With more attention being focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) in schools, it is important to see that girls in these areas have role models. So at Leaders in Heels, we’re having chats with female coders in Australia.

In this interview, we sat down with Nicky Ringland from Grok Learning, “a team of educators and software engineers who want to make coding fun for everyone”. Grok Learning is being used across schools in Australia and they have coding competitions starting on November 2nd. There are also support materials for teachers in the classroom, especially those who haven’t necessarily had a background in coding.

Why do you love coding?

I love coding because I love creating things with code. I love being able to solve problems, answer questions and generally make cool things!

What do you dream of programming one day?

I’m really excited about building a personalised learning environment that adapts to how each student learns. Traditional methods of education haven’t substantially changed in hundreds of years: a teacher lectures at the front of a classroom, students learn and are assessed on a subject, and then the class moves on to the next topic.

Whether a student scores 100% or 50% on a test, they still move to the next topic. I want to use technology to make sure students can master a topic before moving on.

My start-up, Grok Learning, teaches thousands of students to code in an online environment. Students can work through materials at their own pace, and those who find a particular concept easy can work quickly and move on to the next.

Real personalisation would involve developing specific profiles for different types of students. These profiles would adapt to how quickly they learn a particular topic, what questions they like, etc. Overall, it would make learning in general more successful, and certainly a lot more fun!

What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in the industry?

The biggest challenge for me was deciding which industry to be in! I’m just finishing my PhD. I do research in the field of Computational Linguistics – making computers better understand language. When I started my PhD, I considered becoming an academic, since I enjoy teaching and research. Academia is quite tough, though. The prospect of getting Post-doc positions (which last only a few years) in far off places is exciting, but it is particularly hard when you factor family (e.g. partner’s job) into the equation. Thankfully, I found a way I can combine my love of teaching and computer science into a career that I thoroughly enjoy.

How have you overcome these challenges?

As I mentioned, forging ahead and making my own path, in this case, founding a start-up, let me continue to pursue my passions.

What would be one piece of advice you would give to girls/women wanting to code as a career path?

Get involved, ask questions, start small and think big. Computer science is the most versatile career around. From solving climate change, going to Mars, or curing cancer, coding is a critical skill as well as being a lot of fun!


The first question many people have is: why automate? The truth of the matter is, we can waste a lot of time using technology, whether it’s checking our social media, viewing YouTube or Vimeo files, or just general internet surfing.  Setting up an automated system can save you a lot of time and effort, not to mention you won’t have to do all those boring, repetitive tasks!

But there are also good reasons not to automate. Setting up a system is like setting up a new habit. If the system doesn’t match your personality or way of doing things, you won’t stick to it, no matter how much someone else tells you that you will!

There are some things you should look out for if you choose to automate your personal life:

1. Devices will fail you. Your smartphone might run out of battery, you might lose your tablet, or your laptop could break down. If you rely on them to manage your life, you will find yourself at a loss while you scramble to find a replacement.

2. Data won’t always sync perfectly. There is nothing worse than trying to go to an appointment, only to find that not all the details are in your calendar – or in the worst case scenario, none of the details are in your calendar.

3. You rely on automation too much. I’ve found that sometimes, if an even isn’t in my digital calendar, then it doesn’t exist. This causes issues when you are expected to be somewhere (and forgot to reply to the invitation or didn’t the data!).

There is no shame in finding alternate ways to manage your data. Many people have gone back to using physical diaries, and making notes on paper instead of on their phone, because technology has failed them before.

But if you decide to automate your personal life anyway – because, let’s be honest, it does save a lot of time – here are two simple suggestions to get you started.

Personal finance

In this past year, our family has been trialing the use of personal finance apps. One of these apps is Pocketbook. This is an Australian app which helps you to manage your personal finances and check where your spending is occurring.

Simply download the app from the App Store (iOS only) and then create a new account via your desktop. It’s much easier to set up Pocketbook on your computer, and create the set categories to manage your finances. For me, the most valuable personal benefit is seeing where spending is going each month. I can also check how much money is in our personal bank account (and yes, I know there are the separate bank apps, but this ties everything together).

The other benefit is that Pocketbook detects bills, especially if they are on a recurring basis. It will even inform you whether you have enough money to cover them!

Calendar events

Another main area of automation is for calendar events. I use an app called IFTTT (IF This, Then That) to automate these tasks. IFTTT is a web and app service that lets you create what they call recipes, based on a trigger (something that happens) and a resulting action. I’ve mentioned it in previous automation articles as well.

