Feed on
Posts
Comments

Edward Snowden

While working as a contractor for the NSA at the dawn of the decade, Edward Snowden collected copious amounts of classified information from the agency. He felt what was taking place was illegal and the NSA had no right to continue some of their missions. So Snowden fled the agency and the country with laptops and folders full of documentation and evidence, and placed it all in the hands of journalists he could trust to publish what they deemed was important for Americans to know. Edward Snowden once underestimated the impact his leaks would have on the world, but now he exaggerates all the “good” he has done. He believes he should be credited and thanked for ending a program that allows the NSA to keep record of everyone’s phone numbers. He claims he did everything to help Americans and to stop tyranny within our government, but I view Edward Snowden as a traitor to our country who has had a mostly negative impact on our country, as depicted by David Fidler in his Newsweek article. He forced the NSA to end many programs that were extremely beneficial to our national security and had nothing to do with illegal practices within our country. He harshly strained relationships between the US and several countries after revealing some ways the US was gathering intelligence on its allies. He took matters into his own hands in the name of democracy, but in doing so he completely undermined the institutions we already have in place that are meant to protect exactly that.

I agree with Zachary Keck’s opinions expressed in The Diplomat that claim Snowden was very irresponsible in the way he made his leaks. Rather than give directed information to journalists, he instead gave them millions of top-secret documents for them to publish what they pleased. This is such a hazard to national security and Snowden showed he had no regard for anything other than getting his story out and being a hero. If he truly cared for this country, there was a way to help. We have a Judicial Branch in this country that exists for the purpose of checking all government practices against the Constitution. Snowden could have presented them with all the information of what was taking place and had them decide whether or not it was just. Even before that, he could have raised his concerns in one of his many face-to-face meetings with the chief officers of the NSA and at least hear their point of view before sabotaging their operations. I understand that Snowden was not comfortable with some of their practices, and that many Americans are not in favor of storing all phone conversations and information on the Internet. He is correct by saying we as Americans all have a right to know. But I never plan on doing anything that would warrant being spied on. And anyone who does have evil intentions would be deterred from communicating them with anyone electronically due to knowledge that they are being monitored. As far as I’m concerned, the NSA can conduct these practices at home and around the world in order to keep us safe, because I am willing to task the government with my security at the cost of my full privacy.

Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper is a true inspiration for all Americans. Her accomplishments stretch from receiving multiple honors in the military, including becoming a Rear Admiral, to creating some of the most essential technologies of our generation. She was gifted since a young age and never allowed her gender to prevent her from reaching her goals. Hopper was able to breakthrough into a male-dominated world of STEM and make incredible contributions to the young world of computing. She also was an iconic leader in the Navy and helped the Department of Defense make huge improvements their computer systems. These achievements are astounding as they are admirable and Hopper’s impact is still felt in our world today.

Today women and minorities across the world are following Grace Hopper’s lead to not only breach the STEM industry but also make an impact that will last into future generations. These groups often have difficulty in doing this because of systematic disadvantages and unjust discrimination. White males have dominated STEM because when many major technological breakthroughs occurred in history, they were the ones with the most and first access to these innovations and as a result were more likely to increase the gap with other groups by furthering innovation themselves. Currently, there has been a noted effort by industry and colleges to promote underrepresented groups in these fields. This is very important because we are all capable of success regardless of our race or gender and should have equal opportunity to fulfill our potential. Grace Hopper and others blazed a trail not soon to be forgotten in the industry, proving exactly this. As a minority, it is our duty to uphold and promote the image of minorities in STEM and prove that I am as capable as anyone and deserve to be on the front lines of innovation.

In my life I have had several role models who have inspired me. One day I hope to set an example for someone looking up to me, because I know what affect it can have on someone’s belief. The person who inspired me the most and proved to me that I can succeed in STEM is my father. He was born in Haiti, grew up in Puerto Rico, and moved to the United States to attend college. After several years studying and mastering his craft, my dad became a dentist and opened his own practice in South Florida. He was the only person of color in his dental school graduating class but he did not let that affect him. He never allowed himself to be outdone or discredited. My dad was able to build his own career against all odds and has now been successfully practicing for almost 30 years serving clients of all backgrounds. He has shown me how to use his diverse background as a benefit, communicating in multiple languages with his patients throughout the day. My dad has been extremely successful and enjoyed his career working as a doctor. I’m proud to call him my father and for following his dreams. Thanks to him I believe I am able to accomplish anything I set my mind to.

