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

Will Nintendo switch fortunes with the Nintendo Switch?

Last week Nintendo finally unwrapped their super-secret project NX. We finally got to know the name of the new console and got confirmation of when we will see it in stores. The name is Nintendo Switch and it will be hitting stores in March 2017. Many rumors and predictions were right!!

Unfortunately, Nintendo did not release a lot of details about the console other than a very short video about some of the key concepts behind it. In a nutshell, the new Nintendo Switch is a hybrid console, but you might wonder what do I mean by hybrid. Simple, it will be a portable console (think Nintendo 3DS) and a home console (think Wii U) bundled in one unique device.

switch

For years, I have thought that Nintendo was going to push for this hybrid idea, after the first time I saw the Nintendo Wii U, back in September of 2012 I thought: wouldn’t it make a lot of sense if I could take the tablet (controller) part of the Wii U everywhere I wanted and not be constrained to just my home? Then Nintendo broke news about the company merging their handheld and console divisions. Obviously, I started dreaming about a possible console that you could take with you anywhere you went but when you come back home you can easily dock into your TV and keep playing. That concept is exactly what was shown in the video for the Switch! Nintendo is basically making my dream come true.

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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.

Saving Twitter

With the acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft, many investors started buying Twitter stock thinking that the struggling social network would be next. Nick Bilton, one of my favorite writers with Twitter insights, recently explained why this is unlikely. So if nobody is going to buy Twitter, what can it do to survive? Can Twitter be saved?

I agree with Bilton, Twitter will not sell in the near future, specially given its latest investments in SoundCloud and Magic Pony Technology. In fact, I believe Twitter has several great opportunities within reach to overcome this difficult period.

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Steve Jobs would have loved the Apple Pencil

You have probably heard about the announcements that Apple made on Wednesday around the Apple TV, iPhone 6S, iPad Pro… and the Apple Pencil.

As usual, there are a lot of memes and jokes about the keynote, specially around the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil; for example, a comic is making the rounds on Twitter highlighting the new iPad’s similarities with Microsoft’s Surface; and then there is this:

Putting aside whether or not the Apple Pencil is revolutionary, is it fair to bring back that image from 2007? I don’t think so. Steve Jobs’ words were uttered in a very different context, when people were used to interact with their incipient smartphones with a stylus (or with their nails).

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The #1 thing I’d change from Windows 10

Have you already upgraded to Windows 10? If so, you probably experienced how easy it was: click, download, install, done. Or perhaps you are one of the few people who, like me, run into one of the 16 hexadecimal error codes that you can reportedly get in the process.

I love Windows 10 and I truly believe it’s one of the best editions of Windows ever released. I upgraded my little 8″ Dell Venue 8 Pro and I’m loving it, so I honestly recommend you to get it as soon as you can. However, the upgrade experience wasn’t simple in my case, and that’s why the #1 thing I’d change from Windows is Windows Update.

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Twitter is still about news, tweets and you

As I was getting ready to say goodbye to 2014, I read a post from Owen Wilson titled “Twitter isn’t about news, tweets or even you anymore“. The thesis of that article was: Twitter doesn’t care about users anymore, only about ads and money.

Even though I agree with parts of that statement, I think he failed to mention some important points. Twitter is very interested in its users, in fact it’s dying to find the formula that keeps them engaged. The problem is that the company seems to be focused on making Wall Street happy first.

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I bought a smartwatch as an experiment, and I liked it

Smartwatch sales are set to explode by 2020, according to a NextMarket Insights report from 2013. And according to a more recent CCS Insight’s global forecast, “by 2018 over 250 million smart wearables will be in use, 14 times more than in 2013.”

That’s a lot of people and a lot of wearables. What will these gadgets do? A lot of things apparently:

Let’s reflect on one aspect: “50% of wearables sold by 2018 will be smartwatches.” That’s impressive, considering that most people today don’t even know what to do with a smartwatch. The cultural change is going to be massive.

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On-demand delivery startups and local economies: interview with Sergio Treviño, Co-Founder of BrewDrop

On-Demand Delivery, Instant Gratification… if you’re not used to hear these words already, you will be soon. The fast-changing space of on-demand economy is filled with startups that will bring anything to you, almost instantly.

Uber, Airbnb, Caviar, PushForPizza, Munchery, Doordash, Postmates, SpoonRocket, Sprig, Instacart, Shyp, TaskRabbit; all of them are great examples of this fascinating trend, and today we are interviewing Sergio Treviño, Co-Founder and Lead Technical Architect of BrewDrop.

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People answering your questions, the future of the search industry?

How would you find out which real estate website has the most up-to-date listings? how would you figure out which mobile carrier has better coverage in certain neighborhood of your city?

10 years ago, you could type keywords in a website like Google and hope to find the answer. Today, you have more and (sometimes) much faster options: websites that understand the meaning of the sentence you wrote, like WolframAlpha, intelligent virtual assistants that provide direct answers to simple questions, like Siri, Google Now or Cortana, and even apps or websites whose sole purpose is to connect someone asking a question with someone who knows the answer, like Jelly or Quora.

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