it was. I can acknowledge the fact that I am growing as a researcher and writer and that is something that I am okay with. I still have many more rejections to come but it’s about how I handle those rejections that matter. As I await feedback from this submission, I must continue to move forward and enhance my skills. Honestly, there is no where to go but up from here; or as my advisor said to me…



first time’s the charm

As a first year student I had the rare opportunity of having my first paper, Exploring the Causes of Frustration for Software Developers, submitted and get accepted! Writing this first paper was quite intimidating at first. But it definitely helped that I had previously started writing about the work. My advisor and I worked through many revisions before submitting the final product.

#ICSE15 with Dr. Heckman
#ICSE15 with Dr. Heckman

As someone who is still new to technical writing I found it very valuable to have gone through those multiple drafts. In addition to that my advisor recommended writing a blog so that I could be able to talk about my research to the normies(i.e. non researchers). I can honestly say that writing the ‘medium-formal’ research blog and the ‘cool’ buzzfeed post about this work definitely guided my approach for the poster and presentation for the conference.

From the 16th to the 23rd of May I was able to travel to Florence, Italy to attend the conference, #ICSE15, for this work. At the conference I was also selected as the first person at my workshop, #CHASE15, to give a presentation on my paper.

poster presented at conference
Poster presented

Of course, with this being my first presentation I was scared but surprisingly it all went well. It was well received by the audience and I got some pretty nice questions. After my presentation my advisor introduced me to other researchers at the conference. It was amazing because I was finally able to put faces to all the amazing researchers whose work I’ve read.

It was also great to network with other researchers and hear them passionately talk about their research topics. Some being Bogdan Vasilescu’s work on Perceptions of Diversity on GitHub: A User Survey and Maryi Arciniegas-Mendez’s Regulation as an Enabler for Collaborative Software Development. For those who are interested, their slides and papers can be found online.

On top of that, Maryi, a presenter at the workshop, and I randomly set up a trip to go to Rome the next day! This just goes to show you the type of networks that can be formed at these conferences.

at the colosseum
THE Colosseum
Maryi and I
Maryi and I

Going to this conference honestly allowed me to become more comfortable in my skin as a researcher. Getting this paper accepted made me feel like I am personally being accepted as a REAL researcher. Like my work is ACTUALLY impacting the field and other researchers ACTUALLY welcome my contributions. Such an amazing feeling.  

Going to the conference definitely encouraged me to continue my research efforts (Especially since at the conference I was working on another paper 😛). All in all, ending this first year of the PhD program at this conference was truly the icing on the cake. I can’t wait to see what next year has in store!


This weekend I went down to FAMU since 2 of my cousins were graduating. One graduated with a bachelor’s and the other with both a bachelor’s &  master’s. They’re both business majors and I am happy to see them accomplish a great feat of graduating from college. In the midst of all the terrible things happening to black males I can gladly say that I am related to two that are doing great things.

While I was at the graduation I was so surprised to see so many Black women graduating with PhDs in STEM fields. I honestly almost teared up. Being in that environment was so uplifting! No, but seriously.

This feeling was honestly overwhelming. While I was sitting in the bleachers it finally hit me that I actually just finished my first year of this PhD. I actually did the unthinkable, at least for me. I would have never went for this PhD if it wasn’t for my undergraduate research advisor, Dr. Kristy Boyer. Honestly I owe her a lot more than she will ever know. All it takes is a little inspiration from someone who can actually get you started and  believes in you. (I’ll probably make another  posts to talk about her and other motivators 😍 ).

This year has been a bit of a roller coaster but I think that’s what has made it so amazing. It’s the nature of research.  I’ve learned a lot about what I’m capable of doing, how mind blowing  research can be, and understanding things that are truly out my control. This year I learned to step out of my comfort zone. Dr. Parnin, my advisor, has encouraged and challenged me in ways that honestly help me grow. From data crunching to conducting interviews for my latest research. From blogging about my research to practicing my scholarly writing.

But that’s what I think what the PhD program is all about; stepping outside your comfort zone. Really, how can you expect to get better without pushing yourself to that next level.

Who would’ve thought sitting in the auditorium to watch my cousins cross the stage would warrant so much reflection. I guess being around family really brought out the humble beginnings of the journey and the beauty of the finish line.  Being around those encouraging vibes lets me know that this  journey will definitely be one for the books.

hello world

Hi everyone,

My name is Dee and I am a first year Ph.D. student in Computer Science at North Carolina State University. My research interests are Software Engineering and Human Computer Interaction. I have been very interested for a long time in creating a blog about this journey and this marks my first entry. I decided to pursue this venture because I have honestly received a lot of questions about what it is that I do everyday as a Ph.D. and I figure that many other people have a similar question. So of course the only logical answer is to put it on the internet for the whole wide world to see!

My friends often ask me if I’m in a Masters program (primarily because they think that’s the only step after graduating from undergrad). They often look at me confused when I tell them that I’m actually in a Ph.D. program. Once I tell them it’s a computer Science program I get the double confused face. Starting this blog marks the end of the double confused faces. =p

Anyway I have a couple goals for this blog so I figured I’d say them so that no one is confused as to what this platform is supposed to be:

  1. I want people to know what it’s like for me to get a PhD in Computer Science(especially as a woman of color)
  2. No one told me what it was like
  3. I want to encourage someone else to take the same journey to get a PhD

Disclaimer: Sometimes this blog may get raw. At times it may be deep. Other times it may be too real and I may need to drop a swear or two. Beware.

With that being said let the storytelling commence! Yay! =D