In 2007, two Boeing employees told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that Boeing could not properly protect sensitive data in its computer systems from fraud, theft, and manipulation. They also alleged that the company misrepresented the true nature of their system’s security in a report to the Securities and Exchanges Commission. These employees claim they spoke to Seattle P-I with hopes of saving the company, since their warnings to internal affairs went ignored. Instead, Boeing retaliated by firing them both, and then videotaping workers and reading emails in order to rat out more whistleblowers in their offices.

The reason these security issues were brought to light was as a result of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. This law, passed in 2002, requires companies to prove that they have internal control of their data to prevent anyone from manipulating financial information in order to deceive stockholders. Many companies were able to correct their operations soon after the SOX Act was passed, but Boeing was unable to right the ship. They invested millions of dollars in consultants to test their systems but continued to fail both internal and external audits for 3 years leading up to the leaks. This ineptitude is a direct fault of Boeing’s management team. Some examples of their incompetency include exposing computer security holes to employees who had no business knowing, ignoring internal complaints regarding faux audit results, and threatening employees to fabricate evidence for upcoming audits. Clearly, Boeing has no one to blame but themselves for failing to comply with the SOX act. Instead they decided to target whistleblowers and fire the ones who leaked the information. The leakers revealed the mismanagement that was taking place at Boeing, all of which was true. Their firing was upheld in a court of law since they reported the information to the media instead of the authorities. I believe that the firing was justified for this reason as well. If the employees wanted to truly improve the state of their company, I don’t know what they were trying to accomplish by leaking to the media. It brought negative publicity to Boeing and exposed their flaws when it came to security and management. I understand that it must be frustrating to have your reasonable concerns be completely neglected. At this point however, the answer is not to turn over private information to the media. It should have at least been placed in the hands of people with the ability to help Boeing truly improve their situation. Since it wasn’t, Boeing fired the whistleblowers. Boeing’s actions were justified but they brought this entire situation upon themselves. They were aware that their internal security systems were not up to par and that unethical actions were taking place around the company. They knew that the concerns raised by their employees to internal affairs were valid and still chose to ignore them. They left the whistleblowers with no options to help their company. In the end they had to fire them in order to send a message to all employees who were considering leaking information. But Boeing’s whistleblower problem is a much smaller side issue that only exists because of their major internal security woes that they cannot seem to address.

Diversity

Diversity is widely accepted as a pro rather than a con. Having a more diverse team leads to more unique perspectives and ideas. Companies across all industries champion diversity and its impacts. Many of them support programs to increase the number of women and minorities on their teams. With all this said, how is it that the giants in the tech industry still struggle with a massive gender gap and lack of diversity? Companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and several other leaders in the industry have released their employment information in recent years. What these numbers have revealed is the extent to which white males dominate the technology industry. The percentage of women, African-Americans, and Hispanics at these companies is often in the single digits for each category. If these companies are true to their word, and honestly willing to correct the issue, then they must first understand why these discrepancies exist.

During the time after World War 2, coding and software were considered secretarial positions that were suitable for women. Men had deemed that the future was in hardware, but once software proved its potential profitability, males came flooding in and overtook this realm. When PCs came about, they were marketed mainly to males and many more boys owned computers than girls. The PC was believed to be a ‘boy’s toy’ while girls were directed to play with dolls and fashion. Men replaced women at the forefront of advancements in computers. By the time these men reach college they have a significant advantage over women when it comes to technology, and much more interest in STEM fields as well. This is what led to the industry being dominated by males. However in the past 20 years, society has evolved to the point where almost everyone owns a PC regardless of gender, and the young women in our world have equal experience and opportunity with technology as males. The women graduating and entering the workforce today are just as if not more capable with computers than their counterparts, which leads us to the conclusion that a big reason for continued discrepancies between males and females being hired is sexism. But this is not the only group who is suffering in Silicon Valley. For the small amount of women working with technology today, there are even less minorities. One of the reasons for this is because certain minority groups were not able to afford PCs when they were first released. As a result they fell behind the curve as well, and some still struggle to attain the proper resources in order to learn any technology. Now, I am not saying that this is the reason why males are better developers than women and minorities, because that is altogether not true. There are countless women and minorities who are running companies or have started their own. And while this is also not an excuse for these groups, we must recognize the fact that they have been generationally disadvantaged and as a result we must tilt the scales in the opposite direction in order to finally even the playing field for good. Companies should not look for minorities and women in order to meet quotas; they should be seeking to enable diversity in their workplace because of its benefits. And ‘diversity’ does not refer to simply race; it refers to personalities, ideas, and backgrounds. A more diverse workplace fosters inclusion and more innovation, which every company should desire. As more and more influential women and minorities gaining powerful positions in the industry, I pray that these leaders will recognize that they can find capable, diverse talent in any place, and that they set an example for other leaders by proving how positive diversity truly is.

