Category: Organizations

Surfrider Platinum Ocean Friendly Restaurant Opens in Newport, Taking Steps to Saving Our Ocean

This week, I am continuing to take a break from my traumatic brain injury series to focus on the environment and what everyday citizens can do to make a difference.  Last week, I had the opportunity to attend an entertaining event put on by the Surfrider Foundation of Newport.  If you aren’t aware of Surfrider Foundation their mission is protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. If you are passionate about our oceans, please join or donate today!

The event was a poetry reading from our new Newport Surfrider Foundation Chair, Scott Rosin, “Tell ‘Em We’re Surfing.”  Before the poetry reading began our local Oregon Field Manager, Bri Goodman talked about the location of our event, Bosque Café. (Bosque is Spanish for forest and Bosque Café is nestled in a forest near Oregon Coast Community College).   I was not aware Newport, Oregon had a restaurant that met the Platinum requirements of the Surfrider Foundation Ocean Friendly Restaurant program and a restaurant that is almost certified as zero-waste!  To be a Platinum Ocean Friendly Restaurant you have to meet the requirements below and Bosque Café goes above and beyond these requirements!

  • No expanded polystyrene use (aka Styrofoam).
  • Proper recycling practices are followed.
  • Only reusable tableware is used for onsite dining, and disposable utensils for takeout food are provided only upon request.
  • No plastic bags offered for takeout or to-go orders.
  • Straws are provided only upon request.
  • No beverages sold in plastic bottles.
  • Discount is offered for customers with reusable cup, mug, bag, etc.
  • Vegetarian/vegan food options are offered on a regular basis
  • All seafood must be a ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative’ as defined by Seafood Watch or certified as sustainable.
  • Water conservation efforts, such as low-flow faucets and toilets, are implemented.
  • Energy efficiency efforts such as LED lighting and Energy Star appliances, are in place.

After hearing this, I had to meet the owners and understand why take this huge risk in starting a brand-new business and in such a small community, (there are only 10,000 residents in Newport.)  When I met Ed and Hidi Cortes, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Hidi is Vietnamese and grew up in California in Orange County (just like me) and Ed is Mexican with an IT background (also like me).  I felt I had met my long-lost sister and brother.  They have lived in Newport for thirteen years and explained to me it has always been important to them to live a sustainable life, trying to buy local or grow local vegetables, fruits, meats and fish. Reducing their footprint on this earth and ensuring they had as little waste as possible.

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Cortes Family at the new Bosque Café

Let’s spend a little time understanding why zero waste is so important and how cool it is that Ed and Hidi are trying to execute this concept here in Newport.  According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, households and businesses threw away 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. A 2014 study by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance found that 84.3% of unused food in American restaurants ends up being disposed of; 14.3% is recycled, and only 1.4% is donated.  Landfilled food provides ready fuel for methane gas production — the most environmentally destructive greenhouse gas linked to global warming.  In addition to food wastes, there is plastic and inedible items that don’t biodegrade and wash into our ocean and beach shores.  There has been so much discussion on what do we do about the 1.2 trillion tons of plastic trash floating in the Pacific Ocean and most scientist say the best thing is how do we reduce our dependence on plastic and stop throwing plastics away.

This is what Ed and Hidi are trying to do!  At Bosque there will be the right size of consumable portions, so you don’t have left overs you throw away.  There will not be take away drink or food containers that will be thrown away at home.  They ask you consider bringing your own if you are in a hurry and can’t enjoy their relaxing atmosphere.  In the future they will have reusable non-plastic containers for purchase.

Hidi grew up in a family that owned multiple restaurants, eating eclectic foods and combining different ethnic foods to create a new culinary fare.  For example, blending foods and spices from Mexico and Vietnam like creating an Asian version of the tortilla.   It really resonated with me, as I do this all the time and my husband looks at me with a particular look when he sees Soy Sauce going into the Bolognese Sunday Gravy Sauce.

Hidi loves to cook, has always wanted to open her own restaurant and there are zero Vietnamese Restaurants in Newport.  The Cortes family thought this was the perfect time.  In wanting to be sustainable and fresh, Vietnamese was a perfect choice since it is known for its healthy cuisine and it works well to make vegetarian and vegan options out of traditional Vietnamese favorites.  What is really exciting is Hidi wants to push her culinary creativity so each month you will see specials in other global traditions that may have a little Vietnamese influence.  I’m dying to try her take on curry that she has transformed from all the different countries that create curries, she described to me during our interview.

menu

The yummy menu.

I asked Ed why he chose his location adjacent to Oregon Coast Community College.  A restaurant like this would get a lot more traffic and be more successful in Nye Beach or on the Bay Front.  Ed is an ultra-runner and runs in the woods near Oregon Coast Community College and when he saw the opportunity to launch a restaurant and café in his favorite running area they decided to take the plunge! Also, he wants to help support the students (OCCC students get 10% discount) and bring more options to the growing community in South Beach.  Everyone will be pleasantly surprised on the nice size portions for the price!  They are in process of getting their liquor license so currently you will need to go upstairs to the Wolf Tree Brewery Taproom for those options.

They are excited to open their café and restaurant to organizations for events, like the one we just had with Surfrider.  The space is clean, bright and inviting.  Ed has lots of ideas and plans you will see in the future to bring some exciting local art and technology to the forefront, be sure to keep coming by often!  As I discussed earlier growing their own local vegetables is important to the Cortes Family; therefore, you will see a full hydroponics system in the restaurant in the near future.   They also make their own fresh soy and almond milk.   For those of you in town October 14th at 2pm, is the official Grand Opening, make sure you come by and support an amazing family, restaurant and try the scrumptious Vietnamese food!

Being Good Stewards of Our Ocean

This week I will be taking a break from my blog series on traumatic brain injury to discuss possible climate change effects on our Oregon Coast and the entire West Coast.  I had the opportunity to join my friend, Dr. Lindsay Aylesworth, on a volunteer surveying activity with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Reserves and Oregon State University at Otter Rock Marine Reserve, Oregon.

