Below is an article originally written by Jamy Barton, the Sr. Director of Tech Diversity at PowerToFly Partner Audible, and published on September 25, 2018. Go to Audible's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
A summer of learning and inspiration for the years ahead!
A summer rain pounded Newark, NJ in early August as a gust of 23 girls piled into the lobby of 1 Washington Place. Participants from the Girls Who Code summer immersion program had arrived at Audible! And we were ready for them!
Girls Who Code, a national non-profit organization focused on closing the gender gap in technology, runs six-week summer programs across the nation. Audible is a popular visit for the girls participating in the program in several nearby locations, and we were delighted to host them on August 10.
"The girls appreciated learning highly relevant industry skills in the classroom at Audible"
The Future is Female
Up to the 12th Floor with a sweeping view of New York City in the distance, the day kicked off with an orientation about Audible, its technology, its products, and most importantly, its customers. Then, leaders from the Audible Technology team sat with the girls to share ideas and insights into careers in tech. The leaders specifically tapped into discussions about early-stage lessons learned, failure and confidence, and self-care, including confessions of daily routines that they attribute to better balance and success. Hands flew up as we opened to Q&A. We have no doubt that many of the girls in that room will be leading similar conversations as future tech leaders!
Off to the Studios!
Audible records and produces a large amount of its audio content at 1 Washington Park. It's in the Audible Studios where world-class narrators bring books to life. The Studios team provided the girls with a rare glimpse inside the people, process, and technology behind that magic.
"Alexa, ask TV Show Finder, on what channel is Young Sheldon?"
After lunch, the girls rolled up their sleeves and took to the classroom for a two-hour workshop on developing Alexa Skills. With coaching from members of the Audible Tech Team, girls paired up to develop their own TV Show Finder Alexa skill. Starting with basic skills building, the girls eventually added their own flare to the skill. One group utilized SSML tags to alter Alexa's voice to sound scary. Another group simplified Alexa's response for daily shows. For example, instead of Alexa listing all the days of the week for a daily show, the team modified the response to simply say "the show aired daily."
All teams succeeded in reaching their goal to build a working Alexa skill. A key takeaway from the workshop was that developing software may seem intimidating at first, but once a problem is broken into smaller parts, each part is not nearly as intimidating as the whole. A life lesson that goes beyond the classroom!
The smiles broadened with ice cream and Audible swag bags including an Echo Dot for future listening and experimentation!
"The girls appreciated learning highly relevant industry skills in the classroom at Audible. This, and hearing about various pathways that they can take in the field of technology from the panel discussion, left them excited and motivated to learn more." —Tisha Greenidge, Lead Summer Immersion Program Instructor
We wish the girls (who code) an amazing school year ahead and hope that their day-at-Audible reinforced their vision of a future in technology! We're counting on you!
Remember we are hiring! Audible is growing rapidly and always looking to add amazing people to our team. Check out our open positions and we'd love to hear from you.
L3 Sponsors MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute
Below is an article originally written by PowerToFly Partner L3 Technologies, and published on July 16, 2018. Go to L3 Technologies' page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
L3 Technologies (NYSE:LLL) announced today that it is has become a sponsor of MIT Beaver Works in support of its 2018 Summer Institute. The four-week program, now in its third year, brings together some of the nation's most promising high school students to showcase their talents and work in teams that focus on a range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) projects.
"Innovation drives our company, and supporting STEM initiatives that nurture tomorrow's standout engineers is a solid investment in our industry. L3 is a data-driven, inclusive culture, and we continue to build on our legacy of supporting STEM education to deliver next-generation technologies to our customers," said Paul De Lia, L3's Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. "Supporting institutions like MIT also helps us attract world-class engineers who deepen our bench of talent. The students can appreciate the increasingly competitive role technology is playing in bringing innovation to market quickly and reliably."
Created as an incubator for research and innovation, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Beaver Works is a joint venture between MIT's Lincoln Laboratory and its School of Engineering. Seniors work with MIT faculty, students, researchers and Lincoln Lab staff to develop their skills and solve real-world technology challenges in a hands-on learning environment. Projects for this summer's program include designing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), exploring embedded security and hardware hacking, designing and launching a miniaturized satellite – called a CubeSat – with an imaging payload, and building a UAV synthetic aperture radar, among several others.
The 2018 Beaver Works Summer Institute worked with 110 high schools to recruit 198 students to participate in the program.
A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.
Haele Wolfe, Skillcrush
Sarah Eggers balances a marketing job, tech side hustle, and family life in Kansas City, MO. Five years ago, she discovered Skillcrush and rekindled her love of tech, culminating in a web design side hustle that she runs alongside her day job in writing and marketing. She told her story to Haele Wolfe.
Despite living frugally, my partner and I bear considerable financial responsibility between student debt, a mortgage, and the general expenses of life. When I wanted to bring in some extra cash without changing careers, I decided to try out a side hustle and began consulting for social media marketing. I added tech skills to my repertoire, and three years later, those tech skills have become my main side hustle, eclipsing my social media consulting! Coding has made a huge difference—not just financially—but in my whole perception of my career. And most incredibly, my extracurricular work as a developer helped me accomplish an enormous personal goal: I started a family.
I've always been interested in tech because I love being able to customize things. When I was ten or eleven I would build HTML tables in Tripod (these were the pre-Myspace days) just for fun—there's just something about being able to make text glittery that really speaks to me. As I grew up I also cultivated a love of languages and literature (and hello, what is coding if not just more languages?) and ended up majoring in English before landing a job in marketing.
I dug into coding as an adult because I wanted to be able to design my own blog theme for a WordPress page I was running. Pursuing coding courses was about feeding my lifelong love of learning, and after a lot of research, I signed up for a web design course to familiarize myself with HTML and CSS so that I could have a foundation of knowledge before taking a WordPress course.
