Organizing TechWomen Mentors, South Bay Activities


The TechWomen mentoring program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is looking forward to welcoming 99 Emerging Leaders from 19 countries to the Silicon Valley next month.  I am honored to be the Lead for the Cultural Mentors – South Bay – Arts & Culture group, working with experienced TechWomen mentors Megan Dean Farah, Lori Kahn, Rochelle Kopp, and Shannon McElyea. Arezoo Miot (TechWomen Director) and Jillian Scott (TechWomen Program Manager) of IIE – San Francisco lead the South Bay Cultural Mentors’ orientation meeting yesterday, generously hosted by Flipboard in Palo Alto.

Our Arts & Culture team will work with about fifty of the ELs who are staying in Mountain View – coming to us from Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Zimbabwe. The ELs are still in the process of being matched with their Professional Mentors and companies. 91 companies in the San Francisco Bay Area have hosted ELs since 2011.  They arrive at the end of September and will be in the US for about six weeks.

Our team will be considering events and activities throughout the Bay Area.  However, since we all live in the South Bay, we have been collaborating to create a list of options closer to home – to reduce transportation management and traffic time. Here is our list so far – for discussion.  We will only pick a small number of these for the whole South Bay EL group to enjoy!




Pictures Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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How to Make a Short Video

PicnicPortraits_A225_MG_2493 copyright by Saul Bromberger and Sandra Hoover 2014

I am working with a group of technical women professionals of ArabWIC (the Arab Women in Computing Association) who want to make a video about mentoring best practices and experiences. ArabWIC, Gaza Sky Geeks, and the TechWomen mentoring program are target audiences. I am delighted to be collaborating on this project with one of my TechWomen mentees, Mai Temraz of Palestine. Mai (and Seham Aljaafreh of Jordan) and I made a series of videos together last year. We now want to make a somewhat longer video, putting together the thoughts and experiences of several experienced mentors and mentees from different countries in the Middle East and Africa.  This is how to make such a short video.

Here are three short video examples from my YouTube Channel:

You see that these three videos are not Great Art but they do get a simple message across.  Searching the web will quickly give you more detailed analyses and instruction, as well as tips on video creation and production.  However, sometimes you are limited in resources and time but still need to get the job done. For example, Meg Desko and I recorded her video in a Tunis hotel room the night after the Bardo Museum attack, when we realized that she would not be able to present at Tunisia Digital Day as planned.  Her video was presented in her stead.

Our focus was on simple, cheap, fast, and good-enough:

  • Conveying clear content, simply and briefly.
  • Using accessible, relatively-simple and robust tools that we already knew, or could learn quickly.
  • Low cost.
  • Quick cycle time.

Our tools were:

For each of the three video examples, we recorded many attempts before achieving a video that satisfied. I think 15 takes was our highest number! Our requirements for a final recording:


  1. Simple, light background – nothing behind the speaker to distract from her message. Standing in front of a corner gives enough contrast for interest.
  2. A room with no outside noise. Background sounds of air movement, beeping, traffic, and voices will get picked up by the microphone and detract from the speaker.
  3. Gentle light on the speaker’s face so that there are no deep shadows or bright spots.
  4. The camera is held very still with crisp focus on the speaker. A simple tripod or stand may help.
  5. The speaker wears a strong clothing color – to give her skin a glow and make a soft visual transition from the light background.
  6. The speaker speaks and looks directly at the camera – to engage the audience directly. Sometimes this is called “Breaking the Fourth Wall”.
  7. The content has a clear start and a crisp end, giving basic structure.
  8. Record one continuous video to minimize editing.
  9. Repeat often: Done is Better than Perfect.

This checklist will be used by the ArabWIC mentors and mentees to

  • Prepare two-to-four minute video segments in English (using an Apple or Android smartphone or tablet computing device) about mentoring best practices and experiences.
  • Upload the video segments to Drive.

I will stitch all the little videos together into a longer video (using iMovie), for posting to YouTube this month. Wish us luck!