It was the first time I woke up at 4:55AM in morning in the last four years since my brain injury.  We headed out to the Otter Rock Marine Reserve on a super low negative tide day.  It was amazing, I had never been out that far or in the marine reserve before.

First off, Doctor Sarah Gravem gave an overview of the intertidal area.  Oregon’s intertidal zone hosts 116 species of invertebrates, 71 species of algae, and 3 species of seagrass. She then explained how sea stars are the ‘great white shark’ of the intertidal zone.  They serve as the apex predator helping to maintain a balanced ecosystem.  I couldn’t believe these beautiful calm creatures were veracious eaters.

Sarah then explained the reason we were out surveying was due to a massive virus that almost made the sea stars extinct a couple years ago down the west coast and they are trying to determine how it effects the intertidal zone now.  For example, what happens to the intertidal zone if there are too many mussels because there are fewer sea stars to eat them?

otterrockreserve

The team on Otter Rock Marine Reserve surveying intertidal zone.

Not many people realize back in 2013-2014 there was a massive virus epidemic that nearly wiped out the entire sea star population from Baja Mexico to Alaska.  This wasting disease infects the sea star and causes it to develop lesions that dissolve their tissue and spread throughout their bodies.  It often kills the invertebrates within a couple of weeks or even a matter of days. When lesions appear on the sea stars’ rays (the arms of the star fish), a resilient few sea stars may shed the limb before the disease reaches their vital organs and later regrow it, but unfortunately most ended up dying. More often, the sea stars’ extremities become gnarled and deformed as the wasting syndrome takes hold, and the organisms quickly disintegrate into a white mush.

SevereStarFish

Example of sea stars with wasting disease.

No one really knows why the wasting disease occurs but some scientists hypothesize climate change had something to do with it.  From studies done in Oregon, it does not appear that the disease was triggered by climate change since it began when waters were colder than normal. However this is only for Oregon, as for Washington, California, Mexico and Alaska waters were warming. Other scientists still believe that climate change triggered the disease in those places. Additionally, after the outbreak climate change definitely played a role in the severity of the disease in Oregon.  As this warming in our oceans continue to occur we are seeing changes in marine life and their ecosystem.

Additionally, we have the huge blob of trash floating out in the Pacific Ocean that may be wreaking some type of havoc on our marine habitat.  Scientists are studying this to better determine what all this trash means to our marine habitat.  We as citizens need to do a better job of ensuring we keep trash, sewage, chemicals and plastic out of our oceans.

countingimage

Haley and Greg counting mussels, snails and starfish.

But I digress, now back to the surveying.  Our goal was to count all the new mussels forming, the various snails and starfish that were in the intertidal zone.  We then spent the next four hours counting, photographing and documenting what we could find in one meter and ½ meter quadrants.

For those of you living near Newport or in any Oregon Coast community you can be part of citizen science.  One of ODFW’s collaborators, MARINe, uses citizen science to report where healthy and afflicted sea stars are being found. Anyone can download their datasheets, collect data, and then submit it online . If this sounds interesting, there are a few things to note before heading out to become doctors of the intertidal zone (check out full methods here).

Species identification is necessary so be familiar with the local species of sea stars. Size needs to be recorded so bring a ruler or something of known length as a reference. Review this post to familiarize with the types of sea star wasting symptoms. If you find there are diseased individuals remember to take a picture and send it to seastarwasting@googlegroups.com.

There is some good news though.  Several baby sea stars have survived the wasting disease and are beginning to reproduce.  Our hope is the population will come back.  Oregon Public Broadcasting published a good story discussing the new baby boom.

We can all be better stewards of the intertidal zone.  First, don’t pick up any creatures-feel free to touch but don’t move or remove. Second, follow the guidelines in the image below. Third, join the Newport Surfrider Chapter that does beach clean-ups, water quality checks and projects to save our ocean.  Lastly, if you want to learn more about sea stars I have listed some great resources below that were shared with me by Taylor Ely a Sea Grant Scholar.

tidepool guide.JPG

Back to Changing the World or Not?

The old saying, “If I knew then what I know now”, echoes in my mind.

I would have not gone to the Hackathon in LA back in 2013 and when my doctor said I must rest. I would have had my husband hide my cellphone, laptop and taken it easy.  Instead, for the next six months, I still went online on my phone doing emails and answering what I thought were crucial emails and calling colleagues on how to execute important projects.

Of-course looking back none of it was more crucial than my health, I wasn’t saving lives, things could have waited.  Others within Microsoft would’ve taken the slack.  However, my ego was hard to reign in.  I thought what I was doing was so critical and no one else had the expertise and needed my coaching for things to be completed exactly the way I thopught they needed to be done.

Many of us think we can just ‘tough it out’ and work through cold, illness, etc.  What ‘toughing it out’ did do was postpone my recovery. Failure to heed my body’s warning signs caused dizziness, migraines, memory loss, executive function and slowed my multi-tasking abilities.  I now had to do eye therapy and my ability to focus  (switching from looking close and away) diminished to the ability of an eight-year-old and required me to relearn my focus and get glasses for the first time in my life.

So, after six months of eye therapy, no driving (Five years later, I still lack the confidence to drive and am only slowly adding in daytime driving for short distances.  But last month I did do my first long 200 mile drive from Bend to Newport, Oregon ), no television, no computer, no reading, no alcohol, no caffeine, no high intensity exercise, constant migraine headaches, dizziness, nausea, word searching, memory loss, six more black out concussions and lack of balance.  Then one day I awoke with a clearing in my head I had not felt in 6 months.  I went to the neurologist, she did some tests and said I think you are okay to go back to work but you must take it slow!  Do not jump fully in and do not take too much on you have been resting your brain for 6 months you need a slow transition back to work.

