Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing (CAN-CWIC) Experience

CMS at CAN-CWIC Conference

By: Katrina Best


The Canadian Women in Computing Conference was one of the most eye-opening experiences I have ever had, and I am so thankful that I was able to partake in this incredible event. It inspired me to improve myself and motivated me to engage and network with more women in the technology industry.

The event started off with a banquet dinner at the Delta hotel near Pearson airport. It was super exciting meeting people who flew in from Winnipeg, Calgary, and even Vancouver just for the weekend. I excitedly picked up my badge and headed into the banquet hall for dinner and a keynote. I met a new friend even before I had entered the hotel, as there were a lot of individuals waiting to check in, and we ended up connecting after only a few hours of talking.

To kick off the conference, we were welcomed by this year’s CAN-CWIC organizers, followed by an inspiring keynote speech by TD’s VP of Finance Technology, Morgan Klein-MacNeil. She told us stories about imposter syndrome and the struggle of being a female in a male-dominated field. She talked about how feelings of doubt don’t go away as you gain seniority, and encouraged us to discover our “superpowers.” It left me in awe, and the night quickly came to an end. The hotel was comfortable and hospitable, and I am thankful for the opportunity that UTSC gave me.

In the morning, our keynote speaker, Melissa Gilliam from Electronic Arts (EA), presented a memorable speech discussing her unconventional approach to the tech world. She offered different pathways to the industry and shared her history with imposter syndrome, a psychological feeling commonly found among CMS students. During the day, there were 4 parallel sessions each with 5 different options. While all of them held interest to me, the following were the ones I attended:

Graduate Student Research Talks. This was a panel consisting of four graduate students who presented their research topics to us. Most notably, Deeka Chandola at York University created Real-time Emotion Recognition to utterances from participants and was able to integrate this methodology on a Sentry Robot as a proof of concept. Sachini Herath at Simon Fraser University developed Neural Inertial Localization, which 1) uses a neural inertial navigation technique to turn inertial sensor history into a sequence of velocity vectors; then 2) employs a transformer-based neural architecture to find the device location from the sequence of velocities.

I also attended a few keynote presentations in the afternoon: 

Welcome to the Metaverse - Exploring the Impacts of a Digital Future by Emily Wilson. We took a deep dive into how the metaverse is working today including cryptocurrency, gaming, entertainment, and socialization. She discussed the market for digital land, NFTs in a 3D virtual space, and the impacts of the blockchain being incorporated. 

Emotion-Sensitive Human-Robot Interaction by Enas AlTarawneh at York University. This presentation was immensely engaging and interesting as it emphasized the importance of ethical reasoning between human interaction with emotion-sensitive AIs.

Investigating a Cyber Attack by Jessica Burns and Victoria Gray at the RCMP Cybercrime Investigative Team. They explained the most common cyber attacks affecting Canadian citizens and infrastructure and walked us through a real cybercrime investigation that was recently closed in Canada.

I had the pleasure of enjoying a delicious lunch as well as visiting several companies' booths including TD, Electronic Arts (EA), RBC, Google, Amazon, IBM, Unity, FreshBooks, and my current position's company; Rakuten Kobo Inc.! It was a pleasure meeting Erin Davidson, the Technical Recruiter at Electronic Arts (EA), with whom I hope to stay in touch for future intern opportunities, and Russell Sng, a Developer Advocate for Unity, who inspired me to use Unity to build future VR projects.

Overall, these wonderful women provided priceless advice and motivated the entire room full of rising tech stars to achieve their goals and pursue their passion in computer science, no matter their background. I will be further researching the metaverse and developing a sense of AI and its morality and capabilities when mixed with ethics.