Image Copyright 2014 by Saul Bromberger and Sandra Hoover


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Water Conservation Landscape Program – Santa Clara Valley

MyPlanImage2 17June2015

We have been reducing our home water use for many years and have recently been approved to proceed with a landscape redesign as part of the Landscape Rebate Program of the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD). In April 2015, we started the process of replacing our 1006 square feet of water-hungry front lawn with a garden that needs less irrigation. During the last four months while the severe California drought has helped our our lawn to die,  John and Paul and I have completed these process steps:

  1. “Pre-Inspection Survey” by Conservision – in which our eligible landscaping was officially measured and evaluated and reported to SCVWD, 8 May 2015.
  2. Returned “Landscape Rebate Program Request for Application Form” to SCVWD, 8 May 2015.
  3. Received blank “Landscape Rebate Program Application Form” from SCVWD – mailed to us 3 June 2015
  4. Returned “Landscape Rebate Program Application Form” to SCVWD – mailed 22 June 2015, complete with detailed garden diagrams (created using Garden Planner software) with plant, materials, and irrigation equipment lists. This required much cross checking of the Sunset Western Garden Book against the SCVWD Qualifying Plant List – as well as family discussions about what we want at the end of this process.
  5. Received “Notice to Proceed” from SCVWD, dated 28 July 2015.

In designing the new garden, I was very disappointed that many of the California native plants I had originally thought to use in my landscape design were marked in the Qualifying Plant List as having “Genetic Concerns”.  I think most home gardeners will be like me – unwilling to hire/pay a plant ecologist (or find a qualifying native plant database) to determine the local wild populations. I ended up picking from listed plants that are non-natives.

“*G = Genetic Concerns This genus contains species native to Santa Clara County or cultivars that have parents which are native to Santa Clara County. Consult a plant ecologist or native plant database to determine if your landscape project is located within 5 miles of wild populations. If so, please follow these suggestions to protect local genetic integrity: 1) select a local ecotype 2) avoid use of cultivars or hybrids, especially those with non-local or unknown parentage and 3) avoid use of nonnative ornamentals which share the same genus in order to prevent unnatural hybridization.” (from the SCVWD Qualifying Plant List)

I think that the complex and drawn-out application process assumes that most people will be hiring a landscaping company to do the work.  The Landscape Conversion Rebate potentially pays $2 per square foot for converting high water using landscape to low water using landscape (through December 31, 2015).   SCVWD will only reimburse for materials (plants, equipment, dirt, mulch, rocks), not labor, so even with the rebate this could be a very expensive project for those who cannot do the work themselves.  My planting list includes:

  • Phormium – flax (purple/brown)
  • Bearded iris (red and purple and yellow)
  • Muhlenbergia rigens – deer grass
  • Helictotrichon sempervirens – Blue oat grass
  • Verbena lilacina (purple)
  • Verbena peruviana (red)
  • Achillea tomentosa – woolly yarrow (yellow/grey)
  • Agapanthus inapertus (purple)
  • Narcissus – daffodils (yellow)
  • Dymondia margaretae (yellow/grey)

I have 90 days from 28 July to finish!


Photo Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson. Diagram created using Garden Planner software

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TechWomen 2015, Mentoring Standard, Notable Technical Women, Wikipedia


TechWomen 2015:  The TechWomen 2015 year has started! Professional and Cultural mentors for the 99 Emerging Leaders from 19 countries who will participate in the five-week program are being notified of acceptances. I have been honored to be selected as a Cultural Mentor for the South Bay Area in the Arts & Culture group. I am looking forward to working with Emerging Leaders and other mentors in the Silicon Valley. Since 2011, 156 women from Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tunisia, Yemen, and Zimbabwe have participated. The 2015 TechWomen program will expand to include women from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

This year, my company Mentoring Standard will be offering training and certification for TechWomen mentors. Our Team is now developing those materials. We are very much looking forward to supporting this outstanding program of citizen diplomacy by the US Department of State – Bureau of Educational Cultural Affairs.