I did not realize her definition of slow was very different from mine.  Compared to the way I used to work, 12-18 hour days, I was only working 10 now.  Instead of traveling 3 weeks a month, I started with just a few days a month.  But as the months drove on, I was feeling more and more like myself again.

There was so much work to be done in diversity in computer science, combating human trafficking, committees for the White House Office of Technology Policy on computer science education for underrepresented groups and technology implications of human trafficking, hackathons, hacks for good, conferences, keynotes, panels, guest lectures, publications, projects with UN Women, NCWIT, ABI, CRA-W, ACM-W and the making of Dream Big (movie featuring young women in computer science changing the world), that I started back to my 16 hour days, and my crazy travel of three weeks a month.

Rane moderating Big Dream Panel at the Napa Valley Film Festival

Taking on diversity and Computer Science efforts at top universities around the country heading to India, Korea, UK, Brazil, Singapore, and across the United States.  In a previous blog post, you saw our film was featured at the Napa Valley Film Festival and was being shown all over the world.  I was so excited about the progress!  Also, the fact that Microsoft and Microsoft Research’s efforts were highlighted in many of the top publications (i.e. Slate, NPR, Huffington Post), I couldn’t but help agreeing to serve on nonprofit boards needing our help and expertise, at one point I was on thirteen boards.  My hubris and type A drive which had carried me so far was a hindrance to my healing.

At every free moment, I was working on some project with one of the many non-profits (as you know I am a get shit done person and not just a sit and advise type person).  In my spare time, I was at home trying to transform my local community (Bend, Oregon) by supporting more STEM efforts, starting a scholarship for under-represented groups in computer science and engineering at OSU-Cascades, helping entrepreneurs, volunteering with the tech community and local youth, mentoring and teaching a course called ‘Ethics and Computer Science’ at OSU-Cascades. I could feel the exhaustion coming on but I thought to myself “just one more conference and then I will take two weeks off and be fine.”

I am here to tell you, we are not robots and you can continue to ignore the signs your body gives off but if you don’t listen it will force you to listen.  As Type A workaholics, passionate and ready to take on the world are bodies are resilient but not that resilient!  You cannot ‘tough it out’ you must pause when your body needs a pause even if it is just a mental health day from work.

So, on May 23, 2015, while attending a conference on behalf of Microsoft I had just finished several sessions and presentations at Day one of the NCWIT Conference in Hilton Head.  I had a dinner meeting with Mayim Bialik (Big Bang Theory-that was so cool!) discussing our film and her possible support and how Microsoft could possibly support a new Girls in STEM TV series she was going to kick off.  We returned to the hotel and I saw several of the researchers I was working with on a number of projects at the bar talking asking me to come join them.

After discussing theories, projects, new opportunities and changing the world of computer science it was reaching midnight and time for me to head for bed.  I was tired and started to feel a pain in my side (later I would figure out that would be a sign that I would blackout soon) but I ignored it and kept on.  As I walked away from the bar area to the elevators, the next minute I know I awoke in someone’s arms, with so many people surrounding me, all dazed and confused as I try to get up.  There was shouting, “Rane don’t move you’re bleeding and bleeding a  lot.”

Suddenly, EMTs are walking briskly toward me as my eye sight slowly comes back from a fog of gray and blurs.  “Ma’am you blacked out and hit your head, you have a good side gash on your head, can you just lay back we are going to put you in a neck brace and start an IV?” said the nice EMT gentleman.  One of my research friends from Harvey Mudd University began telling the EMT what had happened and he had her and a staffer from NCWIT follow the ambulance to the Emergency Room (thanks Catherine & Colleen).

Rane in emergency room sending selfie to her husband to calm him down, trying to make it look not so bad.

I had thrown up a few times in the ambulance (sorry Mr. EMT guy- all over him) and still could not comprehend what was going on. While waiting for the doctor, my colleagues called my husband and tried not to scare him with me being in the emergency room again and blacking out after hitting my head.  Once they were done, then I was taken for MRI, CT Scan, stitches and forced to stay awake for a few hours to ensure I wasn’t going to go to sleep and never wake up again.  I finally got back to the hotel at 4AM looking like a semi-truck hit me, it took me an hour to wash all the coagulated blood out of my hair. I went to sleep and at 10am I awoke to call the airline and get a flight back to Bend, Oregon to go to my neurologist.  I flew out with frustration, here we go again.  With a horrible migraine, nausea and dizziness, I headed to the airport to what would be a multi leg eight-hour (the take offs and landings were excruciating with another concussion) flight before I finally got back to Bend and into the arms of my husband. It was also so humiliating for an extremely independent person to be whisked on and off the planes on a wheel chair as people looked at me like oh that poor young woman. Talk about a humbling experience.  I was beaten down.

This resulted in the next several years of trying to figure out why I was blacking out, thirteen more concussions resulting in me having traumatic brain injury and fighting the insurance company for my long-term disability.  Who would know the benefit you pay into hoping you will never have to use would be so difficult to obtain.  Once you need this benefit, how difficult it is to get it, even harder to keep it and then battling their doctors, lawyers, appeals and lawsuits to get the money and benefits you need, deserve and have earned. No one explains how you need to fill out all these forms and one little error can make your benefits never happen.  Having to go on unpaid medical leave due to this (I will have an entire blog dedicated to this subject later in my blog series to help those dealing with long-term and short-term disability claims, so you know what to do to get the benefits you deserve).  I would move from one doctor visit a year with my primary care for annual physical and flu shot to multiple visits a week with the following healthcare providers: Neurologist, Vasovagal Specialist, Optometrist, Vestibular Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Neurofeedback Psychologist, Psychologist, Acupuncturist and Chiropractor.