H-1B Visas

The H-1B Visa Program has the right idea. The goal is to allow US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty jobs, often referring to positions in science and technology. It’s been proven that empowering foreign workers in the technology sphere has led to more innovation, with over 50% of billion-dollar startups being founded by immigrants. This program is meant to open the door to the American Dream for immigrants who are hoping to work in technology. Unfortunately some companies have been using it as a means of cheaper labor, paying immigrants much less than they would have paid an American for the same position. As a result, these companies have been able to reduce wages and increase profits while cleverly marketing the entire scheme as multicultural innovation.

Currently, the main issue with H1-B visas is how IT outsourcing companies are exploiting them. We know that the government gives out 85,000 a year through applications from several companies. Last year they received around 236,000 applications. When this happens, a lottery takes place to determine which companies will receive the visa. Large IT outsourcing firms have learned that the system benefits those who apply for a large number at once. When these companies are the ones to receive the majority of the visas, the entire program is undermined. They are not bringing foreign talent into the US to stay here and prosper, rather they train them and send them back to their countries to run technology support centers, test and debug basic code, and pass along the knowledge they’ve gained. Not only are they not bringing immigrants to work in the US, they also pay the least of all companies receiving visas by a wide margin. IT outsourcing companies raise the main concerns with how H-1B visas are used, and so I believe any reform that takes place should target their exploitation of the system. Currently, lawmakers are considering options to replace the random lottery system of giving out visas with one that would reward those companies paying proper wages to members of the program. Also they are attempting to prohibit companies from replacing US workers with H1-B workers. This is another way the visas are being used incorrectly, and the main way US workers are being cheated out of their jobs. Companies have a responsibility to maximize profits, as well as be ethical – not one at the cost of the other. When they exchange a US worker for a recipient of the visa in order to reduce costs, they are also improperly taking advantage of the system. This is the main way Americans are being hurt by the program as well. While it is true that a position given to someone through the H-1B program is one that could have been given to an American, it is too simple to assume that the job would automatically go to another American at a higher wage. Companies have several other options beyond hiring an immigrant or a native born worker. They could offshore or automate the work, or still hire foreign talent outside of the H-1B program. It is not as direct a threat to American jobs as people believe. I am in favor of continuing this program but only with the proper reforms. We truly are a nation of immigrants and when used properly, this program is in line with our American values. We should begin to view other immigrants as future brothers and not people who don’t deserve the American Dream we all share simply because of where they are born.

Loyal to Yourself

I am a person who embraces change. Whether it is expected or not, I pride myself on being able to adapt to new factors and situations in any facet of my life. I believe this is most true when it comes to my work. Truthfully, I can grow bored with a topic or project after a year or two and change is essential to rejuvenating my attitude and motivation, directly leading to an increase in productivity and innovation. That is why I believe I will frequently change jobs throughout my career. I am aware that certain positions such as consulting allow for a constant change in projects, yet I believe I will be craving a complete change in scenery every few years in order to continue challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone and to not grow complacent with my work. According to Penelope Trunk, serial entrepreneur and author, the learning curve at a new job “pretty much flattens after three years”. This frequent change is therefore key to my personal growth and development as a professional. The reason I believe switching jobs acceptable is because I must act with my own best interest in mind or no one else will. The company I work for never truly has my best interest in their mind. Their goal is to get the most out of their employees until they decide it is time to replace them. This is reminiscent of a recent trade made in the NBA between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. Isaiah Thomas played in a playoff game for the Celtics one day after his sister passed away, giving that franchise his heart and soul. They chose to reward his loyalty and sacrifice by trading him away in the following offseason. Thomas could not have given anything more to the company that is the Boston Celtics, yet they did not reciprocate his loyalty and instead justified their trade by claiming, “it’s all business”. If this is the case, then there should be no loyalty in business for either side and all parties involved should always act in their best interest. Clearly companies are already doing so by binding employees through non-competes and trade secrets that are becoming more and more unjust. Non-competes have been described as “slavery in the modern-day form” and continue to dupe employees out of their own rights as professionals. Once a person leaves a company, that company should not be allowed to dictate their future career path unless it is to protect trade secrets. However, the definition of trade secrets has grown to encompass not only concrete knowledge such as the formula for Coca-Cola, but also less well-defined knowledge like customer relations and basic skills employees need to do their jobs. When employers push the boundaries on their power to hinder their employees, they are acting selfishly, unfairly, and unethically. Non-competes and trade secrets have become tools of extortion and we as employees must be very wary of what we are agreeing to when signing on the dotted line. Our years of hard work and earned skills are our personal assets and we are free to use and develop them as we please – we can’t let companies turn these assets into a liability.

