Collaboration and Diversity

Yesterday was a great day. The weather was fantastic, a good thing, particularly because I was at Rochester Institute of Technology from 8:30 AM until 6:30 PM, walking around to different places for appointments. This arrangement was my decision because I wanted to get a lot of Proof of Concept interviews for a project I have been researching. The product ArmRay will be coming out in a little less than two months and I needed a lot of feedback about the current design so that we could start coding more of the back end next week! I will not share the detail about my interviews but I will share the side story that happened to reflect ArmRay’s values of collaboration and diversity.

My first interview was with Dr. Christopher Homan, associate professor of computer science at RIT, a very nice person who offered me something to drink on this hot day! He is also very interested in how technology can help people, particularly social media. He has been a consultant to ArmRay from the start. The business has changed a lot from the initial conception, and I have gone to him several times with questions, but he says that he will continue to help because he cares about our mission to 1. improve collaborative research and development and 2. improve discovery about grants.

My last appointment was with the director of the computer science PhD program at RIT, Dr. Shi. He gave me a bottle of water and we talked for a long time! In the beginning and at the end we got a little off-track from the main scope of the interview but what we discussed was still very relevant. He spoke of the importance of collaborative research. These days more than ever, computer science is all about being interdisciplinary. Just 10 years ago, people were impressed by software that took 100 hours of work down to only 20 minutes to do the same thing. These days bringing a fast computer down to 10 minutes, or even 5, doesn’t make most people excited. Towards the end of our interview, he mentioned how a platform like ArmRay can increase local collaborations, especially in large universities. We do not always know who has expertise in which areas, especially when they are not in our field of study, but we are all working to solve the different problems of our world.

A lot of people talk about the need for more diversity in STEM fields but I believe that if we talk too much about the problem, we might just be creating fear and reminding people that there is a problem. On the other hand, being aware of a gender gap can prevent a situation like has happened with ArmRay, specifically yesterday! Another amazing research faculty member who offered me something to drink at our interview was Reynold Petucha, Assistant Professor in Computer Engineering at RIT. Looking through the Web platform mockups and mock profiles, he “Where are the girls?”

“Is this a girl?” He pointed to a cowboy with his jacket collar opened and must have thought his pecs were breast. Apparently it was not even a cowboy lol( to my mistake at the moment). One of my team members likes western movies a lot and I like the idea of adding culture (even if I do not like western movies myself), so I let one of them add western pictures. I had noticed that there was a mistake with gender but we got so focused on usability and features, we totally forgot to fix the problem. Hopefully, ArmRay will be the place people will come to find collaborations to research and improve gender balance among the different things! As the founder I feel a responsibility to share these specific problems in context and not necessarily complain about the issue and emphasize it in our values. The problem was fixed and not by me but one of our guys and he added a female with every guy!