I didn’t realize how life threatening it could be for you if you tried to just push through the pain.  I plead with you if you have a concussion to please take the needed time off and screen time off! I learned the hard way and trust me you don’t want to go through this.  During this process, I had to get character letters from friends and colleagues about the Rane before and the Rane after all these concussions for the lawyers and it was painful to read the new person I had become.  As I researched what was wrong with me, I realized we still don’t know much about the brain and especially concussions. I read and listened to everything I could on TBI and concussions.   I will spare you with the peer review scholarly research publications (they are quite dry, interesting but will put you to sleep) but here are my top three books for you to read if you or a family member is dealing with this issue.  Next week, my blog will be on lessons learned on how  Type A’s can rest your brain.

  1. Super Better by Jane McGonigal
  2. Mindstorms: The Complete Guide for Families Living with Traumatic Brain Injury by John W Cassidy
  3. Coping with Concussion and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Guide to Living with the Challenges Associated with Post Concussion Syndrome and Brain Trauma by Barbara Albers Hill and Diane Roberts Stoler

Out in Tech kicks off in Bend

It is an exciting time to be part of the Technology Community in Central Oregon, especially if you are LGBTQ. Many don’t realize that in the State of Oregon, 5% of the population is LGBTQ which would mean about 4,500 Bendites are LGBTQ! In the state of Oregon, we are also one of 16 states that score high in “policy tally” counts the number of positive laws and policies within the state that help drive equality for LGBT people. The major categories of laws covered by the policy tally include: Marriage and Relationship Recognition, Adoption and Parenting, Non-Discrimination, Safe Schools, Health and Safety, and Ability for Transgender People to Correct the Name and Gender Marker on Identity Documents.
When Executive Director of BendTech, Tim Riefke contacted me on helping with the launch of Out in Tech for Central Oregon. I was excited to be part of the event and the future of the community. As many of you know, I am super passionate about inclusivity in Bend (if you haven’t read our story on the Inclusive Innovation Initiative check it out). We know that more diverse teams bring new perspectives and drive greater innovations! As technology companies across the world focus on diversifying and becoming more inclusive, what a great time to join the industry. When speaking to Tim, he identifies as being Queer and why Out in Tech is so important for Bend. “At BendTech, we want to create an inclusive workplace that all people can feel welcome and find opportunities to connect and collaborate in the burgeoning tech/start-up community,” exclaimed Tim Riefke.
When I look at opportunities for our growing youth population in Bend and people who are under-employed looking for a career switch, I always talk about technology opportunities. I have been lucky to have a 20-year career in the industry that has taken me all over the world, solving amazing challenges to help communities, countries, companies and organizations. What is so exciting for LGBTQ Bendites is our technology industry is young. It is working extremely hard to do it right in the beginning, that is why Technology Association of Oregon in partnership with all the technology companies kicked off the Diversity Leadership Series and COCC SBDC’s free diversity advising the last Thursday of every month to help our companies understand the importance of inclusivity and why every voice matters in our companies.
Looking at our next generation of technology employees and leaders, I was excited to work with Constance and Michael who are interns at BendTech around this event. When asking them why tech and why now, here is what they said, “It’s great that Bend is informal, friendly and people are willing to go out of their way to help you and help you navigate the Bend Tech Scene. It’s a great time to be part of Tech,” replied Michael Tornatta and Constance Smith.
At the event tonight, we kicked off with of course, pizza and beer Bend style with friendly informal networking. We then jumped into a discussion with an amazing panel to discuss LGBTQ opportunities in Bend Tech scene: Julie Harrelson (Cascade Angels Fund Manager), James Nesbitt, PhD (Genetech/Alector Intellectual Property), Eric Norths (First Interstate Bank), Tim Riefke (BendTech), and Beth Hannon (Beth Hannon Marketing). It was exciting to hear all the positive stories and the community coming together to be more inclusive and want to better support the LGBTQ community in Oregon.
One of my favorite quotes of the evening came from Julie Harrelson, when a student asked does it get old to always be tokenized as an LGBTQ leader in the community to the panel and will this ever change? Julie highlighted, “I don’t look at being tokenized or asked to represent as always being a bad thing. It can be the community wanting to better understand your perspective and gives an opportunity to take a leadership role in education and change.”
I love that answer! So many times, I have spoken with fellow leaders in under-represented groups feeling tired, burnt-out and frustrated stating, “does it always have to be my job to teach everyone the perspective of my group.” But instead of getting frustrated, we should feel honored and look at it as a learning opportunity! At least people want your perspective from the community you represent and believe you are the best representative they know to provide it. Things could be worse and people could not care or ask for that perspective at all. It is all of our job for people coming from under-represented groups to be open to share our perspectives and be excited that people want to listen. 
The event closed with some fun activities to get people connected, with Oz Smith meeting the most people and taking home our prized new Out in Tech painting. The unanimous decision for the group is to have our next meeting in September to support LGBTQ mentorship and sponsorship. So keep your eyes out and join us for our next event after your Summer vacations.

A leaders greatest gift is vulnerability

Many times, leaders believe we have to be seen as fearless, strong, and all knowing.  We often think showing any sign of vulnerability indicates weakness.  However, author David Williams points out in his Forbes article that, “In reality, vulnerability is a strength.  Every leader has vulnerability. The greatest leaders have the self-awareness to recognize this fact. They also recognize that showing their vulnerability is a sign of courage and strength.”  In his book, courage is the sixth ‘Non-Negotiable’ that he covers in his book The 7 Non-Negotiables of Winning. 

I find this notion to be true and have included it as one of the themes in my keynote.  I presented this speech at the Bend Chamber 2018 Women of the Year Awards.   Sometimes we need to share stories that we don’t want to admit to help current and future leaders.  So after struggling with traumatic brain injury (TBI) the last five years, I briefly shared my story with the audience of nominees, award winners and Bendites.

