Women in Power Hosts Event to Press for Progress

On Thursday, more than 240 members of the City of Seattle community attended the Women in Power: Press for Progress event. This event celebrated International Women’s Day and powerful women everywhere.

The event took place in the Bertha Knight Landes Room, named after Seattle’s first female mayor. Opening speaker Mayor Jenny Durkan, the second female mayor more than 90 years later, recognized the significance of the space and the moment.

The morning panel discussion event included women from across the City of Seattle including: Deputy Mayor Shefali Ranganathan, Interim Chief of Police Carmen Best, and Acting Director Seattle IT Tracye Cantrell. The discussion, moderated by City Light Director Michelle Vargo, surrounded the importance of mentorship and encouraged the audience to amplify one another throughout their work. Each panelist contributed their unique perspective from their experiences and departments.

The afternoon panel, moderated by City Light Director Maura Brueger, featured four of Seattle’s six female city councilmembers: Lorena González, Lisa Herbold, Debora Juarez and Teresa Mosqueda. The panelists focused on the importance of being heard and becoming agents of change within their spaces.

City Light’s Sarah Davis, who founded and chairs the volunteer Women in Power group, was thrilled with the event and is excited to see where the conversation goes from here.

“Today is a testament to what we can accomplish when we work together,” explains Davis. “I hope people left the room inspired, excited, and with a desire to do something. Actually, I want people to say ‘yes’ to do two things: one thing for themselves, and a second that will benefit someone else.”

A special thank you to the committee who made this event a reality: Sarah Davis, Stefanie Johnson, Koryn Kennedy, Holly Krejci, Courtney Adams, Kathryn Mork, Bianca Smith, Uzma Siddiqi, Martha Hobson, Stefanie Guzman and Dana Robinson-Slote.

More than 200 viewers watched the event via Skype. Click here to watch the event in its entirety.

About Women in Power
Created in late 2016, Women in Power (WIP) is a City Light employee-run group whose mission is to foster professional development, better support one another, and address unique issues women face in the workplace. In addition to bi-monthly programming and the International Women’s Day event, WIP recently launched a 6-month pilot mentoring program. WIP is open to all City Light employees (both women and men).

Seattle’s Civic User Testing Group Engages Residents to Provide Feedback on City Technology Tools

Seattle residents rely on government and nonprofit websites and apps to access key information and resources, like utility accounts, housing assistance, permits, and library services. But they don’t always get the chance to provide feedback on that technology and how useful – and usable – it is for them.

Seattle’s new Civic User Testing Group (CUTGroup) aims to involve residents in the creation of technology that’s designed for public use, giving residents a voice and a chance to gain technology experience, while helping developers of this technology make it more effective. Given the growing prominence of online platforms in daily activities, technology design has become a key opportunity to address principles of inclusivity, diversity and equity.

The CUTGroup is a partnership between the City of Seattle Information Technology Department; the University of Washington iSchool; and the civic technology community group Open Seattle. It’s modeled after similar programs in Miami, Chicago and Detroit, and supports the City’s Digital Equity Initiative, which works to ensure that all residents have the opportunities and skills to participate in digital activities.

To join the CUTGroup, you just need to be a resident of Seattle — no technology experience or device ownership is required. Residents can fill out a brief form on the CUTGroup website and will be notified when a new testing opportunity is available. Test sessions will be up to an hour long and run by user experience researchers in a small-group setting. Each participant will receive a $20 Visa gift card per session.

Funding for the CUTGroup is provided by the City of Seattle Information Technology Department and will provide support for up to four test sessions for four different civic websites and apps this spring.

In order to form a diverse group of resident testers that is inclusive of all of Seattle’s communities, we’re looking for organizations interested in serving as Community Partners to help spread the word. As a partner, you can help ensure that your community is represented in the feedback provided to developers creating technology for public use, and your organization will be featured on the CUTGroup website and in each published report from our test sessions. For more information about becoming a Community Partner, please email seattle.cutgroup@gmail.com.

Learn more about the Civic User Testing Group on our website.

City for All hackathon is a hit

Pandora for Streets/Smellevation Maps Team

The City for All hackathon was a big civic hit over the weekend. Nine teams competed for recognition and prizes at City Hall’s Bertha Knight Landes room. The theme of the hackathon was to find solutions for the challenges of aging and accessibility. The winner for Best Overall Innovation was the Pandora for Streets/Smellevation Maps team which addressed several of the eight domains of livability in a single app. The app would also include paths in Seattle that present the best smells, sounds, views, and hills. Users can rank how important each aspect is to improve the algorithms of the app. The winner of Best Accessibility Hack was GoInfo Game which gamified the collection of bus stop information that’s crucial for disabled riders. The Winner of Best Use of Open Data and and Best Data Visualization was SeaSidewalks which developed a visualization of data from SDOT’s recent Citywide sidewalk analysis. The team came up with a mechanism for prioritizing sidewalk issues based on factors like proximity to hospitals and other key facilities.


(spot)Light: Scott Roberts

Scott Roberts is a Strategic Advisor for City Light’s Project Management Improvement Program, which is part of the Engineering and Technology Innovation unit. He’s served the City of Seattle for nearly 23 years with the past three here at the utility.

A graduate of the University of Washington, Scott received a degree in Civil Engineering and has his Project Management Professional certification. He lives in West Seattle where he enjoys “great views and its proximity to downtown” with his wife Cherie and two children Zoe and Dylan. In this week’s (spot)Light, Scott talks travel, projects and family.

