Dear Startups: Stop Asking Me Math Puzzles to Figure Out If I Can Code

Ditto to the entire post! Great read!

Today Emma Learned:

I’ve always been pretty good at math. Not trigonometry, or arithmetic, or whatever people are usually thinking of when they’re like, “Oh, you must be smart! I hate math!” But, combinatorics and graph theory and proving things and figuring out how to put hats on prisoners – I love that stuff. I went to three different high schools, and I did math team at all of them. When I was ten or eleven and my parents needed me to shut up at dinner parties, they bribed me with books of math puzzles. No joke.

During my sophomore year of college, I was dating a Computer Science major, and I took some CS classes out of curiosity. To my surprise, CS wasn’t different from math at all. I took my Intro class in Java, so there was some mumbo-jumbo that you put at the top of your programs that went “public…

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ALL THOSE COURSES? Are they necessary?

We are back!

Time to get back to work and finish out the year strong!

I had an amazing break, and spent countless hours laughing with family and friends. One dreaded question I kept hearing over and over again was “So, when will you be done with school?

My reply #Never, #WhenIFinishAllTheseCourses, #WhenICompleteThisDissertation

The beauty of it all is that, I am now considered a seasoned veteran when it comes to college. So my family always ask me about college related topics. I have a younger cousin who just started college, and she is struggling to understand why she has to take so many classes that are “…not related to my major, boring and useless, and too early in the morning.” This is not the first time I have heard this compliant from an undergrad. In fact, I asked myself similar questions during my undergraduate days.

Over the years I have learned that every skill can be reused and revitalized for the many different tasks life assigns you. In high school is where I was first introduced to Microsoft’s Powerpoint, and required to do a presentation. From that point I have been required to do presentation quite often. During undergrad I took a course that introduced me to Microsoft Office, a bit more in depth, so my skills were sharpened a little more. Now as a graduate student I do presentations year round on various topics as it relates to my coursework.

Now here I am in NYC, swimming with the “Big Fish”, and what do I have to do, yet another presentation. My upcoming week will be spent building my presentation for the research I have done thus far. My Powerpoint presentation will walk my colleagues through my idea and it’s implementation. I will then write about it in detail, giving background as well as my procedures for technical development.

When your told “These course will prepare you for your future.” or “You’ll need these skills when you enter the workforce.”, you don’t want to hear it or your focus is not there because it’s 8am and your thinking you should be in bed. The required Literary Compositions course, seems trivial at 10am on a Tuesdays and Thursdays as your rushing across campus in the cold, when there’s a nice warm bed and a cup of hot chocolate in your dorm room. Life’s reality is simple. Learn the skill you need as you grow, because there will come a time when you are the person doing the presentations or the person having to explain the need for a particular skill.

So, to my younger cousin I replied. “You’ll need those skills when you enter the workforce. If you learn them now, presentations and public speaking will come easy to you when you have to present your designs to the fashion industry.”


Greater is Coming!

I have three weeks to go!

This is a bittersweet moment in my internship. First, because I still can not believe I’m here and that I am actually capable of swimming with the big fish, but also because my time here is almost finished.

When I arrived, I was scared, timid, and completely clueless. I had no idea what I would be doing, and if I would be able to offer any skill of value to a big name corporation. I walk the halls daily with the creme dela creme of the research world. Oh what brilliant minds they have, which can be intimidating. The meetings go on for hours at a time, sometimes, as the master minds behind our everyday electronics, from entertainment to healthcare and beyond sit and  hash out the finite details of various technical systems. It’s simply brilliant, and what’s most interesting is the varying backgrounds of all the scientist. Each master’s of their own interest, collaborating on the next healthcare biotechnology or something equally as great. I will miss this place and can only strive to be as great a scientist and human being as so many of the wonderful colleagues I have had thus far.

My supervisor sent me an internship schedule a while back. After opening and looking through the schedule I had no clue how I was going to get it all done. I was scared to start because I did not believe in my own ability to get things done. My challenge through this whole internship was moving out of my own way and allowing the skills that I have to be put to work. I am proud to say that in this short week I have completed the goals of this week and I am on task according to my schedule. The feeling is amazing and being able to say I did it, feels great. I am amazed and honestly proud of myself as my hard work has paid off. Now its time to test my system, and put it to work.

I will be heading back to my original desk, which will be exciting. I have missed many of my school chums and the atmosphere of the office. We are a small state school but very close. I am excited to take back with me the many skills that I have ascertained while here, swimming with the big fish. I have some fresh research goals to implement as well as new learning techniques to put to use. My passion for completing my doctoral degree has been reignited. My willingness to let go the things holding my back has come with ease now that I have had a small taste of what lies ahead.