 

I have spent my career as a Type A, workaholic, altruistic, high achieving leader trying to solve difficult problems for my industry, company, employees, mentees and colleagues.  I truly believed I could run my body like a machine and travel 3 weeks a month, work 10-18-hour days, survive on 2-4 hours of sleep while doing my day job and volunteering to lead committees for the White House, UN Women, and actively participate on 12 non-profit boards, volunteer for local community activities, be a good friend, and wife.  This all came crashing down in February 2013 when my body forced me to take an unplanned medical leave of absence.  I will go into that story in more detail in my next set of blogs. I want to focus here on the message that leaders need to share that we are not invincible.  We can’t keep driving at a crazy fast speed, with focused accuracy for a long stretch and not result in a disaster.     

In my keynote, I focused on two major areas, my childhood and upbringing that brought me to this intense drive, ambition and desire to make an impact no matter the cost.  Secondly, the need for leaders to say it’s okay to give us some ‘white space’ in our lives and ask for help.  I’ve now launched a new company focused on helping start-ups, small and medium size businesses, organizations and government agencies to harness inclusive innovation for their competitive advantage.  Many times, these groups are lean and may not have the resources to understand how to ensure they are diverse enough to meet the needs of their customers. Also, they must ask themselves if they are running the as efficiently as possible and utilizing all of their employees’ capabilities.   

Most diversity and inclusion consulting is priced out of reach for these organizations even though 80% of our working population in Bend works for these groups.  So creating an affordable, consumable framework has created a ton of interest for Ranemaker Institute in helping Bend aspire to be one of the most inclusive cities in America.  At the same time, I have had to learn to be honest about my current vulnerabilities so I don’t fall ill again.      

I can’t take on every company, organization or governmental agency I want to help.  My TBI has restricted how much time I can spend on a computer, working with large groups of people and the amount of stress I can handle.  I can’t work a normal work week and I still take a 2-3 hour nap daily.   I focus now on asking for help, only having a client a month and my workshop series.  I balance my ego’s need for making an impact and helping businesses in Central Oregon with time outdoors, relaxing, painting, reading and napping.  I think it is important for us to show we can still be successful, make significant impact in our community and have a healthy life balance.  We just need to realize that impact may not be instantaneous but takes a lot more time.  I have learned not to start the race with a sprint but keep a steady may be even slow pace for its entirety as our life is a marathon that we want to enjoy for a long time.  I don’t want to drop out before I’ve lived to a ripe old age.   So next time you feel you are exhausted and just need to finish one more thing, may be you need to take a mental health day instead, a few minutes of meditation and enjoy an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm for a good laugh.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rane Stempson: Helping Central Oregon Startups and More Create Diverse, Inclusive Workplaces

Thank you Kelly Kearsley, reposted from Startupbend Community visit their site.

 

So Teri approached me and asked if I would help develop a equity, diversity and leadership workshop series targeted at startups and small businesses that would offer practical knowledge on these topics at an affordable price? As the former principal research director for Microsoft, I focused on diversity and specifically bring more underrepresented groups into computing, so this was in my wheelhouse. I opened the Ranemaker Institute and began developing the TAO workshop series, researching, and working with the City of Bend and the Bend Chamber on how we could better support our City’s equity needs.

 

As a result, TAO launched the Diversity Leadership Series a few months ago. These workshops, which I lead, are for all industry sectors not just technology and provide hands on learning for our businesses, non-profits and government agencies at an affordable price. The workshops will help employees, managers and senior leaders determine how to deal with unconscious biases, harassment, recruitment, retention and advancement of a diverse workforce, managing across generations and a number of other topics to help businesses better serve their customers and increase employee satisfaction.

 

There’s been other progress as well. The City of Bend passed a unanimous resolution on March 7th to aspire to be the most inclusive city in Oregon and in America. Bend also wants to be proactive in supporting our growing community. Most of our population in Central Oregon works for businesses with less than 100 people. These businesses create goods and services that must meet the needs of a diverse population that either visits the region or is distributed globally. I launched the Inclusive Innovation Initiative to provide a committee to tackle difficult equity and inclusion issues facing our city, the workshop series and free advising.

 

I’ve also been offering advising hours to start-ups and small businesses via the SBDC at COCC. I’ll be advising businesses on issues such as diversity, inclusion and equity. I’ll also provide support for under-represented groups considering starting a new business. You can schedule a meeting today. 

When we suggest we need to expand organizational diversity it doesn’t mean ‘affirmative action’ per se. Instead it often means looking at the broader definition. Asking ourselves, do we have members on our team that are adding value because of their different race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, veteran status, abilities, age, skill set, knowledge, culture, education, and training? Do these members push us to think, approach problems, and create solutions in different ways.

 

Bend is growing at an exceptionally fast rate, and our region’s diversity is growing. Inclusion helps us recognize that everyone’s voice and opinion matter and there are different strategies we should take to ensure each voice has the same level of importance. In speaking with organizations, I explain that, “Most people have good intentions and with a little education, such as utilizing strategies to better connect, we can work more effectively with each other and remove a lot of misunderstandings.

Especially in the technology community, we have a lot of equity and inclusion issues. And while we are driving so hard to innovate before the next person, we forget the time we need to invest in our innovative teams to ensure they are performing at their best.” We understand the importance of technical training but often forget the soft skills is what is necessary to really drive innovative teams and successful companies utilizing the full potential of all their employees.

Check out the next course in the diversity series workshop. You can also catch me at the next City Club forum on June 21. I’ll be moderating a panel on Gender Partnerships in the Workplace: Where We Have Been, Where We Can Be. You can schedule a meeting today. for free small business advising in diversity.

Diversifying Computer Science

Smart managers have long recognized the importance of diversity in the workplace. They know from experience what empirical research has shown: diverse teams outperform those made up of individual “all stars,” particularly when it comes to innovation.

The value of diversity is why Microsoft Research is pleased to join with other groups across the company to support the 2015 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing (the Tapia Conference), the Association of Computing Machinery’s premier diversity event. The Tapia Conference brings together undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, researchers, and computing professionals of all backgrounds and ethnicities.

