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Code Switching 

Women Tech Workers in the Hudson Valley

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While the tech meet-ups in New York City tend to be more cutting-edge than the meet-ups in the Hudson Valley, Narashimhan is optimistic that the industry will continue to evolve up here in the hinterlands, with more companies setting up shop and more women entering tech. "Sometimes it's easier to have change happen in smaller communities than big ones," she says. "In the Hudson Valley, you build relationships. I know everyone up here. There's a motion toward getting things to happen. We're at the tipping point of how to go from awareness to action."



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Catskills Conf

From October 23 to 25, the first annual Catskills Conf will be held at the Ashokan Center, a three-day mash up of tech presentations, artisan demonstrations, hiking, live music, locally produced food, and creative brainstorming. "While the word 'conference' implies pure learning tracks, the Conf will have more open time and be a lot more hands on," says Kale Kaposhilin, co-founder of Evolving Media Network and one of the Conf sponsors.

Attendees paying the $795 ticket ($1,495 for a family of four) hail from as far away as Germany, Canada, and the West Coast. Promoting diversity is one of the Conf's goals, and the organizers are offering a free or reduced ticket to members of underserved student populations. Encouraging diversity is not only a moral imperative, but it's also smart because it stimulates more ideas. "We believe if everyone is involved in the conversation, the world benefits," says Kaposhilin.

The choice of speakers includes John Resig, creator of the JQuery JavaScript Library, a project that seeks to develop optical recognition technologies to help foundations and museums combine their databases into a single massive system; Maurya Couvares, cofounder and executive director of ScriptEd, which uses volunteers to teach computer science and web development in New York City public schools in underserved areas and then places the graduates in paid internships doing coding; Dennis Crowley, cofounder of Foursquare and named one of Fortune's "40 Under 40" in 2010 and 2011; and Kate Hartman, a Toronto-based artist, technologist, and educator whose work spans the fields of physical computing, wearable electronics, and conceptual art (she is cocreator of Botanicalls, a system that lets thirsty plants place phone calls for human help).

Besides the talks, there'll be cooking and blacksmithing demonstrations, a foraging expedition, hiking in the woods, and fireside gatherings—"an intersection of makerism and technology and innovation," as Kaposhilin describes it. "Our goal is to highlight wonderful work and the awesomeness of the Hudson Valley," says Kaposhilin. "We want to get those same people together over dinner and do stuff. Magic can happen in such circumstances." The ticket price includes lodging in bunk beds at the Ashokan Center (a hotel room is also an option), all meals, drinks, presentations, and activities. Attendance is limited to 130 participants.

Kaposhilin, who's also been working with Ulster County on its recent economic development initiative targeting tech entrepreneurs from New York City, says the biggest challenge in the region is the lack of tech resources and population density. "We need to create coworking spaces so that tech startups can flourish," he says. "We need to create an ecosystem. We're working with other stakeholders so our tech startups and businesses can flourish. We don't have a cluster, but what we do have is an incredible population of diverse creative talent. We need events and programming so people can collaborate with each other." The Catskills Conf will hopefully help jumpstart that effort. For more info, visit Catskillsconf.com.

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