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Fashion, Tech, and Everything in Between


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Ce que se passe en Montreal…

…gets blogged! When I arrived in my room at the Sheraton hotel in downtown Montreal, I was greeted with the most beautiful, invigorating sunset. The sun broke through my window at exactly the right angle to fill my room with orange light and warmth, such a sweet welcome to the beautiful city. I sat in the windowsill for a while drinking my coffee before I did what any blogger would do – took shameless selfies before the perfect lighting went away!

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I love how the sun spills past the half-constructed buildings outside, filling the window with a cityscape of shadows that looks almost futuristic.

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Since I began traveling for work I’ve pretty much mastered the art of hotel room selfies, and I make a point to take pictures of the rooms I stay in so I remember all my temporary homes. I used to do it for the sentimental value, but now it’s mostly so I can make informed decisions when I choose my next hotel chain! This room at the Sheraton had a gigantic mirror right beside the bed, which proved a little unsettling at times even if it did give the illusion of a bigger space, but as a whole the room was very comfortable and impeccably clean. And I LOVE having a king bed all to myself!

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As much as I enjoyed the comfort of my room, I didn’t spend my whole trip there! If you haven’t seen them already, check out my posts about CUSEC and Igloofest!

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Microsoft’s HoloLens Launches us Into a Future of Holographic Computing

“This is all we need to step into the holographic landscape,” says Alex Kipman, head of Kinect at Microsoft. “Today you’re not only going to see that holograms are real, but everyone is going to experience holograms for themselves in our labs.”

At today’s Windows 10 brief in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft team leads debuted not only the latest iteration of Windows 10, but a new Surface and a device that is about to change the world as we know it: the Microsoft HoloLens. Standing on stage in Microsoft’s visitor centre, Kipman began by talking about breaking down barriers between people and technology, and unifying the digital environment with the physical. When he first said the word “hologram,” we all did a bit of a double-take. He couldn’t possibly be announcing what I think he’s announcing? But with every passing sentence it became clearer that Kipman was indeed announcing a device that could be a groundbreaking leap in human-computer interaction.

HoloLens is an all-in-one device worn on the head, which uses eye tracking, sensors and amazing 3D mapping technology to place holograms in the world around the wearer. With HoloStudio, users are able to create holograms in real time using an editor much like AutoCAD, only controlled by gestures and physically constrained only by the space around you. Designs can then be 3D printed, as demonstrated by the team this morning, who presented a functional 3D printed quadcopter designed in HoloStudio. Holographic design, gaming, remote interaction and even Skype were some of the capabilities mentioned in today’s presentation, presenting new ways to minimize the barriers between physical and virtual landscapes.

Using HoloStudio to design a quadcopter. Image from gigaom.com

How HoloLens maps Windows 10 to the user’s environment. Image from gigaom.com

Kipman, who spearheaded Project HoloLens, originally proposed the idea to Microsoft seven years ago, according to Wired. That idea became Kinect, then Kinect v2 which launched in July 2014, which are ready-to-use augmented reality sensors with advanced SDKs for developers. During his presentation, Kipman invited developers from around the world to develop holograms using Windows 10 – now the only question on all our minds is “when?”.

“The era of holographic computing is here,” boasts the HoloLens site, and if the device works as well as it appeared to on stage today, Microsoft just may have brought us that much closer to the future we once thought was just fiction.

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Igloofest

Last week was the first time I’d been to Quebec in the winter, and I had an amazing time with only one regret: not bringing thicker socks. I’d always heard the warning stories of harrowed McGill students freezing their buns off and slipping on the icy hills, but didn’t really take it to heart until I went to Igloofest.

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Igloofest is exactly what it sounds like, a festival of structures made of ice. Igloos, slides, full bars and gigantic sculptures decorated Vieux-Port of Old Montreal, which was sectioned off into dance floors graced by the musical stylings of live DJs and dotted with extremity-saving fire pits (pretty sure I would’ve lost a toe or two to frost bite had I not put my feet in the fire). It was -25 degrees celsius, the kind of cold that even spiked hot chocolate and dancing can only stave off for so long.

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^ Note the shameless photo bomber in the background, staring directly into the camera.