Here are three of my favourite recipes for Google Calendar:

  • For those individuals who need to log their work hours, use this recipe in conjunction with Google Calendar.
  • This is a ‘DO’ recipe. It allows you to quickly create an event in Google Calendar simply by entering the information in a natural sentence such as “Meeting with Sam at 7pm”.
  • If you use Reminders on your iOS device, then this recipe automatically syncs them with Google Calendar so you get reminders on all your devices!

Thanks for reading the series on automation. We’ve also previously covered home automation and work automation. What do you use to help streamline your personal, home and work life? Let us know in the comments!

Check out Get Your Life Back ebook by Kasia Gospos, founder of Leaders in Heels, on how you can streamline and automate your business and life so that you have more time for what you really love.

photo credit: iPod Touch add events


If I told a room full of people I could save 4 hours in their working week, most of them would be queuing up afterwards wanting to know the secret to lost time. One of the hardest struggles sometimes in our working lives is how to squeeze out more work in less time, or ‘How can I work with less hours but be more productive’?

Technology isn’t always the answer and it’s interesting to watch a retrograde going back to design with pen and paper rather than using a digital source. But since this article is about automation, here are some key ways of being productive in the online world.

Automate your Email

Lately, I have been using a program called Mailbox, which is both an Android and an iOS app. This helps you to manage your emails by allowing you to choose a time to view them. Sometimes it’s not important to answer certain emails right at that very time, you can choose a time in which they appear at the top of your inbox.

Automate your Social Media

Lately, I have been experimenting using both Buffer and Hootsuite to schedule my social media. The benefit of using automation tools is you can access the analytics for each of these platforms and schedule your posts so they appear during the ‘ideal’ time to post.

Another product on the market at the moment is Meet Edgar which is another social media management tool. It collects your social media content into a library, which can be then re-shared later on.

Automate your Images

When you are creating images either on your iPhone, Android device or via social media, it’s a good idea to be able to save them without individually backing each photo up. This is where a tool like Zapier or IFTTT comes in handy. I love creating images for Pinterest and Instagram and often want them directly saved to Dropbox.

IFTTT uses what they call recipes–rules that tell your apps what to do. There is a ‘trigger’ (what starts the process) and then an ‘action’ (what happens afterwards).

To automate your images, there is a recipe called save your ‘Instagram’ photos to ‘Dropbox. It does exactly what it says it does. It’s just one of many ‘recipes’ already available for you to use. Or, you can also create one yourself. There are many other things you can automate beyond images, so explore the recipes to find out what else you can do!

Automate your files

Did you know there are some great tools that can help you organise the content on your computer whether these are files or images? Sometimes there are files that need to be archived or other tasks to schedule.

Mac

For Mac, the application is called Automator. It has been a way for Mac users to automate repetitive tasks with Apple software, such as Safari, iTunes and Calendar. Now, other third party products such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and text editors work.

This is a great tutorial on how to use Automator.

Windows

There is a similar app for windows called Action(s). Here are some great tutorials for automation with Action(s) that don’t require any technical knowledge to create. One of my favourites is to batch rotate images, which can rotate all your portrait images in one go. There is nothing worse than taking photos and then having to manually turn them all around!

Windows also has an inbuilt tool called Windows Task Scheduler. This requires a bit more technical know-how, but there are some great tutorials for various tasks. You could use it for auto-launching programs when you log on, for example, or clearing your downloads folder weekly.
Featured image: A Murder of Drossels-06

Download Get Your Life Back ebook by Kasia Gospos, founder of Leaders in Heels, on how you can streamline and automate your business and life so that you have more time for what you really love.


Have you ever heard of the Internet of Things (otherwise known as IoT)? It’s the idea of all objects having electronics, software, sensors and internet connectivity, so they can talk to each other and we can control them remotely. I had a chance to hear David Rose, author of ‘Enchanted Objects’, at a recent conference in Melbourne. He spoke of things like umbrellas turning blue when it was going to rain–and this was just the start of ‘Connected Things’. This idea of Connected Things all ties into the world of home automation.

Previously home automation used to be so complicated, expensive and time consuming that it was only for those who had a lot of cash to spare. The IoT has changed that with thanks to big shifts in technology lately. This means that everyday people like you and I can reap the efficiency benefits of increased automation in our lives. Below, I’ll share 3 different ways you can automate your home and make a difference to your daily life.

