SIGNAL 2017 Review

Event Reflections
05.30.2017

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First off, my deepest and most sincere thank you to Women Who Code for sponsoring me to attend this amazing event! Thank you for providing so many women with options and opportunities, to transition into careers in technology. Now let’s get started with a quick introduction to what Twilio does and what the SIGNAL Developer conference is.

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The easiest way to think about it, is that Twilio makes in-app SMS, voice and video capabilities, possible. Have you ever been in the blistering San Francisco wind, and met with a ray of hope in the form of your Lyft driver’s phone call, letting you know they were close? Or has your mouth has ever watered after receiving a text message from your Doordash driver, letting you know your delicious meal is on the way? If so, you’ve used Twilio! Twilio’s developer community is MASSIVE with over 1 million developers powering over 28 billion interactions all around the world. SIGNAL, is Twilio’s annual conference for the talented developer community. It also hosts representatives from Twilio’s client companies, and offers Twilio’s best practices, tips, new product announcements and a variety of developer centered workshops and sessions.

I was SO excited to attend this event and SIGNAL 2017 did not disappoint! The first thing I saw when I arrived, was this awesome image (shown above) on the windows of Pier 27. As I went to registration to gather my badge, I was presented with...

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THIS fun contraption, to which I immediately said out loud “Oh my goodness, this is so cool!” It was an interactive circuit board, called a “Hackpack.”As I looked up at the registration aide, I could see by the dullness in her facial expression, that she did not share my enthusiasm. Since there aren’t very many things that can decrease my enthusiasm (it’s literally ingrained into my many characteristics as a human), I excitedly asked her “who made this?!” to which she responded, “I’m not sure, but probably one of the developers.” You have to love THAT comment!

This Hackpack, was connected to a huge monitor inside the conference walls. Once you connected it to a console, you were able to text commands that corresponded to a portion of the wall. You could then manipulate the color, position, and even add movement to the blocks! Whoever said code wasn’t creative, did NOT see that wall! It was like a work of art. Absolutely magnificent!

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After a morning full of awe inspiring technological gizmos, it was time for the general session. I was feeling pretty important, being that Women Who Code sent me and all, so I asked the usher if I could sit near the front with the press. To my surprise he said “Sure!” I quickly thought to myself, “Man! These developer conference people sure are trusting!” If it was me, I would have asked for credentials, then Googled the organization the person said they were with, then asked a few more questions, before allowing this so called “journalist” to sit where the “real” journalists sit…but I digress.

The general session opened with Twilio’s CEO Jeff Lawson announcing some of the amazing things that Twilio developers have accomplished over the last year, like helping refugees find shelter by building an IVR that they can call into for assistance, and an internet connected watch that detects heart attacks and gets you help in real time.

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Jeff also announced a few new products that Twilio is rolling out, including two that I am very excited about: Speech Recognition and Twilio Understand, coming in Summer 2017. There were phenomenal client stories, where companies provided their experience utilizing the Twilio platform and how it has helped them continuously scale and succeed in this ever changing technology climate.

By far, my favorite client story came from Twilio’s Global Head of Culture and Inclusion, LaFawn Davis, regarding two organizations focused on expanding access to computer science for women and underrepresented minorities. Code.org, which is helping to bring computer science courses into K-12 classrooms, and Code2040, which is helping to bridge the economic gap in Black and Latino communities, by providing access to computer science education. Twilio also announced its new engineering apprenticeship program called Hatch, specifically targeting coding bootcamp grads from underrepresented groups in tech. After an inspirational general session, it was time for the breakout sessions! I really enjoyed how the sessions were organized. You could select from three tracks:

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  • Developercraft: focused on the latest and greatest innovations in the developer world
  • Twiliocraft: detailed information and “how-to’s” for products and services on the Twilio platform
  • Strategy: focused on business issues including communications, marketing and innovation

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What I loved about the sessions was the variety of topics to choose from! There was literally something for everyone! I thought for sure, there wouldn’t be anything covering my first two loves, music and fashion, but there were! I attended a very cool session called: “Fashion Forward: Fashion Designers as the new UI Engineers,” led by Lisa Lang. She talked about the importance of training existing fashion designers in fundamental computer science concepts, and vice versa. If we don’t, we will never be able to create products that serve the purpose of being fashionable and functional. I was really impressed by this fun little situation, called The Dipper. It is part necklace and part headphone. A hybrid fashion phenomena! So awesome!

There was also a session called: “Crowdsourcing Music via WebSockets: Using Scalable Technologies to Enable Musical Expression,” led by Dan Gorelick. Being a classically trained pianist myself, this was a real treat! He discovered a way to make a software application melodic, by using a mix of Node.js, Web-Sockets and Open Sound control. During the session, we were able to log into the application and create a symphony! It didn’t sound like the symphony you’re used to hearing, as there were 150 of us all playing different notes in no particular order, and DEFINITELY not part of a melodic scale, but it was still quite awesome!

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As I continued to map out my day, I noticed I was only choosing sessions in the “beginner” level. And honestly, I don’t even know if it was conscious or not, but once I realized it, I quickly thought, “well of course I should only attend the beginner sessions. I’m a beginner! And the intermediate and advanced topics will probably go over my head.” Then another voice (yes, I hear voices, and it’s totally normal, thank you very much) said, “you should ABSOLUTELY attend some of the intermediate and advanced sessions! It might NOT all go over your head and you will probably LEARN something!” I was so glad I listened to that other voice, which reminded me of something very important. As women, we are constantly self-conscious about a myriad of things, and this results in missing profound opportunities for knowledge and growth. Don't EVER believe that you're not good enough to do something, and always take advantage of a chance to learn something new. I truly believe that besides helping people, our purpose on this planet is to learn as much as we possibly can and share that knowledge with the next generation.

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With that said, here are a few more of my favorite sessions, with links so that you too can enjoy!

- Vue.js From the Back End: Building a Robust Front End to Compliment Your Back End: Cassidy Williams
- The WineBOT – How We Made a Robot That Pours Wine on Television: Andrew Pinzler
- Lucky: Examining the Barriers to Contributing to Open Source: Saron Yitbarek
- How I Used Alexa and Twilio to Wish My Dad a Happy Birthday: Amit Jotwani
- “The Cognitive Story Project” and Beyond: AI Models for the Human Brain: Tanmay Bakshi
- Digital Innovation in the Cognitive Era: Willie Tejada and Michael Ludden
- Voice Architecture Evolution – How Twilio Scaled Programmable Voice: Christer Fahlgren

Thanks again to Women Who Code for this amazing opportunity! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at: codinglifestyle@gmail.com.

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