Get your attention? If so awesome. No, there is no story about Charlie Brown here. (sorry) I used that title to stand out. For I want to be the green in a room full of white. Let me try to explain:

You just received a ‘Build your own mini roller-coaster’. The instructions are clear and it’s an easy set up! But now you now have the same mini roller-coaster everyone else has ever bought and built. I mean there is nothing wrong with that. Lets just say Apple® and Samsung® would not have the success they have today if they just followed the same instructions. They went outside the build and added personal touches. Of which made them stand out of all the basic builds out there. These things made them original.

You may’ve noticed that there are many half-clones out there. By this I mean; ever bought something or seen something just to find an exact copy made by a different company? Businesses will do things like take a plastic phone case design and make it with more durable material. Of which consumers will buy. It will not always work! Think of something like Playstation. You may be able to create something super unique but it might now not be compatible with everyone else and cause major problems of which its best to just have an original copy. I would suggest that you only do something like so if you absolutely know you can do it better.

Keep in mind that trying to stand out can be hard in certain situations and might even change your whole mindset on the idea. You will attempt one thing for it either not to work or not liked by yourself or others. Perhaps you make something unique that everyone would love but it never became the thing. Always keep in mind what you are making and if it will even be used by the time you’re done. All of this turning you away from making that amazing Idea you have? Don’t be scared. By going through this you will learn what not to use/do and have a better goal for next time. Use all of this to your advantage.

So please let your imagination flow free with creativeness! We would not have everything in the world today if we all just stuck to the same ol’ same ol’. With this I tell you! Be yourself! Be original.

Allyson White is a woman who knows what she wants and has always known there is a place for her in the tech industry. She was in tech before tech was even a conversation piece and a trending industry in Cape Breton. In part three of our Women in Tech feature, we sat down with Allyson to talk about her interests, her accomplishments and her goals in the hustle and bustle industries of technology and entrepreneurship!

14483922_10157474303500576_1469280368_nA 2nd year graduate of UIT Startup Immersion, Allyson currently works for Ubique Networks in Sydney, Nova Scotia and she is building two startup companies. Not one… but two! This woman is busy! She knew she could make her home in Cape Breton because of the opportunities a coding education could provide her, and her tech businesses will allow her to work with clients all over the world.

Hailing from Scotchtown, her heart is in Cape Breton first but she dreams of a wanderlust life on the road, coding and helping others fix their tech-related problems while seeing the beautiful sites the world has to offer. We asked her what she would do if we gave her $10,000 right now – she’d hit the road. She knows that inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes and a life spent seeing the world is sure to inspire!

When asked about the lack of women in the tech industry, Allyson wanted to take a moment to remind the women in our community that this industry is only limited by your imagination. And if you are not a creative person, you can learn to be: the culture and atmosphere of tech companies alone is worth getting into the industry for. Allyson is a huge advocate for corporate culture and has experienced the decline of culture first hand and started her own companies to help curb some of that negativity in the workplace and be a part of the movement to build better businesses.

A self starter, Allyson taught herself to use Ionic and coded for about 18 hours during a hackathon where she took a 2nd place prize with another student of UIT, Rachael MacKeigan and they split over $700 in prize money. She also placed 2nd at the Sea++ competition in the spring taking home $2000 in prize money and was awarded the Cape Breton Island Futures Fund bringing home $10,000 in seed money to launch her garbage recycling app company.

Here’s some fun facts about Allyson: she describes herself as smart, outdoorsy, fun and squirrely! She loves hiking and camping and could spend every moment of her summer in a pool. Her future goals are to continue to grow her companies, start a travel blog detailing her wanderer tech life and help women break into the tech sector. She champions the UIT program and encourages others to pursue their passions, whatever they may be.

If you meet Allyson on your travels, invite her for a slice of pizza and Pepsi and ask her to tell you about the time she hiked for 10 hours into the woods to camp and sleep near wild horses.