This year’s theme, “Diversity at Scale,” celebrates efforts that move beyond conversation and study into full implementation of diversity in all aspects of computing. Befitting our commitment to this goal, Microsoft attendees are a culturally and professionally diverse group of women and men representing different ethnicities, nationalities, and computing careers, including researchers, engineers, interns, and business executives.

Among the Microsoft leaders playing prominent roles in the conference are Microsoft Vice President Jacky Wright, who will deliver a keynote address on the power of data, and Jennifer Chayes, director of our New England and New York research labs, who will be participating in a fireside chat on big data. In addition, a number of Microsoft employees—including Jessica Lingel, Bhavini Soneji, and Fernando Diaz—will join me in supporting the career mentoring workshops, plenary sessions, poster presentations, and career fair.

Participants of the 2014 Microsoft Research Data Science Summer School
Participants of the 2014 Microsoft Research Data Science Summer School

Personally, I’m most excited about the poster session presentations from the diverse undergraduate students who attended the 2014 Microsoft Research Data Science Summer School (DS3). Designed to encourage participation from New York City area college students who are women, minorities, and individuals with disabilities, DS3 is a hands-on, eight-week introduction to data science. DS3 includes coursework in data science, taught by leading scientists from Microsoft Research’s lab in New York. The students study tools and techniques for acquiring, cleaning, and utilizing real-world data for research purposes, and are introduced to concepts in applied statistics and machine learning. DS3 students also participate group research projects, two of which will be represented at the poster session:

  • An Empirical Analysis of Stop-and-Frisk in New York City looks at the social cost of the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk program and develops a simple predictive model to aid officers in making better decisions about whom to stop and under what circumstances.
  • Self-Balancing Bikes explores a simple re-routing scheme to improve the availability of bikes while simultaneously reducing operating costs in the United States’ largest bike-sharing program.

If you are a college student from the New York area, you are welcome to apply for the 2015 Summer School. We will be accepting applications soon, online.

On the last day of the conference, I’ll join academic and industry leaders for a one-day summit where we will map out strategies for graduating more students who are ethnic minorities, women, and people with disabilities in the field of computing. We will also discuss methods for increasing their rate of advancement once they have entered the workplace. I’m looking forward to brainstorming some great initiatives for attaining diversity at scale!

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director, Microsoft Research

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Inviting Girls Around the World to Dream Big!

On March 8, we celebrated International Women’s Day. Every year on this date, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements. Women’s equality has made positive gains, but plenty of inequality still exists. International Women’s Day commemorates the social, political, and economic achievements of women, while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action. “Inspiring Change” was the theme of the 2014 celebration, and the goal was to encourage advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way. Promoting women’s equality requires courageously challenging the status quo and vigilantly inspiring positive change. In conjunction with International Women’s Day, Microsoft profiled the work of five female employees—whose efforts are representative of the work of countless other Microsoft women—in empowering girls’ and women’s involvement in science, research, computing, and engineering.

Big Dream: encouraging girls to pursue a future in science and technology

Just two days after International Women’s Day, the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) kicked off at United Nations Headquarters in New York. CSW is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is the principal global policymaking body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. This year’s CSW theme was access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science, and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work. At CSW, I had the privilege of presenting Microsoft’s Big Dream Movement—an exciting new effort to involve more girls in science and technology—on Friday, March 14, during the UN Women Session, “ICT for women’s economic empowerment and poverty alleviation.

The Big Dream Movement connects organizations, academia, and resources to girls around the world to help them pursue a future in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. The movement is anchored by Big Dream, a documentary film that follows the stories of seven young women who are breaking barriers and overcoming personal challenges to follow their passions in STEM fields. From small town Iowa to the bustling streets of the Middle East, Big Dream immerses viewers in a world designed by and for the next generation of girls. Our hope is that this inspirational film will excite young women, their families, and friends to the possibilities inherent in science and technology.

Watch the Big Dream trailer

Microsoft is pleased to be underwriting this film and to be partnering with the following organizations to make the Big Dream Movement a reality around the world: UN Women, ITU (the International Telecommunications Union), UNESCO, the European Commission, Zen Digital- DLI, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Girls Collaborative Project, the Girl Scouts, the National Center for Women in Technology, the Anita Borg Institute (ABI), ACM-W, IEEE-Women in Engineering, and Black Girls Code. We are pleased to have the following on our leadership team: Jennifer Breslin UN Women; Gary Fowler, ITU; Saniye Gülser Corat, UNESCO; Cheryl Miller, Zen Digital- DL and the EU Commission; Lucy Sanders, NCWIT; Telle Whitney, ABI; Kimberly Brant, Black Girls Code; Janice Cuny, the National Science Foundation; Karen Peterson, National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP); Kristen Grennan, Global Girls Scouts; and Valeria Barr, ACM-W.

During the UN Women Session at CSW, on behalf of Microsoft I took part in a wide-ranging discussion of what must be done to attract more women to STEM fields. Session participants agreed that it is time to change the message and help women become producers instead of consumers of technology, and to empower women to help create the solutions for the future. We encouraged the 45 member states elected by ECOSOC to participate in the Big Dream Movement. Throughout the coming year, the movement will publicize the many “best-kept secrets”—those amazing organizations, academic institutions, researchers, professors, and companies that have programs and tools to help expose women to STEM. We will also educate young women about the career possibilities and the impact they can make by pursuing careers in STEM fields.

This summer (northern hemisphere), our website, BigDreamMovement.com, will go live, providing a portal for you to learn about programs and tools that promote computing and STEM. Then, starting in the fall, we plan to show Big Dream at events all over the world. Panel discussions will follow immediately after the screening, during which local students will talk about their experiences in STEM. Local organizations will also be on hand to talk with students and parents about STEM opportunities in the community. And the aforementioned website will include a worldwide registry of organizations that provide STEM opportunities to girls, so that anyone can find local resources and programs. At the end of 2015, we will hand over all of the assets to UN Women, which will connect women around the world and keep the movement thriving through the Knowledge Gateway for Women’s Economic Empowerment.

