My name is Paulette, and I recently transferred from Columbia University to Empire State College. My main focus is computer science. My career goal is to lead tech diversity programs for Google. This summer, I attended the 2016 Association for Computational Linguistics Conference on August 8-12 in Berlin. I was excited to learn more about natural language processing (NLP) and meet some interesting people from across the industry. This conference was sponsored by major multinational companies like Google and IBM and represented some of the best and brightest minds doing research in the field of NLP, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. I was excited to attend sessions on natural language processing as it pertains to machine intelligence and accessible products.
Several presentations were given by my colleagues from Columbia University. One of my favorites was by Gavin Saldanha called Entity Focused Approach to Generating Company Descriptions, which combined top down search approaches and data driven generation, proposing a hybrid solution, which resulted in impressive wikipedia-style abstracts for smaller start-up companies.
Women and people with disabilities are extraordinarily underrepresented in this field of computing, so I was excited to network with other diverse engineers from around the world. They even hosted a specific reception for women/underrepresented people to meet and mingle, with the goal of fostering mentorship. I met a female professor from Columbia University and a woman pursuing her Ph.D at the University of Washington, both of whom were passionate about inclusion in tech.
I would strongly encourage other students to attend a conference overseas. It was so inspiring to see how well computing transcends cultural barriers and allows us to communicate in a common language. I enjoyed learning about what educational institutions outside the US are focusing on and teaching, and it even caused me to consider studying abroad one day.
The conference sponsored a boat ride around the city of Berlin, which was an excellent networking opportunity and also afforded some beautiful views of the city. I loved Berlin—I am very grateful to AccessSTEM and the University of Washington for sponsoring this incredible opportunity!