Career

Quick Thoughts on Talks

A brief meditation on the benefits of giving talks.

Originally published on October 17, 2019.

The longest halfweek in my recent memory is finally done, and I have lots of thoughts. First, the feeling of relief.

On Saturday, I gave a Python workshop, participated in a panel discussion with people 100x smarter than me, and judged some really great projects by the students participating in HackNEHS. It was an incredible and inspiring experience - one of the high school interns at my company Affectiva was one of the organizers, and he and his fellow organizers did a brilliant job. Seeing the proud parents rush up to take pictures of their children receiving their prizes was heartwarming.

On Sunday, my wife and I had the pleasure of showing my coworkers visiting from Cairo, Egypt Salem in October. We did corny haunted houses, shared a dinner, and wandered around downtown just being tourists. It was a great time to bond with people I had only seen over Zoom conference calls previously, but work with every day.

Tuesday was like Affectiva's major holiday - the Emotion AI Summit. The entire company spent a ton of time and effort well into the night to set up our demos, prepare the space, and make sure the event went off without a hitch. Months ago, our CEO and cofounder, Rana, invited me to talk about the things my team was building to accelerate our AI development process, so Tuesday was the moment of truth. I got to the conference early in the morning to work the registration desk, and later in the afternoon gave my talk. I got a lot of great questions, got to watch people taking notes on what I was describing, but my favorite thing was seeing my entire team file in to listen to the talk and lend their support. It was an incredible experience. After the stress and hard work of that day, we had one hell of a team afterparty with very well-deserved letting loose.

I do have some learnings from this experience. My main takeaway has been to always look to serve others. I wouldn't have been able to participate in HackNEHS if I hadn't formed great relationships with our interns and been willing to help them when they needed speakers to accentuate their already impressive event. I wouldn't be on the team I'm on at Affectiva if service wasn't a major motivator - we build things only our coworkers see and use to make their lives better. The other was to always get out of your comfort zone. Public speaking is terrifying, whether I'm teaching high school students about Python or talking to AI professionals about the nitty-gritty of building an organization-wide platform. Both experiences were not just concentrated career growth, but a rare opportunity to meet smart, interesting people, give back to others, and show off some work that I've been proud of.

These last few days have been intense, stressful, and ultimately incredibly rewarding. And I can't wait to put myself through the ringer again next year.