November 3, 2014

The Dallas STEAM Explorers held their second meeting November 3rd from 6:30 to 8 pm. Eliot Paek welcomed nearly 40 students, teachers, and parents to the monthly gathering.

First, the students heard from Teena Piccione, AT&T’s Assistant Vice President of Big Data Solutions Architecture. Ms. Piccione shared her career journey. She began as a singer at Disney World, returned to school, became an international consultant, started the company Bell South Long Distance, and finally advanced to her current position at AT&T.

TeenaMs. Piccione told students about AT&T’s Foundry Innovation Center. There, employees work together in one office; the phrase, “but we’ve always done it that way,” is never heard; newer, better, quicker, more cost effective ways of doing things are the norm; “problems” become exciting challenges; and, collaboration, “…which, by the way, is not always easy,” is an office policy.

She told about the many different kinds of thinkers who make up a team at the Foundry: data scientists, domain and visualization SMEs (subject matter experts), big data developers, and industry analytics managers. Surprisingly, AT&T’s Foundry Innovation Center even hires music majors (for their knowledge of algorithms), and psychology majors (to help people work together, and to better understand how customers will react to a product).

In closing, Ms. Piccione emphasized the importance of keeping a healthy digital imprint. She stressed that AT&T’s Foundry Innovation Center is not necessarily looking for all 4.0-ers, but rather at how a prospective team member works with others. Can they think outside the box? What is their online profile? What are their latest tweets? Are they kind or callous? What is their linkedin profile? Facebook?  According to Ms. Piccione, the bottom line is this: Is this potential employee a good fit as a team player?

KaraGrace_edited-1Next, the audience heard from Grace Kaldwai (right) and Kara Schrader (left) about Women Who Compute (WWC), a new group of female students at UT Dallas founded to promote, celebrate, and support females in technology within the community. WWC was started by six female UTD students in the fall of 2014, and has already grown to over 100 members.

Ms. Kaldawi, who is the President of WWC, shared the details of her educational journey. She was homeschooled K-12, started taking dual-credit college courses at 15, then began full time at UTD as a computer science major at 16. She graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Summa Cum Laude, in May 2014. She will receive her Master’s in Software Engineering in May 2015. In addition to her schooling, Ms. Kaldwai held internships at Fujitsu, Texas Instruments, and JP Morgan Chase.

Ms. Schrader, the Vice President of WWC, graduated as a distinguished scholar from Argyle High School in 2011. She took dual-credit classes from her sophomore through senior year. Currently, she is a Computer Science major at UT Dallas and will graduate in December 2014 with her Bachelor’s degree. She has held internships at Texas Instruments and Peerless Manufacturing. Ms. Schrader will start full time with IBM after graduation next month.

Both Ms. Kaldawi and Ms. Schrader started UTD with no previous programming experience. They stressed the importance of knowing the options for majors, the need of talking to upperclassmen about professors and textbooks, and getting involved in clubs. Depending on their individual needs, some students may like to get involved starting in their freshman year, while others may want to wait until they’re acclimated to college life. Both ladies encouraged students to take intro classes that can apply to many different majors if unsure which direction to take.

Ms. Kaldawi and Ms. Schrader invited female students who would like to learn more about careers in computer science to contact WWC where they will be matched up with a member who can answer questions.  They also shared a list of local programs and helpful websites (see our links page).  To learn more about WWC, visit their website at, or email Their website has an email sign up and a calendar of events.

View their entire presentation here.