A Highschooler’s Experience at WITS

By Ava Saydam

Ava Saydam, one of TechGirlz Teen Advisory Board members, writes about her recent experience attending the Women in Tech Summit (WITS) Spring Virtual Summit.

Ava smiling in a field of wildflowers

I had the honor of attending the spring WITS (Women in Tech Summit). WITS was held from April 27-29th with multiple sessions throughout each day. As a high school student, it was tough to attend sessions during the school day, so I was glad that many of the sessions were on demand videos or were recorded for me to play back later.

The first session I attended was “AI For Good”, which was headed by Jennifer Glenski. Going into the first session, I did not know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised at how comprehensible the presentation was. Jennifer first started out by listing the various uses of AI in education, healthcare, and the government that benefit the greater good. For example, Fitbit detects signs of an irregular heartbeat to prevent strokes and heart attacks. Glenski also addressed many ethical concerns that come up while creating artificial intelligence. She suggested that in order to combat bias in AI, one must work with the customer to understand how to use the artificial intelligence to create the product. She also requested that people who work in AI know their sample group well to recognize how bias might arise and how to prevent it.

The second session I attended was a panel of women in tech who discussed web development trends. These panelists defined web development as “the work behind the scenes to make websites work”. They all work in fast-paced environments that are continuously evolving. The majority of the panelists also work in data privacy and security and stressed the importance of data security. From this session, I took away what a typical day as a woman in tech is like. As a high school student, this is very valuable to me, as I am always thinking about future career opportunities. I also received lots of reassurance from the panel that if I look hard enough, I will be able to find other women in tech like me. This was very comforting to a high school girl interested in going into a male-dominated field.

The last session I attended was all about data science with Theresa Newton. Personally, I do not know much about data science, so I was very intrigued by this session. Theresa explained why data science is so popular today, mostly from the advancement of technology and the expansion of availability of data. She also focused on the four pillars of data science: business domain (knowing the business field, such as health care, finance, etc.), statistics/probability, computer programming/software programming, and written/verbal communication. Newton stated that most people are strong in one or two pillars and suggested ways that we can improve our weakest pillars. From this session, I took away that I might be more of a data scientist than I thought! Theresa shared that data scientists are well-rounded people who possess highly technical skills and good communication skills. I agree with Theresa– we all should think about rebranding ourselves as data scientists!

Overall, I had a very positive experience at WITS as a high school student. I am looking forward to attending more WITS in the future!

WITS logo for the Women in Tech Summit