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Audible

Audible At Grace Hopper Conference 2018

Below is an article originally written by Ora Levit at PowerToFly Partner Audible, and published on January 23, 2019. Go to Audible's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

The 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing took place in Houston, TX.

This was my first time at Grace Hopper and I was astounded to learn there were more than 22,000 attendees—including 600 Amazon and 24 Audible women in engineering.

The three-day event started with hopping a bus—to NASA! Amazon hosted an evening event for its conference attendees at the NASA Johnson Space Center. Besides the fact we were at NASA (and that's pretty amazing by itself!), I ran into a classmate who just launched the new Alexa connected devices that past month. It was awesome to connect with her and learn about her Amazon journey. I had similar experiences throughout my time at Grace Hopper as I met other Amazonians who shared the amazing projects they're working on—many from areas and departments I'd never come across in my day-to-day work.

The three-day conference was filled with talks by women leaders from different fields on topics of technological innovations, career development, and lessons from tech leaders.

A message that highly resonated with me was "career journeys," Many speakers, in one talk after another, presented their "official" and "non-official" narratives. While on the surface, or by looking at their resumes/LinkedIn profiles, many of them had very impressive career paths that seemed to always be in an upward trajectory—the real story was often different. One woman described how she was offered a promotion to manage her team, owning the digital e-commerce website for her company. While she was negotiating the final terms of her new role, she went into labor three months before her planned due date. As her baby was born pre-maturely, they spent 72 days in the NICU and had a long recovery process in his first year of life. During her leave, her co-worker ended up being promoted to manage the team instead of her. When she returned from maternity leave, he became her manager. While this was a setback, the silver lining was that this new manager took an active role in sponsoring her and helped her grow and succeed in the organization, achieving the fulfilling career she was looking for, albeit delayed.

There were a number of inspiring women at the conference, all of whom had achieved incredible successes through perseverance, finding successful and fulfilling career paths that led them to senior leadership roles.

Many of the most senior women who spoke at the conference experienced unexpected setbacks along their journeys, including layoffs, among others. I was astonished by the underlying perseverance and grit they displayed in overcoming these situations while growing to become strong and powerful leaders. Knowing that the future can be re-shaped even if the road is sometimes very bumpy is often the key to success. Moreover, fear of failure often inhibits us from making bold decisions because of potentially negative implications, and that fear is often not productive for thinking outside the box and envisioning the future. Knowing that a failure is not the end of the road, but only a temporary setback, was an important takeaway.

Another interesting theme discussed was how women spend their time at work. Many of the women attested that they are too busy in their current roles to take on strategic initiatives— the activities that truly move the career needle. Data shared at the conference demonstrated that women tend to take on the "house cleaning" chores at work too, often filing their days with everything that "needs to be done." "Leaning out"—recognizing that you don't need to be the first to volunteer for every task, especially if it's not career-enhancing—and the importance of knowing to not over-commit to the wrong projects was discussed. Breaking into working groups around this topic, I found that the data aligns closely with reality for the women I spoke with. We talked about "task overload" and "not enough time."

Beyond the talks and the ability to meet incredible women from different industries, I really enjoyed spending more time with my own colleagues—the Audible women in engineering! It's a diverse group of inspiring women with so many different life experiences and viewpoints! These events help build cross-organizational connections in an environment that is structured to support that, outside of the day-to-day work we do. These relationships are often very powerful and help teams who later come together for projects, work effectively and efficiently. Throughout the events, I had the chance to have breakfasts and dinners with these incredible women, and I cherish those interactions deeply.

Lastly, I had the chance to participate in some of Audible's recruiting events, presenting how Audible works on Alexa to candidates, chatting with college students about their career aspirations, and taking part in Audible's awesome Game Night. These experiences reminded me of the importance of mentorship and sponsorship for women beginning a journey in technology. Early in their careers, many women are debating where they want to end-up, what roles they want to pursue, and how they should start their careers. Decisions and directions on that journey can vary based on how much you know about the industry and how to navigate the landscape. Personally, I believe that if you don't know what opportunities are available, how to get them, and where you personally want to go, you're likely going to get lost on the way, because your destination is not set. The importance of these women meeting some of the leaders at Audible, and the ability to provide advice or assistance can often shift someone's career dramatically, and I personally felt fulfilled by some of the interactions and conversations with these young women.

And as I mentioned Audible's Game Night event—kudos to the great recruiting team that organized amazing games, food, and ambience for Audible employees and candidates who attended this event. Personally, I enjoyed dancing on the floor with the Audible crew after everyone left at the end of the evening. One important shoutout goes to Jamy Barton, head of tech diversity, who is one of the most valuable secret weapons Audible has. Jamy's touch and organization was felt throughout the event, from early planning to final delivery, everything was absolutely top notch.