In the meantime, we encourage you to SKYPE BigDreamMovement and leave a personal video message. If you’re a professional woman or man, describe your Big Dream and offer advice to young women wanting to pursue a future in STEM. If you’re a young woman, tell us what is your Big Dream is and how a future in STEM can help you get there.

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director, Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections

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Growing More Women in Computing in the UK

So I was honored last week to write a guest blog for the UK Software Sustainability Institute.  They are a national organization in the UK that focuses on cultivating world class research with superior software solutions.  They bring the best computer science has to offer to all of the various disciplines in the research world that needs software to empower and accelerate their research.  When speaking to their Deputy Director, Simon Hettrick, he highlighted the importance of having more women in the field and what could their organization do to highlight the challenges and enable a better environment in which women could thrive.  I was so excited to share our thoughts, the data, the research and our work with his organization.  Here is a link to the blog post- check it out.

RaneLadiesGadgeteer

Grants and Scholarships to Assist Growing More Women in Computing

As many of you know—especially if you’ve been reading my blog posts—the participation of women in computer science continues to decline. Last year, women accounted for only 14 percent of computer science college graduates in the United States, according to the Computing Research Association. That’s down from 37 percent in 1985, despite US Department of Labor statistics that show computing to be among the fastest-growing career fields, with a shortage of qualified candidates to fill available openings. In addition, studies reveal that executives value the variety of perspectives that comes with team diversity, yet another reason for needing greater female participation in computing fields.

Innovate to impact the world.

As a technology company and innovation leader, Microsoft is passionate about increasing the participation of women in computing. To do so, we must attract more female students to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. To maintain their interest in STEM programs, we can increase young women’s exposure to the myriad opportunities in computer science and provide them with support during their undergraduate and graduate STEM studies. This is why Microsoft Research is proud to support the NCWIT Academic Alliance Seed Fund and to fund the Microsoft Research Graduate Women’s Scholarship.
The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a non-profit community of more than 500 universities, companies, non-profits, and government organizations nationwide working to increase women’s participation in computing and technology. NCWIT helps organizations more effectively recruit, retain, and advance girls and women in K-12 through college education, and from academic to corporate and startup careers. The NCWIT Academic Alliance brings together nearly 750 distinguished representatives from academic computing programs at more than 275 colleges and universities across the country—spanning research universities, community colleges, women’s colleges, and minority-serving institutions. In 2007, Microsoft Research initiated the Seed Fund in partnership with NCWIT Academic Alliance. The NCWIT Academic Alliance Seed Fund provides US academic institutions with grants (up to US$10,000 per project) to develop and implement initiatives for recruiting and retaining women in computer science and information technology fields of study. Through 2013, the Seed Fund had awarded US$465,450.
In partnership with NCWIT Academic Alliance, we are pleased to announce the 2014 winners:

  • College of St. Scholastica (Jennifer Rosato) Promoting Female and Diverse Student Retention through Faculty Use of a Growth Mindset Approach This project will provide professional development for faculty at The College of St. Scholastica, helping them to instil a growth mindset among women and minority students who are majoring in computer science and associated concentrations, as well as fostering the continued interest of students taking pre-engineering courses.
  • Georgia Gwinnett College (Sonal Dekhane, Kristine Nagel, and Nannette Napier) Georgia Gwinnett College Women in IT Boot Camp A weeklong workshop, the boot camp will give 24 promising female IT sophomores an opportunity to get a head start in programming.
  • South Carolina Technical College System (Stephanie Frazier and Salandra Bowman) SCTCS Triple A Academy The academy will immerse 10 to 14 female students—each of whom is enrolled in a certificate, diploma, or degree IT program—in a one-week program that promotes ability, acuity, and audacity (the triple As) in IT-related fields.
  • Tufts University (Benjamin Shapiro) Engaging Women in Computing through Musical Instrument and Performance This unique project will design a curriculum and an accompanying set of hardware and software tools that teach computational thinking and engineering through the design and construction of tangible, programmable electronic musical instruments that youth can use for live performances.
  • University of Arizona (Gondy Leroy and Paulo Goes) Tomorrow’s Leaders Equipped for Diversity The university’s department of management information systems (MIS) will team with industry to make computer science and MIS students aware of diversity issues, with a special focus on gender, preparing the students to be leaders and managers who are equipped to both counter the problems and leverage the benefits of diversity.

In addition, we know that a woman’s first two years of computer science graduate study are the most critical. During this time, she must determine her area of focus, increase her confidence in the field, enhance her capabilities in publishing and research, and build her network. This is why Microsoft Research created the Graduate Women’s Scholarship, which provides a US$15,000 stipend, plus a US$2,000 travel and conference allowance, to women in their second year of graduate study at a US or Canadian university. The scholarship helps recipients gain visibility in their departments, acquire mentorship, and cover the burgeoning cost of graduate programs.
We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Microsoft Research Graduate Women’s Scholarship:

  • Anne Holladay, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Claire Chow, University of Notre Dame
  • Yunmeng Ban, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Sruthi Polali, Rice University
  • Nan-Chen Chen, University of Washington
  • Ghazal Fazelnia, Columbia University
  • Tesca Fitzgerald, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Angelica Ruszkowski, University of British Columbia
  • Brooke Fugate, University of Pennsylvania
  • Elizabeth Mamantov, University of Michigan

Congratulations to all the winning programs and students. We look forward to great things from 2014’s women in computing.
Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director, Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections   Learn more

Reinventing Tech for the Next Generation of Women

Although computer science is poised for exponential job growth over the next several years, there’s a glaring lack of women entering the field. Since 1984, the number of computer science degrees awarded to women has steadily declined, to the point where today only 13 percent of computer science graduates are female.