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^ Yes, that is a 7-foot bottle of Bacardi made of ice

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I don’t think I’ll ever complain about the cold again.

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Travel, Tech and Taking Control

Hello world, I’m back on the digital map after two weeks of travel! In what’s passed of January so far, I’ve spent just three days at home and the rest on the road (I’m writing this on January 18), setting up 2015 to be another exciting year of travel. I kicked off the year with a flight to Halifax on the 1st and spent ten days in Halifax with my boyfriend and friends I haven’t seen since I left at the end of the summer. One of the wonderful things about working in technology is having the freedom to work remotely. It unlocks the world! Or at least the parts of the world with high-speed internet.

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After Halifax I spent three short days getting things in order back home in Toronto, then headed right back out on the road to Montreal for CUSEC, the Canadian University Software Engineering Conference. At CUSEC I had the privilege of speaking with hundreds of fellow technical students from across the country as I manned the Microsoft recruitment booth. Speaking to students from other schools is always inspiring and humbling, and I always leave these events feeling positive and refreshed.

One of the most memorable moments from CUSEC was when some girls asked me for advice on being a woman in tech. If you’ve been reading my blog since the beginning, you’ve seen me grow through a number of different stages, from when I became a Microsoft Student Partner to when I got my internships and began traveling for work. Just last year I was on the other side of the table, asking women at a Halifax tech event what it was like to work in a male-dominated industry, and listening intently for some sparkling nuggets of advice that could make the journey a little easier. What’s it like? Do you feel out of place? How do you deal with gender discrimination? Being asked these questions reminded me of when I was asking those same questions, and I am so pleased to be able to honestly say I have found a workplace where I don’t feel discriminated or undermined at all.

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One student told me her parents were concerned about her career in software, that they told her her career is not suited to a future as a mother. But I’ll bet that those parents wouldn’t have said anything if their daughter wanted to be a doctor or a teacher. Another student mentioned that her boyfriend doesn’t think software development is an enjoyable activity for a girl, and that she’s beginning to doubt it herself – but if that student enjoyed painting instead of programming, would her boyfriend discourage her the same way? My advice is this: It is so important to realize that no one else has the right to decide for you what your interests are. This goes for people of all ages, whether you’re entering the workforce, deciding what you’ll study at university, or switching careers at any time in your life. You are the only one who can decide what you like and dislike, and you should take it upon yourself to do what you like as much as possible. In this day and age, the line between “boy things” and “girl things” is fuzzier than ever, and will hopefully be erased in generations to come.

I’m so pleased to have had these conversations at CUSEC, and I hope they’re conversations we can continue to have going forward. Girls, students, anyone, if you’re reading this, please feel free to reach out at any time. It can be difficult to find a listening ear or someone accessible who understands the situation, I know. But here’s a beautiful thing about the age we live in – no matter where we are in the world, there’s always someone on the other end of the computer. So whether I’m in Halifax, Toronto, Montreal or somewhere else, drop me a line and I’m happy to chat. :)

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Happy New Year! A look back at 2014…

What. A. Year. Looking back at this day in 2013, it’s amazing to see how much can happen in just 365 days. In January 2014 I started my first work term at Microsoft, and since then I have had some incredible experiences and had the opportunity to meet and work with superstars from across the globe. For me, 2014 was a rollercoaster year of emotional, personal and professional growth. In the highest of highs I flew around North America for various projects including hosting tech events and filming my first Microsoft Virtual Academy course, and through those opportunities I’ve learned a lot about people, professionalism and how we all fit in in this huge, booming tech world. On the other side of the rollercoaster, 2014 has been a very difficult year and I hope that we can put a lot of the big hurdles behind us in 2015. In the meantime, here are some of my favourite moments of 2014!

