Women in engineering and public office: interview with Bea Q. Rico, candidate for Port of Seattle Commissioner

Becoming an engineer is not an easy task. Excelling at it is even more complicated. And if you happen to be a woman and part of an ethnic minority, things will be remarkably tougher for you.

Today, I’m interviewing Bea Querido-Rico, an engineer with over 12 years of experience in the aerospace industry, who is also running for Port of Seattle Commisioner. Join us while we talk about what we can do to improve the world for future generations. 

Education is one of the big challenges of our time, with less students choosing STEM degrees each year. How would you encourage the younger generations to become the professionals that we need as a society?

The strategy that works the best is inspiring through understanding first what motivates younger generations. Once the motivation is understood, then link that motivation to S.T.E.M. and pair it with relevant fun courses as well as role models that they can relate to.

Growing up I was only exposed to sports, accounting, and nursing. Some people in my family took steps into starting a business and my brother pursued engineering in college but all of that in my world was so abstract until I landed an internship at the Boeing Company working for the C-17 military cargo aircraft. That summer internship in aerospace widened my perspective and heavily influenced the way I think and operate professionally.

What it took for me to pursue a field in S.T.E.M. was simply walking on the factory floor and seeing how parts from around the world came together to make aircrafts that ultimately bring people together. Later in my aerospace career, a Director of Engineering for the 787 program coached me on the job and later challenged me to take on a masters of engineering.

In a world dominated by gender inequality and unconscious bias, how do you feel that being a woman and part of a minority has shaped your career?

The complex reality is the human element of judgment. If everyone were truly treated equally, we would all be taking trips to the moon right now because we would all focus our energy and brainpower on the next disruptive transportation vehicle or perhaps solving world hunger.

However, bias will always exist and being a young professional woman of color in a male dominated, predominately older and Caucasian, has been the story of my career. In order to be taken seriously by the male peers in the industry and in academics, I needed to work harder, articulate points more creatively, and think smarter. How that has helped, well, I’ve become better at strategizing.

What made you decide to run for public office at the Port of Seattle?

There are many reasons why I decided to run for office and I can go into the detail as well as the systematic decision making process I approached to go all in, but I’ll save that over gin and tonic hour. I jumped into the deep end of local elections because I was inspired by the call to action from nonprofits where I volunteer to basically step up and serve the community in a capacity that requires some risk taking.

I was also fed up with the lack of innovation and a lot of waste I was seeing from my experience working as Port staffer. So instead of complaining by the cooler about the issues, I decided to do something about it and ran. One of my favorite quotes is from Ghandi “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Hence, my campaign material is “BEA The Change.”

I’m motivated to run for office for many reasons, but platforms I am advocating for are specifically: social equity and inclusion, innovation and technology, and government accountability and transparency. Since this is Geek on record, on the innovation and tech front, I’d like to elaborate that I’m interested in:

  • Introducing an Open Data policy
  • Elevating the importance of the Information Technology and Communications department at the Port because it’s buried inside the organization
  • Hosting a ‘hackathon’ at The Port of Seattle
  • Investing in initiatives that support “Blue Ocean” type work in the area of maritime, fishing, aviation, and aerospace. I especially will focus more in space commercialization because the responsibility of the Port of Seattle is to strengthen the economy through transportation, trade, and industry. Basically, I plan to focus energy on the jobs of the future

In what ways do you think tech companies could collaborate more with the public sector? What partnerships would you like to develop as Port Commissioner?

I mentioned it briefly above but the Port of Seattle basically needs to be more pro-active in this area. The Port has a tendency to react to the changing landscape and that’s not smart.

By collaborating with tech companies we can better prepare for capital infrastructure planning, training, work force development. I’d like to see an Innovation Technology Advisory Council or something to this extent that will focus on developing an innovation roadmap for the Port to take into account for Maritime, Aviation, and Corporate.

Seattle has become a tech hub in recent years. In what ways do you think that has impacted Puget Sound?

Seattle has always been a tech hub. That’s why the companies are drawn to this region and the Port should sustain, protect, and further grow the brainpower that resides in this region. The impact has been a drastic jump in affordability and because of the tech community manifesting even faster in the recent years, it has consequently displaced many people in the non-tech communities out of Seattle.

