Wednesday 22 April 2015

Computer Science and Lindy Hop

It would seem that Lindy Hop is the dance of computing people, physicists and engineers. If you go to any swing dance camp, an unreasonable proportion of the people in the room will be somehow involved in IT. We have Lindy hoppers who have used Androids with sensors and fourier transforms to look at the pulse of the dance, use Lindy to illustrate quantum computing, and there is even a specific Lindy dance class for engineers. Sam Carroll described how digital media savvy the community was and is, in her Step Stealing work.

Okay, so people need money to go to dance camps, and computing professions generally pay well. And it gets us away from our desks and having fun with other people and music. However, these can't be the only reasons.

I think that I enjoy Lindy for lots of the same reasons that I enjoy computing. They're both about creating complex structures that are somehow beautiful. By complex structures I mean structures that are complicated enough that they make me feel pleased when I finally successfully make them work. By beautiful I mean code/dance/ideas that become elegant because of their appropriateness in that particular situation. And in both computing and Lindy I enjoy the reusable patterns. Reusable patterns in rhythm are like reusable patterns in computing: once you've understood them, they stay with you and can often tell you something more abstract about what you're trying to do.

So I think that computing and Lindy have more in common than just having fun. They also share reusable beautiful complexity.

Added note: If you want to try it out, come and join our Vintage Swinging in the Rain party on Friday 24th April, 8pm, Marine Hotel, Aberystwyth. There's a short dance class for beginners at about 8:30, and live music from The Paper Moon Band.

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Employers at BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium 2015

I think this year's Lovelace Colloquium was notable for the strong employer presence, both in sponsorship and in having employer stalls. This seems to be a year when computer science students are generally in demand. A conference of computing undergraduates presenting their work consists of ambitious students, who are ideal targets for recruiters. And the fact that it's a room full of bright women undergraduates is a very good thing for companies looking to increase their diversity.

Some of the companies who sponsored this year's Lovelace have been strong supporters for many years, including Google, FDM, EMC, UTC Aerospace, Interface3 and VMWare. They understood this a long time ago. But newer to this event were a whole variety of other companies, some small, some large, including Twitter, Slack, GCHQ, Scott Logic, JP Morgan, Bloomberg and Kotikan. We hope they enjoyed it too, and return in future years.

Kate Ho provided the keynote speech. She started her own software (games) company right after her PhD, and has gone from strength to strength, running a variety of startup companies since then. Her three tips: have side projects, be distinctive, keep a diary, were all good advice, both for technical work and for career development.

The friendliness of the Lovelace Colloquium never ceases to surprise and motivate me. Part of this is driven by Hannah's organisation style, pre-conference and during-conference, where nothing is too much trouble and everyone is made to feel at home. But I think it's also genuinely a room full of people having fun, getting to know others and make connections, and finding inspiration for their future careers.