Scott with his family in Florence

“I’ve been in Washington my entire life so it’s a place I really enjoy. Diving is one hobby of mine. It’s nice to get out on the Puget sound or head up to the San Juan Islands. I also snowboard and like to check out Crystal Mountain since it’s so close. My kids also keep me busy. I coach my son’s soccer team (Go West Seattle Red Bulls!) and my daughter is a musician so it’s fun to go to her open mic nights. My weekly adult basketball and soccer leagues also keep me sane.”

“Travel is big with my family. We take our kids all over the place. Some of the places we’ve been to include Europe, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Belize, Bonaire, British Columbia, Jamaica, French Polynesia, New York and national parks throughout Utah and Nevada. I think Fiji and Florence stand out as favorite destinations of mine whereas Little Cayman probably had the best diving I’ve ever experienced. Our next trip is Bali.”

“At City Light, I create and implement the Project Management Framework which is meant to improve how we manage projects across the organization. It’s something used by the different business units, basically anyone who’s doing project management. My program is supposed to serve them. A big part was standardizing how we do project management and creating a framework. That includes all the tools and templates that help project managers do their work. That’s my job. To keep developing that and keep training people on the resources available for them. ”

“It’s rewarding to hear how my work impacts others. For example, new employees. A lot of people comment how cool it is for the utility to have the right tools and templates because it’s something they didn’t have in their previous role. At City Light, we have a whole system that they can follow to help them manage their projects. The project managers are like my customers and I try to help them be successful at that their job. So, when I get that kind of feedback it’s always nice.”

Thank you, Scott, for the many years of dedication to the City of Seattle and for your work here at the utility! Have a great time in Bali!

Seattle IT, meet Ada Developers Academy. A perfect match.

Since February of this year, Seattle IT has had the privilege of working with its first group of interns from Ada Developers Academy.

For those who don’t know, Ada Developers Academy is a Seattle-based program for women and nonbinary individuals who want to pursue a career as software developers, but do not have a traditional background in computer science.  The highly competitive year-long program provides students the skills, experience, and community support to become professional software developers.  Students spend half the year in class and half in a carefully matched internship.

Ada’s mission is to change the face of the technology industry one software developer at a time.

Seattle IT’s Ada interns have varied and distinctly untechnical pre-Seattle IT lives.  In her former life, Karin Kubischta was a product manager at Amazon.  After 10 years there, she needed a change and realized she would much rather “make” things than “plan” them.  “I feel like a magician now,” she said.   “It’s a really good feeling of accomplishment.”  Karin is working with the Open Data team building a one-stop shop for all the open data sets.  She is using an ASP.NET MVC web application that replaces the ODSF (Open Data Submission Form) and Dataset Inventory Spreadsheet for the Open Data Team’s intake process. It uses an MSSQL database to store information about open datasets that each department has identified and is planning on publishing, allowing for better tracking of datasets throughout the publishing process. Her project is in QA right now, and will be rolled out to department data champions during the first few weeks of June. Her supervisor is David Doyle and she’s mentored by Gwen Goetz.

Maddie Johnson, a math major who turned into a grant writer for a Boston non-profit, is now working with the Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) team creating an application to make the process of permitting a house a more interactive experience.  Maddie works under Dani Priest and is mentored by Julie Gephart.  Her project is to create an interactive and visual way for people to learn about the permits they need for their house construction and renovations. The goal is to have a diagram of a house and users can click on the different sections and icons. SDCI received feedback that users would prefer a more visual site, so this aligns with that request. Maddie is building it using C# to build a .Net API with data being stored in a SQL Server Database and an AngularJS front end.  Fun fact: Before her Ada Developers Academy experience, Maddie feared computers!

This brings us to Allison Hoke.  Allison has a MS in counseling and was working as a mental health counselor in Ohio before attending Ada.  While she was always drawn to logical and analytical problem solving, her career path, like many women, went the caregiving route.  “I was guiding people on their journey to an authentic life when I realized I was ignoring my own.  I was missing intellectual stimulation, which I found in droves when I switched career paths.”  Allison is working with the SDOT GIS team — Suzi Brunzell is supervising and Paul Youm, Michael Wypyszinski, and Brandon Ha are mentoring — creating a Web API that will route pedestrians and bicyclists throughout the city. The API considers a user’s unique barriers to travel and provides a route that best suits their needs and preferences. For example, a bicyclist may want to avoid streets with a steep slope. She hopes to have the project as close to complete as possible at the end of the internship – at which point another developer will be able to create a user-facing application that will deliver the results from the API in a user-friendly way.

Ada prepares its graduates for a work environment in which there are very few female developers and the terrain can be hostile.  Especially in private companies where sexism and ageism can run rampant.  However, this couldn’t have been farther from the experience had by Seattle IT’s interns who felt completely welcomed by all.  “It was a special thing to have our first experience as software developers in a place where women are lifted up,” said Maddie.  “We could be vulnerable in a completely safe place.”

The gratitude is clearly mutual with supervisors and mentors saying they learned as much from their Ada interns as they imparted to them.  David Doyle, Open Data Manager, summed it up: “It’s been a lot of fun having Karin on our team, we’ve all learned a lot from her and wherever her next move takes her she’ll be a huge asset to that team, as well as an advocate for the work we’re doing re: open data.  I would highly encourage other managers here at the City with software development needs to avail of interns from the Ada Developers Academy in the future, it’s a really wonderful program.”