The songwriter said Greater is coming. sang by Jekalyn Carr, so this holiday season I am thankful most for the shaking, the beating, and the pressing!



Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Being Challenged: Right Place, At the Right Time, Part II

This post is a continuation from my previous post entitled: Being Challenged: Right Place, At the Right Time, Part I

Did I think the idea was amazing? Yes! Was I inspired? Yes! However, my amazement was the result of the biomedical engineer’s suggestion. I was so blown away by her knowledge base. She knew so much and in so many areas. At one point we began discussing physiology and the use of nociceptors (the nerve cells responsible for pain perception) notification to identify beginning stages of a heart attack.My healthcare background allowed me the knowledge to follow her conversation and thought process however, I simply would never have thought of it.

My work in healthcare began as a high school student looking to gain more experience. I volunteered at numerous nursing homes, and a few hospitals. From there I went on to study in the field of healthcare in college. In college, as you go from class to class the knowledge begins to overlap and your foundation is built upon. However, once you step out of a certain area of study, and begin another you don’t always see right away how the two subject matters relate. At Columbia University last week, I was challenged by a group of my peers to think beyond the present and current topic. I was challenged to involve all of my experiences and subject knowledge into building technology for the future.

Being in the right place at the right time spoke volumes to me.

I have this one professor that is constantly challenging me (asking me questions that motivate me to think). The phrasing of the questions asked to me makes me wonder if their interest has been sparked or if my ideas are being belittled. Either way it made me feel as if my area of research was not good enough simply because it does not fit into the traditional areas of computer science.

My research area has now been validated in my eyes, even without the approval of those that do not take an interest in my topic. Healthcare technology is a branch of computer science simply because it is built on the fundamental principles of computer science. Not only that, there is a world of researchers out there doing work in my field of interest. Had I not been accepted to this internship position or at this meeting  would probably still think that my research was not related to computer science.

What is important for me now, is to aline myself with like minded individuals. I am going to have to seek out the groups and organizations in my area that work in the field of Telemedicine, mhealth, and healthcare technology. Being apart of organizations in my field will not only keep me abreast to current events within my field, but it will also keep me in touch with like minded individuals. The individuals that are willing to challenge my thinking and thought process. 

I need to be challenged. One because my ideas are not always the best and the brightest. Yet my ideas are good and valid, but maybe missing some details. My challengers are the one’s that force me to think beyond the foundation of my ideas, to building a working product. I have been challenged time and time again during my internship. It’s not enough to simply have a good idea, you have to be able to implement that idea, as well as articulate the steps taken to move the idea’s foundation forward.

My start is to get involved and surround myself with experts in my field. What’s your start?


Being Challenged: Right Place, At the Right Time, Part I

I am in New York for the semester and I am truly enjoying myself.

I am not a huge partier or a drinker, so often I opt out of the events with friends that center around these activities. Also, I do not live in the city, so commuting to the city can be expensive and it takes so long. The Metro North trains stop running to my area at roughly 2am, so I would have to be at Grand Central Station by 1:45am to make it home. In New York, people don’t really start coming out until 11 or 12, which leaves me a good hour and a half to have fun, before I have to rush back to catch my train. Ok, so why not just drive my car into the city. Well parking in NYC is more expensive than daycare, and I do not have the dividends for that. So, I pick and choose very carefully the times for which I go into the city.

This past week I went into the city twice. I attended two healthcare technologies seminar functions. The first was at Google NYC, an event with FlatIron hosted by Google Ventures.The second at Columbia University, a HealthTech assembly that encourages idea exchange and promotes broadening the collaboration between healthcare and business professionals.

The FlatIron/Google Ventures event was amazing. There were talks from several physicians’s specializing in oncology as well as the had of engineering at Yammers (A small startup company bought by Microsoft for millions!). FlatIron/Google Ventures has set out to catalog as much cancer research as they possible can. They are gathering data from varying sources by sitting down with clinicians, patients, insurers and many more to find out as much as they can about cancer. Cancer affects the lives of patient as well as those around the patient (family, friends, healthcare providers). There are so many varying forms of cancer and cancer treatments, however, each patient is different and each patient responds differently to cancer treatment. The data being collected by FlatIron is needed so that clinicians as well as patients will have access to differing scenario’s of patients with various forms of cancer and treatments for those suffering with, living with, or surviving with cancer. FlatIron and Google Ventures, plans to morph data ascertained during this research phase into a database known as GoogleOncology that will give people more information, facts, and stories about cancer and its effects.

