moving WITH the mountains

Ahhhh. As I take a deep breath and look around, I can finally come to realize that everything is going to be alright. Now that the semester is over and paper writing is mostly on pause, right now is the time to sit and reflect on the fact that I made it through the second year. WOOT WOOT! This year was an interesting one. There were times when classes wanted a bit more attention and then there were times when it was research too, but ultimately WE made it through! *does praise dance*

I think I’ll dub this year “the year of networking”. I got to collaborate even more with some amazing researchers on projects at amazing universities and research labs such as Philip Guo and Joey Perricone. I attended the CRA-W Conference in San Diego and networked with so many like minded females in computing. Many of them were actually women of color who were further along on their PhD journey so I’m really thankful for that! I also finally got the chance to meet the amazing Jamika Burge at the conference and talk about future projects we had in mind. Representation is super important to me as a mentee and as a mentor. I had the opportunity to attend smaller local conferences for minority students in undergrad presenting their research at NC-LSAMP in Pembroke and one in Chapel Hill to encourage the next wave of female PhD students in the RDU Triangle. I even went to one workshop in Finland where I got meet one-on-one with amazing researchers such as Andy Begel. Needless to say, I’ve definitely found extreme value in networking.

At these conferences I got to meet some amazing researchers from around the globe and this year has really made me thankful to be around these people. The weird part here is acknowledging that I’ve been able to meet these people, but also, recognizing this semester that I, the drooler, am slowly becoming the droolee.  What I’m trying to say is that people in my field are recognizing my work and they think it’s cool! Yes, they have been established a bit longer in the field than I, but that doesn’t dispute the fact that now more than ever I can consider myself to be one of their “colleagues”. ( I know right?! That’s downright crazy!)

**OK. Here’s where I brag a bit:…but if you aren’t happy about your accomplishments than who will be?!**

This year I was able to serve on organizing committees and program committees for relevant conferences in my field. I was also able to receive two competitive fellowships: Microsoft Research Fellowship and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. It’s just so crazy because this time last year I was thinking the opportunity to be a worthy candidate  was looking pretty slim for these fellowship programs, but this year things just worked out. This year I was able to write more papers and submit more work than I  ever thought I would by my second year. I also got 2 full papers accepted at FSE this year and now I’m interning at Microsoft Research with Nachi Nagappan, Tom Zimmermann, and Christian Bird! I mention all these things to acknowledge the amazing difference a year and persistence makes. SO KEEP GRINDING!

From Seattle to the Olympic Mountain Range
From Seattle to the Olympic Mountain Range from Lourenco Photography

**brag rant complete**

Anyway, I think it’s super important to arrive at this feeling; this feeling of “being OF the community”. I had a similar feeling when my first workshop paper got accepted but nawww this year ended with a “next level” feeling. It’s kind of an attention shift and your perspective on how you approach research changes a bit (well at least for me it did). When the first person comes to you and recognizes you for your work it’s kind of like an OMG moment. As in you are in complete awe yourself; you didn’t even realize that you were coming off as someone who knows what they’re talking about. But the truth is YOU ARE someone who knows what you’re talking about! YOU ARE knowledgeable of what’s going on in your field! YOU ARE a valued voice at the decision table of your research area!  And that moment right there is just super refreshing. In a way it kind of gives you fire to continue the next couple of years in your program. I’m definitely not saying that I want to be in the program for 11 more years, but you get the idea.

It’s kind of like “Wow, I’ve encountered all these challenges and I know there’s more to come, but hey I can roll with the punches, yeah I can stand and hold my weight amongst the big dogs in the field, I can move with the mountains.”


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…