HomeKit (To use with Apple Devices) for Home Automation

In Apple’s words, “HomeKit is a framework in iOS 8 for communicating with and controlling connected accessories in a user’s home”. Or in layman’s terms, HomeKit is Apple’s way of making it easy for product manufacturers and developers to bring physical creations into the IoT, which will allow you to control a lot more of your home from your iOS device no matter where you are.

On Monday, at WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference) an announcement is going to be made regarding HomeKit. Apple has released a support guide in preparation for helping customers implement these new ideas. At the moment, these are the products that will integrate with HomeKit, as well as instructions on how to set them up. To get started using HomeKit, you will need an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch with iOS 8.1 or later. As time goes on, more products will join the Home Kit system. Stay tuned for more details!

Stand-alone Home Automation products and IFTTT

There are home automation products that can still be controlled via your mobile device, but don’t require you to buy into a whole ecosystem. These include the WeMo products that are available both in stores and online. They have light bulbs, switches (to control products), light switches, cameras with night vision (to track what your pets get up to or even kids) and much more. WeMo integrates with a free app called If This Then That, or IFTTT. IFTTT is an app and web-based program that controls two programs or objects, and can also automate many other processes beyond WeMo. For example, here is the #WeMo channel. There are many great ‘recipes’ which consist of a trigger and an action–the basic principle of IFTTT. One I would recommend is ‘Turn a Device off after it’s been on for __ minutes today’. Great for when you are going away on holidays–you could have one of the WeMo switches plugged in and a light plugged into that. No more timers set for when you’re away! There are also triggers for things like ‘when the sun sets, turn the light on’. Go on and explore IFTTT’s wide range of recipes, we’ll wait!

Professional Home Automation Systems (installed by an electrician)

If you have cash to spare, there are also home automation systems that can be deeply integrated with your house. These will be more efficient and ready-to-go once installed.

Push by Schneider Electric is a home automation system that can be controlled by Android or iOS devices. It will have to be installed by an electrician (see here for stockists and installers in Australia). It was featured last year on ‘The Block- Sky High’ to control AV, Lighting and Security. Imagine not needing separate remotes to control your TV, DVD Player or sound system (take back control from your kids)! There is also HoneyWell Total Connect ™  System that lets you operate security cameras, lighting in the house, heating and locks.

Featured image: KOTY2010_12 via photopin

This is the first in a series about how  you can increase your efficiency through automation. What do you think about home automation? Is it creepy or cool? How would you use it to increase your efficiency? Share with us in the comments!

Download Get Your Life Back ebook by Kasia Gospos, founder of Leaders in Heels, on how you can streamline and automate your business and life so that you have more time for what you really love.


It is always exciting to see what new gadgets and technology come out of CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, each year. CES is held in America and introduces new gadgets, updates to sound, television and anything that will be sold to the consumer in terms of electronic gadgets.

Some of these gadgets are extremely practical while others push the boundaries. Whether you are an early adopter or just wait until all the bugs are ironed out, there are new gadgets that can benefit everyone.

 The year of the wearables

Paxie Kids Wearable

paxie-band

Both my husband and I wear a FitBit (I wear a FitBit Flex and he wears the FitBit Charge). There are now products being produced and marketed to the younger age bracket. This particular product, Paxie Kids Wearable, is designed purely for the kids market. Often with adult wrist wearables, not all of them are fashion friendly. These designs (and there are a few different options) are quite funky and can be interchangeable.

The main difference between this product and the adult wearable devices is using the tracking data (GPS).   Parents can track their children via the smartphone app.  This device has been designed so that it can’t be taken off unless you use two hands  and if the device is removed an alert is sent via the smartphone app.

Here are some of the features it offers: accurate GPS location, ambient temperature, location, tagging, boundary settings, daily activity, heart rate and removal alert.

 

Your luggage, safe and sound

Trakdot Luggage Tracker

trakdot

How many times have you gone travelling either interstate or overseas and your luggage has been misplaced or not arrived on the same flight? This small device snaps onto your luggage and employs newly patented micro-electronics and ground-based cellular telephone technologies to track and report your luggage. When you land you will receive a text message to say your luggage has landed with you, or the location of that luggage. If it is somewhere else, you will be able to assist the airline to get it back as soon as possible.

 

Wake up when you should

Sense

sense

Unless you have an amazing body clock that wakes you up at the same time every morning (I used to have one of these before I had kids), then sometimes an alarm in whatever form that takes is an inconvenience. More often than not, it gets turned to ‘snooze’ mode.

The Sense is a simple system that tracks your sleep, monitors the surroundings in your bedroom and reinvents the alarm, so you can sleep better.