1. Starting at Microsoft

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2. Giving my first conference demo as a Microsoft representative at the National Business and Technology Conference in Toronto

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3. Flying on the inaugural customer-carrying flight of Air Canada’s Dreamliner (story)

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4. Purchasing my Lenovo Yoga taptop and finally retiring my old MacBook Pro (details)

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5. Summertime in Halifax (here, here and here)

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6. This magical day in Italy wearing my Zafira gown, and the rest of the time in Italy, of course (story)

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7. This Amazing Race-style adventure through Canada-England-France-Germany-Italy when my passport expired too early (what a story)

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8. An amazing week in Seattle with top-notch Microsoft Student Partners from across the globe (story here)

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9. Attending my first Grace Hopper Celebration, and partnering with Syncfusion to do so (story)

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10. My first ever fashion week and all its grandeur (stories here and here)

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11. Flying out to Vancouver to host the Kinect Hackathon at BCIT (full story)

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12. Filming Hour of Code and CODExist with Channel 9 and Microsoft Virtual Academy! (full story)

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A lot of people make New Year’s Resolutions, and I’ve never really had one that stuck. I think that, if you want to make a change you should make it when you think of it, because why wait to implement something that you know will have a positive effect on your life? So instead of telling you I’m going to take up meditation or drink 3L of water a day, this year my one resolution comes from something a former teammate told me. He said that no matter what’s going on in the day, he makes it a goal to make someone genuinely smile. And whether that’s through social media, over the phone, or through in-person interaction, I’d like to adopt that goal of positivity this new year.

Happy New Year, everyone! How time flies. I hope that you had a good year and that 2015 brings you new opportunities and happiness.

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Studio Time at Microsoft HQ

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I remember a distinct moment in grade school when I decided that I never wanted to be a news reporter. An actress perhaps, or a singer, but as far as entertainment and media went I thought that presenting on camera would be too stressful, too serious for a job. How wrong I was! In the last month I’ve had two opportunities to get in the studios and try my hand at webcasting for Microsoft’s new ground-up coding tool, TouchDevelop, and I’ve absolutely loved it. Camera work is not nearly as terrifying as little Sage thought it would be, and now that I’ve got two official Microsoft casts under my belt I’m ready to take on more! The first show was the live Hour of Code webcast, which is now available on demand on Channel 9, and was done in our small studio in Toronto. But last week I flew out to Redmond, Washington, home to Microsoft’s corporate campuses, to film 5+ hours of content for a Microsoft Virtual Academy course to be released in the new year.

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Presenting on camera is entirely different to presenting in person because you have to keep your energy up without the natural feedback that a live audience provides. Luckily for me I had an amazing co-presenter, so it was easy to feed off one another’s enthusiasm and occasional (okay, frequent) silliness. Apparently our course, which is somewhat cryptically named “CODExist: The Birth of Bot,” is the first MVA course to feature two female presenters, and also the first MVA to feature a Microsoft Student Partner (me!). I can’t wait to share the course with you when it’s released!

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As always, it was a pleasure to work from the Redmond campus. Our offices here in Ontario don’t hold a candle to the offices at HQ, not just because of the scale but because of the invigorating energy. Picture this: when I was prepping my content for the course I was sitting in the Commons, which is the central building for food, services and entertainment on campus. Live jazz musicians were singing beautifully as I sipped my freshly brewed Seattle coffee, and a horse-drawn carriage was taking people from building to building outside. Now I know that’s just because it’s Christmastime, but wow, what a workplace! I wish every work day started out like that.

And of course, what would a trip to HQ be without a shameless stop in the company store? I couldn’t resist donning my geek gear that night as I psyched myself up for studio time.

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Traveling Without My Camera

I’ve heard it said that the best camera is the one you have with you. How true that is when you stumble upon something beautiful and all you have is your phone camera! Up until this summer I had been a religious iPhone user. But when the button on my iPhone 4S stopped working and I had the opportunity to try out a Windows Phone, I made the switch to my (now old) Nokia Lumia 820. It was a solid phone, but my one complaint was its camera, which performed horribly in low lighting and produced low-res images overall. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that I document everything with photographs, so using the 820 meant that I needed to bring my hybrid SLR camera with me everywhere I needed to take photos. Well, thanks to my awesome tech-savvy grandfather who bought me an early Christmas present, those days are over! I now welcome my Nokia Lumia 1020 Windows Phone and its 41-mega-pixel camera into my device family.

Last week was the first time in my life that I didn’t use a camera (that is, a device that is primarily a camera) on a trip. All the photographs I took in Redmond were taken on my new phone, and I am so pleased with its performance! Here are some of the best pictures from my trip, taken with the rear and front facing cameras. For the sake of displaying the quality of performance, all the photos in this post are unaltered, aside from cropping.

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