Conferences in San Francisco

I went to San Francisco a few days ago to attend two conferences, mainly the Tedx Presidio and Richard Tapia Diversity in Computing. I will talk about my experiences, but first the location.

San Francisco

In front of Golden Gate Bridge
Me in San Francisco

This city is probably the most beautiful and unique city I’ve been to. Climate is a world away from Toronto. Always sunny, and moderate. The city has a unique architectural design that incorporates Art Deco and avante garde with unique gardens and parks coexisting with skyscrapers. The city has an amazing amount of rolling hills and valleys, which can be a pain to walk on, but looks fantastic as scenery. There exists some of the most romantic places I’ve ever been, including the Japanese tea garden in Golden Gate Park. In any case, San Francisco really left a deep impression on me, and is definitely more fitting to me than Toronto.

Tedx Presidio

At the Palace of Fine Arts
At the Palace of Fine Arts

A very cool conference. Located at the Palace of fine arts which has an amazing Roman-inspired palace on the grounds, this inspiring conference included speakers ranging from the San Francisco municipal government to Autodesk corporation to two young entrepreneurs (who started a business to grow mushrooms from coffee grounds) from Berkeley.  Each of them brought something amazing to talk about, and how technology fuses with businesses, and green energy / sustainability in particular. Attendees were mostly from around the Bay Area, Oakland, San Jose, etc.

Richard Tapia


At Google San Francisco
At Google San Francisco

The first night, I got to meet with a lot of great students from UC Berkeley, Rice, Stanford, Georgia Tech, University of Virginia and University of Illinois. It really amazes me how diverse computer science can be. I also got to meet with industry executives from Amazon, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Cisco, Lawrence Berkeley Labs, Intel, US Department of Energy, Netapp, and Symantec.

Second night, got to hear some great speakers from Rice, Intel, Microsoft (Bing), Georgia Tech, and got to visit Google San Francisco (they have it all btw, the buffets, mini cafes, pool tables, and even a slide I got to ride!). I also got to hear a lot of great project ideas from over 60 students, from across various universities in the U.S. Made friends with people from Chicago to Nashville. Although we are all from different places, near and far, we are all bound together by our common interests (computer science), and our similar language (C++/Java).

Third night had speakers from UCLA, Berkeley, IBM and Google. I got to have lunch with an interesting PhD researcher from UT San Antonio who worked on web security. Met Dan Garcia from UC Berkeley, who was one of the top CS education researchers, and he gave me feedback on my own project, which was great. I also met a cool student from UC Irvine who designed a poster that won the Tapia award that night, who was interested in Chinese culture, and Canadian culture.

I had an interview with a small startup company on the last day I was there, and they gave me a really good impression with the company culture. First met with the HR manager, which was the standard behavioral questions. Second, I met the engineering manager who asked me to draw UML diagrams about the travel industry. This was fine because I was familiar with class diagrams but not that knowledgeable about travel websites. Third I met a senior software engineer, where I explained to her my development cycle at Environment Canada. I think this part went well because I knew my stuff from my previous internship. Fourth I met a senior web developer, which I struggled with, because I wasn’t a front end developer, but I did my best explaining MVC, Design patterns, RESTful interfaces, and Semantic HTML. Fifth, I had a pair programming session with the previous two developers. This was my first time pair programming, and I got a good feel for it, but made several amateur mistakes throughout. In the end, I felt that I could have done better on this part if I wasn’t so nervous, and the IntelliJ IDE which I wasn’t familiar with, and I didn’t get time to start on the second test class. Overall, I think I did alright, and while coding on the white board was familiar to me, programming while two people staring at you was not, and I think it was partly because I was nervous and hadn’t done that before. However, I tried my best, and hope that I will be able to get an offer (cross your fingers for me >.<).

Edit: Got the job!!! =]

Additional Comments

At the Fairmont San Francisco
At the Fairmont San Francisco

I’ve mentioned before how fitting California was to me, and how it was my ‘calling’ and, after visiting there, I believe that my hunch was right. There was no other place as fitting, no other place in the world which had the perfect combination of culture, diversity, technology, music/entertainment, business, and innovation for me as the Bay Area. I felt an almost instant connection to this place which seemed so new yet familiar to me. I’m also pleasantly surprised by the fact that about half the attendees to the Tapia conference were female, which is great because females generally constitute about 20% of the IT workforce. Most of the attendees were African American or Hispanic American, which was great since it’s very rare to see that diversity in computer science.
I was the only conference attendee from Canada. I asked my colleagues from UofT if they wanted to attend but no one responded. I’m really disappointed that out of my whole Facebook list of 500 friends, that not even one expressed any interest, because it was a great conference and you really have to keep searching for these opportunities if you want to network. It was my first time going to such a far place by myself, and I enjoyed the freedom =].