Sometimes a problem is just a business waiting to happen. And Nova Scotia has its share of problems. The irony, however, is that one of our problems is we have the lowest per-capita number of businesses compared with the rest of Canada; and in Cape Breton it’s even lower.

We need more people who, when they see a problem, switch into problem-solving mode. In other words, entrepreneurs! (As well as so-called intrapreneurs in government, higher ed, and corporations.)

The problem with solving your own problem

But which problems get solved for depends to some extent on who is doing the solving. That’s because entrepreneurs often set out to solve their own problems.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. After all, who’s more motivated to relieve a pain than someone who acutely feels it themselves? (Call it the startup equivalent of “write what you know”.) But if we’re going to address the problems facing our region, the country, and the world, we need to ensure that the people doing entrepreneurship/intrapreneurship are representative of the population.

This requires dramatically increasing the participation of women in the tech sector.

Wage ‘Gap’ or Injustice?

How do we do this when, on average, women make roughly 75 cents for every dollar that men make to do the same job? Hardly a wage ‘gap’; more like wage chasm. Regardless of the metaphor, it sends a clear message that society values women’s work less. No wonder women are so underrepresented in the sector. Younger women as a result don’t see themselves reflected in relevant role models… and there you have a vicious circle.

The reasons for the disparity are myriad and systemic. (I haven’t even mentioned child-care and family-caregiver issues!) Correcting them requires strategic collaboration between women and men at all levels of government and across all sectors of society.

In the meantime…

UIT is committed to improving access to technology and entrepreneurship education. And we’re equally committed to increasing the visibility and influence of women in technology. So what are we doing, in our small part, to address the situation?

  1. Thanks to people like Annette Verschuren and companies like Protocase and MentorCamp (in addition to other industry partners) we are able to offer assistance to students with financial need and in particular through our ‘Women In Tech Bursary’.
  2. We reserve half of our seats for women: in both our launch year (2014-2015) and second year (2015-2016) our student cohorts were made up of 50 per cent women.
  3. We sponsor the Sydney chapter of Ladies Learning Code and volunteer as instructors and mentors for their workshops.
  4. We ensure that our female and male students are seen and heard equally during public presentations (participation on panels, public demos, etc) and through media coverage.
  5. And we strive for parity in our network of visitors, mentors, and advisors. (It’s somewhat ironic that these, and other, women leaders are not difficult to find. And yet women’s participation in tech and entrepreneurship is nonetheless lower and less visible than it needs to be.)

Because of our commitment to increasing the number of women employed in Nova Scotia’s ICT sector, this past June we were awarded the first inaugural Diversity Champion Award from Digital Nova Scotia.

This award celebrates and highlights the efforts of a company or organization who goes above and beyond to recognize the need for greater gender diversity in our male-dominated sector, such as developing metrics and/or a specific target to promote and retain more women in technology or technology-related positions.

And yet…

And yet… this year our cohort is all men! Why?? Other than having far, far fewer women applicants than in previous years, we don’t know the answer.

But we’re asking the question, as publicly as possible, including at the recent panel discussion on Women in Tech hosted by Navigate Startup House and featuring Annette Verschuren, Val Fox, Kim Deveaux, and myself.

We’re accepting applications for 2016/2017. Have an idea to recruit more women into UIT? Or the tech sector in general? Leave a comment below!

It seems like since the moment PowerPoint hit the scene, people have been working hard to find alternatives to using it. The idea of showing slides with tons of text to people seems so blah in today’s technologically advanced world!

Trends have come and gone in the presentation world and a particularly popular trend is to use keywords or source words to draw attention to a topic, but the speaker remains the main focus of the presentation. You’ve seen this popular trend in almost every single TED Talk. It’s effective, for sure. But we are an increasingly distracted population and sometimes it seems like we need more sparkle in our lives, especially in our presentations.