My tech side hustle grew organically after I completed the courses and was putting my new skills to work on my blog. Friends and family members found out that I knew how to customize pages and started asking me to help them with their own. And, I threw up a page about my new tech skills on my site and see if any work came in.
Freelancing as a developer on the side gives me balance in my professional life that I didn't realize I could have. In my day job, I often have year-long projects or goals, and it's hard to feel progress and to stay excited when I'm doing incremental work over a longer period of time—even though I love the work. Web development offers me that boost of completing projects in a few hours, days, or weeks—and that is so satisfying! I complete the work, get to see the client happy, cash my paycheck, and then move on to the next thing. Completing these cycles on different projects is completely motivating for me.
Another beautiful thing about freelance tech work is that I can totally say no to clients I'm not interested in. Choosing to work two jobs instead of going full-time freelance made the most sense for me, and having the ability to pick my freelance clients without the pressure of that work being my only way to pay bills keeps things fresh and fun. As a result, all the work that I do on the side is work that I'm truly excited about, and I only work for clients with whom I really connect.
Just a few weeks ago, I got to share some wildly exciting side hustle news with the Skillcrush alumni community: After a few years of freelancing as a web developer, my partner and I were able to adopt a child and start our family!
I'd began freelancing in web development sort of by accident—I'd simply wanted to learn, and then the clients started coming. Once I saw the potential financial benefits of further monetizing the side work I was doing, I dove in and was able put away a significant amount of savings towards our adoption.
My daughter is clearly the most costly and most worthwhile expense that my tech skills helped me afford, and having a second career that brought in money to pay for the adoption meant that our family was able to grow much sooner than my partner and I had initially thought.
My advice to others who are looking to learn something new or who want to try tech skills as a career path is to jump in. If you're even a little curious about what tech skills can do for you, just start! Even if you don't want to ditch your job (I see you out there, fellow education lovers!) you never know what kinds of benefits new skills will add to your life. For me, the extra income, fun of adding to my skill toolbox, and variation of projects in my work life, has expanded my career— and life—in ways I didn't know were possible.
Women Tech Leaders From Audible Featured at Propelify Tech Talk
Below is an article originally written by Jane Li, Garima Agarwal, Nancy Huang, Alex Usova, and Neha Koul of PowerToFly Partner Audible, and published on June 11, 2018. Go to Audible's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Despite a dreary morning sky, the boxed coffee and bustling energy kept all the volunteers in warm spirits. The outdoor Propelify conference on Hoboken's waterfront had been set up like a farmer's market—booth after booth showcasing cool tech ideas and enthusiastic young startups.
Audible's tent was fashioned into a swanky living room, with couches and a huge fuzzy carpet, a perfect invitation for attendees to come listen to five software developers from Audible's Consumer Domains, the full-stack engineering teams behind Audible's website.
Jane started the event with a talk about Chrome Developer Tools. After a short overview of Chrome's more familiar features, she shifted focus to lesser-known features used for diagnosing and improving website performance, like the Audits tab from Google's Lighthouse tool. Using mobile.audible.com as an example, she went over different types of audits like Performance, Progressive Web App, Accessibility, Best Practices, and SEO. She highlighted the bonus performance auditing features of Google Canary, the forward-looking beta build of Chrome, and the Network tab as direct ways to investigate performance issues. To highlight SEO, she showed changing the browser's user agent in the Network Conditions tool to Googlebot to see how it would view a webpage when determining search engine rankings. Finally, she ended her talk with the Security tab to tie into the next talk.
Second, was an enlightening talk on Web App Security by Garima. The talk highlighted the importance of serving sites over https for several trust and security reasons. There was emphasis on https becoming a requirement for leveraging http/2 and future PWA (Progressive Web App) technologies. The talk demonstrated two security vulnerabilities on sites today—XSS and Clickjacking. This was followed by leveraging http security headers to tighten up the security of web apps, typically just by adding a few lines of code. Garima called out several other security headers used by Audible today and encouraged the audience to research and use them.
Next, Nancy gave her talk on http/2. She started with a brief history of how the protocol came to be, starting with a screencap of one of the oldest web pages in existence to illustrate how far the Web has come since its inception. She went over two of the major features of http/2, where http request and response objects are refashioned as streams of tiny frames—multiplexed and compressed. Making sure to note that http/2 could only be supported on websites that assuredly serve their content over secure https, Nancy concluded her spiel with the wide availability of implementations of the protocol on both client and server side and encouraged the audience to adopt it.
Alex followed with a speech about a resource hint called Preconnect. The preconnect link relation type is used to indicate an origin that will be used to fetch required resources. Initiating an early connection, which includes the DNS lookup, TCP handshake, and optional TLS negotiation, allows the user agent to mask the high latency costs of establishing a connection. Alex provided examples of pages with and without preconnect and compared their loading time, demonstrating that usage of preconnect gives performance improvement, as well as giving a convincing argument for why every millisecond counts in the web world. She also demonstrated how preconnect is used in Audible.
The final talk of the session was presented by Neha Koul. Neha spoke about Serverless computing and how to host a website using the Lambda functions and API gateway. During the talk, she dived into how Functions as a Service (FaaS) describe the capability to deploy an individual "function," action, or piece of business logic using Serverless architecture. The presentation concluded with a demonstration of a sample campaign on the website for "What's your next title?" The audience was able to get a step-by-step guide on the serverless architecture, the lambda configurations, and important steps to set it up on their own.
The talks concluded with time for questions from the audience. After thanking everyone for a hugely successful round of Tech Talks, the tent once again turned into a mingling of inquisitive conference attendees, Audible employees, and the chilly morning air.