This device sits on your bedside table and collects the data of the environment in your bedroom, including noise, light, temperature, humidity and particles in the air.

The Sense’s Smart Alarm will wake you at the right time in your sleep cycle to avoid that shock of being woken up by a noisy alarm.

 

Indoor plant tech monitor

Parrot Flower Power

flower-power-garden

If you like having indoor plants, but really would love to know whether you are overwatering or not, or giving enough fertiliser, well there is a product to help you have the best looking indoor plants in the neighbourhood. This product is placed into the soil and will measure sunlight, temperature, moisture and fertiliser. This then connects to a smartphone app (iOS and Android) and you will be sent alerts when any of these four are not at their optimum level.

 

08Featured image: SamsungTomorrow

It will be interesting to see the progress of these products; will they be still around this time next year? How many gadgets can a girl have? What gadget are you looking forward to in 2015? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 


Tablets and smartphones have definitely changed the way that we work both in the workforce, in our businesses and at home. The consumption of content is mainly via portable devices, and such habits won’t be going away any time soon.

A survey conducted by Salesforce into Mobile Behaviour (2014) found that 85% of respondents commented that mobile devices were a central part of their lives. Sometimes, it is easier to read, peruse social media and surf the Internet from a tablet device rather than a smaller screen of a smart phone. Portable devices can also help streamline your day-to-day workflow, fitting into the cracks of your life and increasing your efficiency.

Here are four ways that tablets can improve your workflow.

Access and Cost

One of the annoyances I find in using a laptop in a meeting is the length of time to get the device started and get into the application I need. Since the iPad came out in 2010, our family rarely uses a laptop for browsing the Internet unless we are already on the computer and using it for research.

Accessibility has also been improved for all different learning styles with the introduction of tablets. If you require bigger text for reading, voice-over to read instructions and accessibility shortcuts tablets are able to deliver these options without costing thousands of dollars.

Collaboration

In the age of changing ‘digital work habits’ being able to improve collaboration is a key part to our daily work lives. Ever tried to collaborate while sitting around a laptop and struggle to see the screen?

A laptop is very much a personal tool, handing over access to someone’s laptop is very different to a tablet where it seems to be a more shareable device.

Sharing Information

With many tablets you can quickly share information either through Bluetooth technology or via AirDrop (iOS), Chromecast (Android), Play To (Windows Phone) and other manufacturer-specific features. For example it is much easier to hold up a tablet and share photos, videos and ideas rather than hold up a laptop (you need to be sitting down or have the screen projected via a VGA projector or TV).

Some examples include someone in the property sector showing digital portfolios of their properties, and then accessing Google maps to share with clients. This not only saves paper and gives clients better access to information, but also demonstrates professionalism in today’s digital world.

A world of apps

Currently the Google Play Store (Android devices), Apple iTunes Store (iOS) and Windows Phone Store (Windows devices) have over 1.8 million apps for purchase (either free or at a cost). More software companies are realising that the future is definitely mobile and apps are being developed for both tablets and smartphones. Whatever you use a computer for, you can normally find an app for your tablet that can do the same thing.
When searching for apps to help you with your work, work on these five key ideas:

1. Can you export the information, i.e. as a PDF or an image?
2. Can you bring information into the app? Or is it very one sided?
3. Can you share the information to other platforms, i.e. via email, cloud storage such as Dropbox, Box, iCloud, Google Drive and Evernote?
4. Does it do more than one thing? Try and find an app that fulfils a few different functions, unless you are looking to complete a very specific task.
5. How many in-app purchases do you need to buy in order to have the app at full capacity? Some apps are free, but then require you to spend twenty dollars in order to access all features.

Tablets sound great, but how do I choose one?

Three key things to look at when purchasing a tablet for either personal or business use:
1. Cost – There are some reasonable tablets to buy depending on exactly what you want the table to be able to do. Also take into account what features you would like to use on the tablet.
2. Operating system: If you struggle sometimes with new technology, stay with the same platform as your smartphone.
3. Accessories – what can you use with the device? Are there many external keyboards that pair with these tablets? Styluses? Or even cases that fit the tablet?

Running my business from my iPad for a month back in 2013 proved just how many tasks I could get completed. Not all things will be suitable for a tablet device, but it will make a positive difference to your workflow.

If you want to improve your workflow, Leaders in Heels is currently running a competition to win a Nokia Lumia 2520 Tablet and Nokia Power Keyboard valued at AU$1080 (see featured image)! The competition is open worldwide and entries close 28th February, 2015 (Sydney, Australia EST) so get in FAST! Click here for your chance to win.