What was really amazing about the FlatIron staff was that they all work for Google. FlatIron happened to be their second start up company after their first was bought by Google. Stepping away from the technology aspect of this all for one second we see that life is what you make of it. A group of friends went from and idea to being apart of a major  corporation all because they took and chance and made their passion a reality. The story of this group of friends should inspire innovation and entrepreneurship in all of us and challenge us not to get stuck in the cycle of going to college, finding a job, and working hard for someone else’s dream for the rest of our lives.

While I enjoyed the FlatIron/Google Ventures event tremendously, what I gained from being there was the encouragement I needed to go back into the city for yet another healthcare seminar at Columbia University. This meeting was a little more informal. We formed groups and discussed ideas that aided in identifying and writing the best mission statements for technology companies that were looking to solve problem in healthcare from a technology standpoint. This was where innovation really began. We sat together and discussed solutions to healthcare problems with expertise in varying areas. In my group was a medical student, a business student, a biomedical engineering student, a public health administration student, one mathematician, and myself the computer science student. While the biomedical engineering student was the most loquacious in our group, we were all able to lend perspective from our varying areas or expertise.  Our challenge was to identify a way in which technology could be used to reduce the number of deaths in cardiac patients that had heart attacks outside of the hospital. This is when things got interesting. Our biomedical engineer suggested that we use graph theory to handle signal processing,as notifications to those that chose to opt into our application were notified of a person(s) experiencing cardiac arrest in their vicinity.

From these two events I learned that being around like minded people in an environment that challenges you to think beyond your current state is what drives innovation.


This entry was posted on November 18, 2013. 2 Comments

Pressure and Triumph

The last few weeks have been pretty stressful. My spirit was a little defeated because of my small Java knowledge. I have been expected to produce code at the end of each week and while I have been meeting my deadlines, only the minimum of each task was returned.

This week is full of massive return. I have been putting in time to learn Java, and understand how to get what I need done. Twelve hour days at the office, plus weekends! I have been given the name of “Workaholic” amongst the other interns. The cool thing about it is that everyone has been willing to assist me when there was something that I didn’t understand! So my support system is AMAZING!!

Ok, so what have I done?

I have completed two preliminary programming milestones for the system we are building. My system can now indicate when someone is speaking as well has who’s turn it is to speak. While it’s nothing fantasy, it’s still pretty cool to me. Before starting this internship I had no clue how I was going to go about implementing this idea. I am finally moving in the direction of actually producing results, and not just idea’s. I am proud of the projects success, but more important is my personal growth. While I am not the best programmer around, I am getting better at it, and picking up multiple languages!!

Stay tuned to learn more about about how human speech and aural ability!!!

“What are you willing to give up to ascertain your most desired passion?”

I am in training to become a computer scientist. Though I would not classify myself as a programmer, I can code. Daily I am getting better at it. My first language was C++, from which I studied the basics and learned about variables, repetition using loops, array, classes, recursion and different data structures. Programming did not come natural to me because I had no prior knowledge of bits, bytes, and words, or even a small knowledge of a computer operating system.

I am grateful for the year of training in the basics of programming. As an industrial intern I had the privilege to attend and in house training course in C++. I learned so much in just two hours with a co-worker that programs for a living. It was made made clear for me how component parts that I had knowledge of, fit together and solve problems. During the training some of the challenging topics of programming were made easy to comprehend.

I was asked recently “How did you get through undergraduate?” and “How do you continue to press on while seeking a doctoral degree?”.  At the time I thought these were loaded questions to which I had no answer. I went home and these questions continued to occupy space in my mind, so, I had to answer them. Over the years I have read numerous books in from the “Self Help” aisle of the Barnes and Nobles chain bookstores. So I was shocked when from somewhere deep inside my memories library catalog of “Self Help” training came this question as I thought about answering these questions. I asked myself “What are you willing to give up to ascertain your most desired passion?”

As a researcher, I am forced to program in Java simply because the API’s (application programming interface) for my research are written in this particular programming language. This post in not about my personal desires, however, I will share with you that I am passionate about getting my doctoral degree.  In order to do so, I’m going to have to learn to program. I can not simply have knowledge of the basics, I also have to have knowledge of implementing and coding the basics to solve more complex problems. Java is the programming language used to implement Android Programming. Android programming is a skill I will need to making Android Applications. Android applications is the tool I will need to implement my research topic. Being able to understand, explain, and prove my research topic is what I will need to ascertain my doctoral degree.

So, I am willing to give up my weekends in order to ascertain better fluidity in Java Programming.