My agenda for social equity is to find that compromise with tech companies to provide more support towards our local heritage, culture, and history. Seattle simply cannot be like San Francisco, with regards to housing and cost of living, and local government has a responsibility to focus on this issue, including the Port of Seattle.

What are the top three technology enhancements​ that you believe the Port of Seattle should be focused on getting?

  1. IoT
  2. Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality
  3. Additive Manufacturing/Automation

These three technology enhancements are relevant and the Port will need to work with the Unions to find a way to introduce, train, and educate the workforce and community in a time frame that will work for the “non-startup” culture that exists at the Port.

In your website, you talk about wanting to establish an Open Data policy that empowers people to launch more startups. How do you think data transparency can benefit innovation?

You would be surprised how ingenious people are when they are given sets of data and numbers that they can transform to be more consumable to the public but also more applicable to improve operational efficiency.

If you had one ask for the tech industry, what would it be?

Please vote during the primaries, add more people that are S.T.E.M. advocates into office, and support Bea Querido-Rico who will be your partner for innovation. J

You can learn more about Bea at www.rockitbea.com

Using a Surface RT, 5 years later

Right before my last trip to Spain, rumors of a laptop ban in flights from Europe to the U.S. started appearing. I didn’t want to take my Surface Book and risk being forced to throw it inside my luggage on my way back (we all know how airlines treat luggage).

So what options did I have? Either leave my laptop at home, or travel with a device that I could live without, in case it broke after being handled like a sack of potatoes.

That’s when I thought of my old Surface RT, abandoned in a shelf for years. I wasn’t sure it would be “enough of a tablet” for my trip but coincidentally, that same week happened to be the 5th year anniversary of its presentation, so it was perfect timing for a test.

Would I be able to use my email? Write a little bit? Upload pictures to Facebook? Read Twitter? Buy tour tickets and make trip reservations? Would any of the old apps work?

The answer to all of those questions was, surprisingly, yes.

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My experience with Snapchat’s Spectacles

I got the Spectacles over Christmas thanks to my good friend Carlos. Back then, it was difficult to buy them because Snap was playing a genius scarcity game.

Today you can buy a pair online and get them delivered to your home in 1-2 weeks. Gone are those days when the Spectacles would sell on eBay for $3000.

Now, you might be thinking: “should I get them?” Let me help you.

Have you ever had a vacation to a sunny place, taking pictures here and there to immortalize the scenery? Having your phone with you all day might not be convenient, especially if you want to disconnect.

Have you ever been at a wedding where everyone is looking at their recording phones? Most of these people end up having just the memory of what their camera saw, not their eyes.

Can you think of a summer day when you hiked through a trail with breathtaking views? Getting your hands busy to take pictures might be uncomfortable and even dangerous.

I have been in these situations, and the weird-looking sunglasses truly allow me to be in the moment while capturing the memory.

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Facebook created a mess trying to take on Snapchat

If you use Facebook, Instagram, Messenger or WhatsApp, you have probably noticed recent updates that allow you to share a picture that expires after 24 hours.

Stories, Shared Days, or Status, all different names for the same feature across 4 different apps. This is what they look like side by side:

Facebook is trying to suffocate Snap by flooding every app they own with the one thing that made Snapchat special.

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Why did you stop posting on Facebook?

Many of my friends have stopped posting on Facebook. Some have uninstalled the app and others even deleted their accounts.

They are not posting on Twitter either, and the more ephemeral Snapchat hasn’t reached critical mass among my closest friends.

Instagram is the only place where I still get a glimpse of the most intimate side of the people I love the most, but I’d say only 20% of my online friends actively use it.

What causes someone to stop sharing on social media? Is it a natural part of being over 30? Or is there an actual problem with the platform? Talking to several of these friends, I learned that there are several groups.

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I broke Facebook

I’m sitting on a train, on my way to Whistler, and I decide to check Facebook. I’m hoping to see what my friends did last night, or what their plans are for Thanksgiving, but this is what I see:

I don’t see almost any personal posts, or pictures that help me connect with my friends, with the people I love. Isn’t that Facebook’s mission? Instead, I get irrelevant stories.