Enter the sparkle! Here are three popular alternatives to using PowerPoint:

MySimpleShow is a super fun – and FREE –  and easy to use online tool that helps presenters create engaging video – with voiceover! – to capture the attention of their audiences. It has video tutorials that show you exactly how to use their software and everything can be saved and retrieved from the website, or downloaded to your computer. There are lots of paid features, but if you are in a pinch and just can’t handle the thought of combing through PowerPoint themes anymore, give this a try!

simpleshow

Use MySimpleShow when you want to introduce a solution to a problem in a simple way that illustrates a solution.

Prezi has been in the game for a little longer but they offer a great alternative to the idea that every story is linear…life is not boring: your presentation shouldn’t be boring either. Prezi appeals to the movers and shakers in us because of its dynamic nature. Prezi reads more like an adventure, rather than a road trip with a starting and ending point. It’s an affordable option for software that is always changing and highly recognized in the industry. Plans start at $13 a month for students and individuals.

prezi

Use Prezi when you have multiple players to consider in a pitch: great for companies that have a two-sided market and need to quickly and easily show the connections between them.

For the Mac lovers in the group, you can download the Keynote presentation product for about $30 bucks. If MySimpleShow is your video alternative, and Prezi your non-linear alternative, then Keynote is probably the closest thing to PowerPoint without actually being PowerPoint. As with many other Mac apps, the features are superior to the Microsoft product and offers real time editing for collaborative presentations.

keynote

Use Keynote if you’re on Team Apple, want to pay a one-time fee for a professional product, and want to be able to collaborate with your remote team members.

The importance of having a perfectly timed, executed and relevant pitch or presentation cannot be stressed enough. That’s the focus on the upcoming Demo Camp in Halifax next week – getting real feedback about real presentations, without the presentations. More and more the speaker is the focus, so learning to lean less on your presentation software is not a bad idea. But keeping these bad boys tucked in your back pocket can help you round out your presentation in a way that won’t leave your audience saying, “oh no, not another PowerPoint!!”

 

If any of the people teaching us have any doubt about the program (which I doubt they do) let me reassure you. In just about the first week of classes we have covered almost a whole semesters worth of HTML and CSS lessons. I never got to be in the web design classes when I was at Dal, but I did sit in on them now (also I knew quite a few people who were in them) and the end of semester project was a plain html website with a few pictures, a few different pages and a handful of CSS. The scripting classes got pretty fancy with neat colour changes and things, but none of the classes in first year involved bootstrap or reactive design which we got into pretty fast.

The templates we use still give you the room to learn, but you end up with a site that looks much better then you started from scratch. Also knowing how the templates work is helping me work on other random websites that I’m messing around with in my free time. Also because some of the templates use JavaScript, event though we aren’t learning it, I’m getting chances to see how it works and mess with values.

The small forays into the scripting are also making me excited, I can’t wait to start learning how to add all sorts of neat things to websites. A bunch of the guys I used to go to school with had all sorts of neat apps build on their websites and I’d like to be able to build things that I previously didn’t have the ability to make. (One of the guys had a website that simulated generations of plant growth including different genetic traits etc, I’ve built cool things too, but the website and scripting things made it a lot nicer).

So without even learning how to do the scripting I’m getting all sorts of excited ideas for things I want to build. I want to make a website with my Calligraphy stuff (just for fun).

Also I have an old app I built for playing Civ 5, that I would love to make on a website. It was used to pick random Civilizations for each player. The reason we built it originally was because a lot of us played at a close to professional level and in Civ 5 there are some really overpowered civilizations (like Babylon and Poland) and there are really terrible civilizations (like Denmark). So we wanted to pick random, but if we let the game pick them for us it could give the really over-powered and under-powered civilizations. Also the game is more interesting if there are no duplicates nations. So I wrote a thing that took names and a ban list and made sure everyone got random nations to play as. I think that that small app would make a good website with a checklist and things for the ban list and number of players, etc.

Overall the first full week of classes was exciting, I learned a lot, and I can’t wait for more.