Audible's at the end of the awesome Game Night event

I'm proud to be part of a company that sends its employees to events like this, and am looking forward to continuing to help Audible empower women in tech.

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.

Audible

Audible @ Newark's Technology High School

Below is an article originally written by Sanjana Rao, a Software Development Engineer at PowerToFly Partner Audible, and published on May 22, 2018. Go to Audible's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

On Monday May 14th, a bunch of us from Audible, in partnership with Audible Cares, volunteered at Technology High School, here in our own hometown of Newark, with an aim to induct the students into computer programming.

After a brief introduction, we broke up into smaller groups and jumped right into a homework exercise: write the instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The point? To demonstrate that computers can literally only do what we tell them to, and that the devil is in the details. So basically, if you don't specify steps—that the peanut butter and jelly have to be spread on separate slices of bread, which should have been placed on the table, face up, before bringing them together into a sandwich—you might end up with peanut butter and jelly all over your hands (although that might not be too bad!). So at my table, I was the dumb computer and one of the girls read out the instructions. With those precise steps, it was impossible for me to not end up with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Soon after the ice-breaker activity, we wanted to introduce the students to some fundamental concepts of computer programming like conditionals and looping constructs. We chose Code.org's HourOfCode exercises, which uses an interactive block-based coding console to ease the pain of syntaxes for beginners. The exercises involve popular characters like Angry Birds and the Grumpy Pig, Scrat and his Acorn (Ice Age), and revolve around the basic idea of "How do you get from point A to point B with the least lines of code?" They're arranged in increasing order of complexity but are a lot of fun! Needless to say, some of the kids were completely into it and kept engaging with their designated volunteers to follow through the activities and understand them conceptually. Some were way past the basics and were on to other intermediate activities listed on HourOfCode. The students exercised their curiosities, worked on their analytical skills, and understood the basics of writing algorithms.

The activity concluded with all of the students earning their certificates for completing an Hour of Code. Then there was a Q&A session, where we were asked questions like "How do you come up with a programming language?" "How long does it take for you to code?" "What sort of an Engineer writes code?" "When can you say that a product is done?" "What are your work hours like, do you work on weekends?" etc. And of course, there were swag giveaways—this is Audible!

To sum it up, we started the day off with introducing the various roles at Audible: Product Management, UX Design, Security, Software Engineering and Management, Quality Assurance, and Customer Service. What I found most interesting was watching the people I work with on a daily basis inspire around 50 high school students to be unafraid to embark upon a career in Technology. Hearing them define their roles and responsibilities made me realize the sheer number of people working hand-in-hand to make even a single audiobook accessible to our customers. That is how Audible-ites exhibit our strongest People Principle: Customer Obsession. And we find that the best way to demonstrate the same is by Activating Caring, which is building momentum through our Audible tech teams, in our own backyard: Newark, NJ.

For me personally, when the SDEs spoke about their roles, the problem-solving aspect struck a chord. It's just finding my way through the everyday chaos that happens between the lines of code that we as a team collectively own, that makes it all worth it.

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.

Audible

Audible Tech Department Volunteered At Avon Avenue

Below is an article originally written by Jason Dulberger, Software Development Engineer at PowerToFly Partner Audible, and published on October 16, 2018. Go to Audible's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

This summer, our Tech department had the pleasure of working on volunteer projects at the Avon Avenue School in Newark. While school was not in session, we did hear from the principal about the school's appreciation for Audible working closely with their school. Their outdoor message had a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that stated "Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education". I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, that volunteering not only builds character, but is the key to giving back to the community. Audible even has a business principle called "Activate Caring" that is demonstrated by volunteering.

We split into two teams, one to work on painting murals in the bathrooms, and one to work on planting flower beds. I chose painting because I enjoy painting my home, though I lack some of the skills needed to make a mural. I was pleasantly surprised to see that we were creating small paintings instead of larger ones that I usually think of when I see a mural.

We decided to paint positive messages and add references to technology and science.

In a couple of hours, we wrapped up and rejoined the other team who had great luck building and planting their flower beds to add to the school's aesthetic. Overall, a really successful trip!


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.

Audible

Girls Who Code @ Audible 2018

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"

For each visiting group, the day-at-Audible journey began—at the elevator whiteboard. We encouraged the girls to get creative, be bold, and tell us why they code…

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!

SWAG-OUT…

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.
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