Sunday, October 30, 2016

Use The Force

Today, Reshma Saujani's work with Girls Who Code is an inspiration to mine.

"Civic tech" is a thing for me. It's becoming more than a thing for me, and I'm owning it to become my thing. Advocacy. Advocating for people, improving their chances of succeeding, by being present. Knowing that my “presence”, my suggestion, my contribution in any form made someone’s life richer, better, head in a direction that improved their chances to succeed - is my thing. Definitely a part of my work, which I've been involved with for a while now. I was only able to put a name to it last week after attending the Grace Hopper Conference/Celebration of Women in Computing.

Earlier this month, a co-worker Robb* blogged about how he used his tech expertise to lay out a prototype for an ailing friend of his father's. This friend was diagnosed with a terminal disease, was no longer able to speak and needed to answer yes or no to some very important questions. In his blog post, Robb was able to get the patient to communicate to his hospice team by using his brain waves, which was phenomenal. For a little more detail, the solution involved combining a consumer grade EEG with a Node.js application that could interpret/display thoughts.

In addition to this, a piece that stood out to me was that Robb attributed this to a connection he made when he volunteered to teach at a Code workshop for kids which we held at my organization this past summer. And what was special about that? I had come up with the Code workshop and was the lead volunteer. It was a couple weeks after I had launched and started teaching kids at my church, when the announcement was made at work for volunteers to host a kids program. I remember thinking, “why not throw in code?” and made suggestions. Robb was in our first brainstorming meeting that day. He thought the code workshop was a good idea, offered to be my assistant and we collaborated and got to planning. On the D-day, he took it farther by bringing an actual robot that could be hooked up to the portal where the code was deployed. The kids loved it. He also shared this YouTube video called: Use The Force - Move a BB-8 with Your Mind. Yes, he's a Star Wars enthusiast, and was quite disappointed when he learnt I wasn't so keen about the space opera franchise :)

"100 percent of the shots." 
So no one needed to know this, but I glowed when I read his blog post knowing that something so "wild" happened as a result of our collaboration. I am glad I did not hold back my suggestions, which went on to enable someone else to champion a solution for improving someone's life. I'm reminded of Google's Astro Teller's speech at GHC last week, where he said, "everybody loses when smart people hold back." Show up, you just never know!

The other day my mind went off to some of the problems, challenges, difficulties, struggles yet to be remedied, that the human race faces everyday. And I thought, 100%. You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. Maybe someone who was vital to the solutions did not show up. Maybe they were afraid of failing or speaking up, or appearing stupid. Maybe they were lost or stuck pursuing a different calling, or never got to realize their calling. Really, diversity of thought is important, and we will never get to measure or know the impact of the loss or absense of contribution. 

Reminds me of this song I learnt in primary school, called Brighten The Corner:
Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do, Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties ever near you now be true, Brighten the corner where you are.
... Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar, Brighten the corner where you are!

* real name changed

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