As I speak with young women around the world, I continue to find that their disinterest stems from a lack of familiarity with the exciting and impactful career possibilities in computing. The obvious remedy is to expose more young women to the professional opportunities in computer science. This has been my personal mission, and I am pleased to be surrounded by amazing young women who evangelize computer science as a field in which women can make their mark.

she++ logoOne such “evangelist” is Microsoft intern Ayna Agarwal, a student at Stanford University. In January 2012, Ayna co-founded she++, a community that seeks to inspire women’s involvement in computer science. she++ sponsored Stanford’s first conference on women in technology in April 2012, an event that attracted more than 250 attendees and hosted a lineup of inspirational women engineers, including employees of such Bay Area tech firms as Google, Facebook, Dropbox, and Pinterest. After positive feedback from attendees, mentors, and the press, the she++ conference has become an annual event at Stanford, one of many initiatives that she++ sponsors in its effort to create momentum for female technologists.

I was extremely excited to join with Ayna to co-host Reinventing Tech for the Next Generation—she++ and Microsoft Research, on August 28. This event featured two panels: the first comprised of female interns who are on the forefront of the next generation of computer scientists, and the second consisting of top technical women from Microsoft who are driving innovation and change across the company.

Katie Doran (far left) hosts the panel of interns: Ayna Agarwal, Priya Ganesan, and Amy Lin (pictured left to right) Katie Doran (far left) hosts the panel of interns: Ayna Agarwal, Amy Lin and Priya Ganesan (pictured left to right)

You can now view the event on-demand. And while you’re in video-watching mode, you might want to take a look at the she++ documentary video and the Microsoft Research Bridging the Gender Gap video, both of which highlight  efforts to increase the presence of women in computing. In addition, I encourage all you girls (and boys) to try out these free tools that can teach you how to program and help you explore computer science: Kodu, Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer, Pex for Fun, and TouchDevelop.

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director for Education, Microsoft Research Connections

 

I was extraordinarily excited to join forces with Microsoft Research to bring together generations of female programmers to share their stories, and I hope that the on-demand video of “Reinventing Tech for the Next Generation” will expose even more young women to the tremendous possibilities in computer science.

Pictured from left to right, Ayna Argarwal, Rane Johnson, and Katie Doran led the event, “Reinventing Tech for the Next Generation.” Rane joined the event virtually with the BEAM robot.  Pictured from left to right, Ayna Argarwal, Rane Johnson, and Katie Doran led the event, “Reinventing Tech for the Next Generation.” Rane joined the event virtually with the BEAM robot.

Three years ago, I entered Stanford as a dreamer, planning to change the face of global health through veterinarian medicine. However, I soon tired of the preparatory science classes and of feeling tethered to the vet hospital. I still wanted to have big impact on the world, but I wasn’t sure how.

Then I took my first computer science class and fell in love with the problem-solving mindset. Moreover, I soon realized that technology had the ability to touch the lives of millions, offering new communication and productivity tools and entertaining toys, serving as a means to unravel the biggest crimes, providing protection via mobile phones in developing countries—the possibilities are endless.

I became convinced that the full potential of tech is yet to be discovered. Yet a couple months prior to that first class, I had no idea that computer science was even a discipline, or that large companies and startups were built entirely around bringing technology to life. I had never even conceived of the possibilities.

I realized that my ignorance about computer science derived in large measure from the lack of role models sharing their stories. So I created she++ to be a community of voices of those technologists: the ones who are breaking the boundaries and incorporating their interests into the field.

she++ soon evolved into a personal mission to embolden and enrich the possibility of technology. I aim to provide an inspiration for all types of people, with every interest, encouraging them to take a peek and enroll in their first programming class. The future of the world lies in tech, and we need more people, with unique perspectives, than we’re training today to work in the industry. I hope that the joint Microsoft Research and she++ event entices girls everywhere to take their first programming class—and to realize they can have big impact in this world with technology.

—Ayna Agarwal, student at Stanford University and summer intern at Microsoft

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Fun with programming

Largest IT Pro and Developer Launch in Microsoft History

So as our Launch Activities in CEE come to close, I have had an amazing experience visiting our partners, customers and employees across the region.  I have been to the launches in Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Armenia, and Czech Republic.  Each team did an amazing job outreaching to IT Professionals and Developers in each country.  I had a great time learning about our customers challenges and how our local teams are helping them solve those challenges and help their companies reach their full potential.  I am also amazed by the work of our smaller teams in Malta, Cyprus and Armenia who do an amazing amount of work and influencing the local communities with so few resources- GREAT JOB TEAM!  Below are a couple pictures from my adventures and see the Launch albums on the side for many more

Biggest Launch in the History of Microsoft

I was excited to have the opportunity to host 40 of our Central Eastern Europe Press, Partner, Customers and Staff at this years WorldWide Launch in LA in February.  It was crazy with over 4000 IT Pros and Developers at the Nokia Center with Steve Ballmer Keynoting and Tom Brokaw doing the opening kick-off!  This served as the kick-off to more than 250 events around the world that will reach over 250,000 attendees in person and another million via online virtual events.  In CEE we will have over 30 events in 28 countries with more than 25,000 attendees.  I have already attended Croatia and next week I head to Slovenia and Romania.  The follwong week Greece, Czech Republic and then Malta, Cyprus, Armenia and Azerbijan.  I will have pictures up from every event.  Here are some pictures from LA, it was a fun event and it is an amazing time to be in IT and to be an IT Professional and especially to be part of Microsoft. 
 
The day after the event I had a chance to meet up with my best friend from elementary school.  I can’t beleive we have been friends for 18 years, man that makes me feel old.  I had a chance to spend time with her twin daughters.  Lets just say I was more in to them than they were of their Aunt Rane.  They were ready to go home in the first 5 minutes, got to love 2 year old.   It was cute Mom would say, "Let me spend some time with my best friend, can’t Mom spends osmetime with her friend?"  And the response from the girls, "NO, we want to go home and you need to play with us."   They are darn cute though…
 
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