Notable Technical Women: The Notable Technical Women project by Jessica Dickinson Goodman (California Department of Justice), Dr. Susan Rodger (Duke University), and me is also thriving: Jessica just placed a big re-order of the Notable Women in Computing card decks and posters, and the TechWomen cards and posters continue to sell steadily. TechWomen Director Arezoo Miot is pictured above with the TechWomen poster in her Institute of International Education office in San Francisco.

Want to write for Wikipedia? We welcome corrections and additions to information on the Notable Technical Women materials. Since the first printing in November 2014, eight honorees have had new Wikipedia biographies written (or we found pages about them): Clarisse Sieckenius de Souza, Laurie Hendren, Kathleen McKeown, Betty Snyder (aka Betty Holberton), Valerie Taylor, Marlyn Wescoff (aka Marilyn Meltzer), Linda Petzold, and Lixia Zhang. There are only six Notable Technical Women honorees left (out of the 54 honorees) who need biographies written: Anuradha Annaswamy, Chieko Asakawa, Qiheng Hu, Yuqing Gao, Lila Ibrahim, and Sophie Vandebroek. We update the cards as possible between printings.

IMG_3698 Just-printed posters – July 2015
IMG_7833 Susan, Jessica, and Katy – June 2015

Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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New Fire Hydrant in Willow Glen


Three years ago, I wrote about our north east Willow Glen neighborhood losing one of its two fire hydrants and what it took to get it replaced. A fire hydrant helps firefighters tap into the municipal water supply to extinguish a fire. We are delighted to be getting a third local fireplug – even if it has meant dancing do-si-do with large construction equipment to get into our driveways all week. It will be a month before the new/larger water pipes become active but with the severe California drought continuing into its fourth year, having better access to emergency water is one less thing to worry about.



The San Francisco Bay Area saw a big dry lightning storm last night – which fortunately does not seem to have added to the count of wildfires already burning in the Golden State.  On the drive home from vacation in the San Juan Islands in Washington State, last week John and Paul and I drove through the thick smoke of the Stouts Creek Fire in Oregon, which has burned over 20,800 acres (32.5 square miles) since 30 July. There was smoke along Highway 5 for more than 200 miles south of that fire – giving us a great sunset over Shasta Lake in California.  It was a scary reminder of how destructive fires can be.



Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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Willamette Valley Winery


On the drive home from vacation in the San Juan Islands in Washington State, last week John and Paul and I visited two wineries in the Willamette Valley, south of Portland in Oregon. At the recommendation of my business partner, Kathy Jenks, we tasted wines at Willakenzie (founded by former Sun Microsystems executive Bernard Lacroute), and also at Domaine Serene. The area is famous for its Pinot noir grapes and wines.  We came home with a case of bottles to enjoy during the coming year.  I am not sure why Domaine Serene had a full-size wolly mammoth sculpture on the grounds but it makes for a good photo.







Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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San Juan Islands, Washington State


We are just driving home from a week with family in the San Juan Islands at the north end of the State of Washington, just below Canada. This is about a thousand miles driving each way from our home in San Jose, California! All along the way, we saw the looming background presence of some of the largest California-Oregon-Washington mountains: Shasta, Baker, Rainier – part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the ring of volcanoes and associated mountains around the Pacific Ocean.

As this was our first visit to the islands, we also saw many of the tourist sights: Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm, Pelindaba Lavender, whale watching with San Juan Excursions, Orcas Island Pottery, the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, Lime Kiln Point State Park, etc. There were a great variety of wild and tame animals along the way: foxes, orcas, a great horned owl, deer, a camel, a black snake, salmon, seagulls, harbor seals and dolphins, sea anemones and barnacles, bald eagles, turkey vultures, quail, honey bees and bumble bees, raccoons and alpacas – and of course, horses, cows, sheep, pigs, cats and dogs. We enjoyed two Shakespeare performances: Much Ado About Nothing (at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR), and Cymbeline (at Island Stage Left, Roche Harbor, WA). A delightful trip!



















Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson


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