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This is your tech bubble in Seattle

You wake up with fake sunlight from your Wi-Fi-enabled lamp and you reach for your smartphone before you even open one eye. After checking that you finally reached 90% of sleep efficiency, you start your morning ritual through your social media apps.

A few more ‘Clinton has already won the Elections’ news from your Facebook feed remind you that November 8th is finally tomorrow. You walk to the bathroom with a sense of accomplishment: you retweeted a couple of anti-Trump news articles that a friend shared.

The smart toothbrush congratulates you for not missing any teeth 3 days in a row and you jump in the shower while listening to OneRepublic’s ‘Future Looks Good’, how appropriate!

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How iMessage joined the ‘fun messaging apps’ club

Waiting for my delayed flight to take off, I came across Phoneys, an iMessage sticker pack with some controversy.

Phoneys allows users to cover friends’ messages with stickers that look like a real message. In less than a week, it became the #1 Top Paid and #1 Top Grossing iMessage app. Here’s how it works:

Of course, Apple noticed and asked Adam, the developer, to update it so that users don’t get confused or think that their iPhone has been hacked, otherwise the app would be taken down.

With iMessage on iOS 10, Apple tried to create a fun experience that can compete with Snapchat, the king of fun messaging.

A very clever way of doing this was… well, letting others actually do it and lure them into a new iMessage app store (following Facebook’s steps with Messenger).

I find fascinating how Apple simplified and streamlined the creation of stickers for iMessage. Anyone can create a fun experience (and sometimes a cash machine) with a good idea and a few nights of work.

Fun messaging apps are the next gold mine: emojis, stickers, GIFs… the best way of increasing the variety and quality of options is to let 3rd party developers do it. How long will it take for Snapchat to open its own app store?

Adam is now debating what to do with his “stupid little sticker pack”, as he calls it. To him, I’d say: enjoy the viral ride and start thinking of the next great idea, you sure know how to monetize it.

You can read his full story in Medium.

Image via Adam Howell

Will Snapchat’s Spectacles succeed?

Snapchat’s first hardware product was leaked on Friday and surprised everyone: new company name (Snap Inc. for Wall Street folks) and a $130 wireless-connected video-recording sunglasses.

I’m not sure if the company decided to officially announce the new product that same day to avoid losing the momentum created by the leak, but they knew how to do it: an exclusive interview for the Wall Street Journal.

So the biggest question is: will it succeed? Will people buy the Spectacles? Evan Spiegel (Snap’s CEO) downplayed the importance of the announcement by saying that the Spectacles are a “toy” and that the release would be slow.

The company is probably being cautious because of previous market failures like Google Glass. But is this a comparable product? I don’t think so.

Google Glass had a price tag of $1500, an aura of “for developers only” and a futuristic design that didn’t appeal to everyone. Snapchat’s Spectacles are cheap even for a teenager (yes, that same teenager that has an iPhone), have a playful design and are easy to use: just press a button to start recording whatever you are looking at.

Google Glass also failed because of the privacy issues that it raised – am I being recorded right now by that guy? The recording indicator was too soft, so subtle that it creeped people out. The Spectacles have a prominent light when they are recording.

So will it succeed? I think the better question is: will Snap produce the Spectacles fast enough to supply the demand from those teenagers that spend hours glued to their Snapchat app?

Image via Snap Inc.

How to swap your iPhone 6s for the new iPhone 7 using the iPhone Upgrade Program

If you used the new iPhone Upgrade Program to get your iPhone 6s, you will probably be wondering how to swap it for the new iPhone 7 when it comes out next month.

Since this is the very first year that the Upgrade Program has been active, I was wondering the same thing, so I went online to get some answers from the always helpful Apple Store Specialists.

Here is the full transcript:

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016 06:48 PM
Duration: 9 minutes 51 seconds

Welcome to Apple.
What can we do for you today?
Hi, I wanted to know how will the iPhone Upgrade Program work when a new iPhone is released. How will I be able to exchange my iPhone for a new one?
Please wait while I connect you with an Apple Specialist.
Welcome to the Apple Online Store! My name is Kaitlyn! I can absolutely help with your iPhone Upgrade Program questions.
Are you currently on the iPhone Upgrade Program?
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