 

 

 

PvP Gamers Dungeon is a gaming centre in Sydney where anyone can come in and pay by the hour to play the newest video games on whatever console or computer they want in the lounge. It’s a gamer’s dream social hangout place, and I work there. So I decided to write a blog about how I got there and what I learned during my on-going experience there.

To start, when I just entered grade 12 I picked a co-op course which provided 25 hours of classroom work that taught workplace safety, job interview tips, and resume building. The other half of the course was 100 hours of unpaid co-op placement at any workplace of my choice. Basically, I thought of it as free experience and a head start when entering the working world. For about 2 months I was wondering about what to choose for my placement. I knew I didn’t really care what I did as long as I wasn’t doing anything extreme (Anything involving heavy lifting). I got a call from my co-op teacher who found out that a place called PvP Gamers Dungeon was making it’s grand opening that week. The second I heard “video games” I said yes. After that I met with the owner, Todd Chant, and the manager, Jonathon Wells, where we scheduled my work placement and signed a few forms. This is the time where I discovered that since I was labeled as an “employee”, I was given free gaming hours to play the newest games on high end PC’s at PvP for FREE!

Skip ahead a few days pvpand I’m working my first shift at PvP Gamers Dungeon. I was just as excited as I was nervous. The fact that I’d be working at a place involving video games is a dream come true, but also that for the first time I’d be working as cashier type worker and handling money, which was stressful for me. I was working along side the manager as he taught me: how to use the software handling the sales and computer logins, how to help out the customers in common problems, to always make sure the snacks and drinks are stocked, and to clean the controllers after every use. I started working there quite regularly every weekend. In the mornings of Saturday and Sunday, PvP hosts birthday parties where you can purchase 2 hours of gaming time where the entire place is closed for the public. The party allows children to play games freely without making an account and also roam around to console to console trying any game they want. Since I worked weekends, I would always help out during the parties.

After a month or 2 of working there I thought it was pretty much the best job I could be doing that’s not only close to home, but I’m very comfortable with and has wonderful perks. The job at PvP made me comfortable handling customer’s money, made me more comfortable with talking to customers, and helped me realize that when either the place is absolutely packed because of tournament, or just loud and crazy when 20 kids are having the time of their lives hitting each other in Minecraft, I am pretty good at handling stressful workplace situations. Eventually, when I was working my last few unpaid co-op shifts they told me they decided to hire me as a part-time employee. That made me, well you can imagine, really happy. Now while pvpgdsmallI only work the occasional birthday party, it’s still a pay check for a student every week.

I can’t express how grateful, lucky, and happy I am to have a job at PvP Gamers Dungeon. And since I still don’t know how to close my blog, I’ll just say if you haven’t been there before, you should go. Even if you aren’t a gamer, bring a friend and pick anything that looks interesting and it’ll be fun!

In our second week at UIT, we were given the task of making a responsive website using a Bootstrap theme. I already had some HTML and CSS knowledge before this program, so overall this wasn’t too difficult, other than getting a couple stubborn classes to work the way they were supposed to. I used a template called Treviso. It was pretty well made as far as the CSS went, but I had to cut a fair amount of HTML stuff that just didn’t make sense for a portfolio.

The hardest thing to fix I came across was probably getting my name to sit beside the menu button when the website was in a smaller viewport, and that took probably an hour or so to fix. I don’t have a gravatar yet, so I’ll have to shoot something for that this next week or something. For now I just left a smiley face 🙂 . I also left some lorem ipsum in my about section and didn’t bother putting placeholder images in my little modal boxes, which didn’t go over too well in my presentation, but I fixed that later that night. As for the business portion of the class, we mostly watched and discussed lectures from smart people.

I also went to the monthly UIT mixer on Tuesday, which was pretty cool. There was a couple of us there (contrary to the amount of people said they were going), but it was mostly people we haven’t met yet. I wanted to go to DemoCamp on Thursday too, but I had work that night so I couldn’t attend. I would’ve gone to Lumière on Saturday but I have work that night too. I hope your app works out Eric, good luck!

Blog posts are hard to write. I hope I get better at it.