H4X0R80Y

When I hear the word hacker, the first word that comes to mind is disruption. I did not grow up wanting to work with computers, I never spent much time on online forums such as Reddit, and I do not keep up with all of the latest advancements in technology. Up until I declared my major, I considered myself competent yet fairly insulated when it came to the world technology. That is why to me, a hacker has always meant someone who has gone rogue and whose main purpose is to disrupt a system and create chaos. After 3 years of studies, I’ve come to learn that the word ‘hacker’ has a much deeper connotation within the computer science community. While hackers do have a disdain towards systems and structures, they aren’t merely setting out to destroy these institutions. Hackers seek to explore and create outside of the mainstream establishment. They aim to break barriers that they believe should not exist, and they look to push the boundaries of any experiment or system. Hackers are complex yet brilliant individuals who are viewed negatively thanks to society. The media will label anyone who breaks through a computer security system as a ‘hacker’, which in this case is synonymous with criminal. However, through the gentrification of hacker culture that is happening today, we are seeing more and more ‘good hackers’ join the technology entrepreneur class. They have kept their core rebel attitude by doing things their own way and having an aversion to typical business models, yet their unmatched curiosity and thirst for innovation can be quenched in a safe space that is the startup culture. Here they are free to be their true selves, which often leads to products and technology with a positive impact. We know that hackers suffer from an unfair negative perception when in reality they can be morally good or bad. But in the words of Mark Zuckerberg, hacking simply means ‘ building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done’. Looking at this definition, I would loosely consider myself to be a hacker. I don’t like to plan too much before I begin working, rather I jump in headfirst and iterate without ceasing until I am pleased with my product. I am also constantly looking for ways to improve the systems I interact with everyday, yet I don’t always act upon what I discover. While there are several institutions that present barriers in this world that I do not agree with, I am not the kind of person to take initiative and implement my own solution unless it is simple and accessible to me. I don’t feel the need to fix every problem in the world, so long as I can take note of them all. Lastly, I believe I am someone who does his best work when inspired by the subject matter. Since I am not always fond of school assignments, I would rather work on a project that I am passionate about and create a solution that I can be proud of.

SuperCoder

When I decided to get my degree in computer science, I knew I would be learning how to program and gaining an understanding of technology in our world today. What I did not realize was just how much of a super-power programming can be. Everyone in the world relies on some or multiple forms of technology everyday, but only a small fraction of people truly understand how these technologies work. We as a society have developed a significant reliability on these powerful technologies without much questioning of them. From financial software to ride sharing apps, these technologies improve quality of life and increase productivity, and to thank for all of this, we have programmers. They are greatly responsible for shaping the world we live in today, as we can see their products having a profound impact in all industries and in the lives of people of all ages. Programmers have power because they possess this knowledge that the majority of people do not know. These same people however want and need the help of programmers to have smartphones, computers, and more technologies that they can no longer live without. For this reason, I view programming as a true super-power. And with this power comes a tremendous responsibility to write proper code that will be used to advance our society and culture and never to exploit others with less understanding or create potential harm. If we as programmers succumb to unethical practices in order to complete a project or please an employer, we are just as much at fault. In the words of Bill Sourour, “as developers, we are often one of the last lines of defense against potentially dangerous and unethical practices”. We must all follow a code of ethics to ensure that our power is never used improperly. But being responsible for our own code is simply not enough. The community of programmers is small yet growing rapidly; meaning people are gaining this super-power everyday. As a result, we must revise one another’s code where it is appropriate. If we want to be true superheroes we must go above and beyond when using our talents to help the greater good. Not only must we write clean, ethical code, we must also take every opportunity to vet any piece of code that we believe to be unethical and ensure that it not plague our society who is unable to revise the code for themselves.

Welcome to my Blog!

    Hello! My name is Christopher Beaufils, and welcome to my blog! I’m currently 21 years old, completing my senior year at the University of Notre Dame to earn my degree in computer science. I was born and raised in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and some of my passions include music, basketball, and film. I chose to study computer science so that I would never grow bored with my work and I would have an understanding of many technologies that have inundated our world. In recent years, technology has transformed seemingly every part of our lives and shows no sign of slowing. Nowadays, even kids have access to technology of the most complex forms without knowing its true power or having any idea how it works. With constant advancement and innovation in the industry, I will be able to contribute my talents to many different projects and fields throughout my career. There are endless opportunities around the world for a computer scientist and I look forward to having options at all points in my professional life. I know that no matter what career path I pursue, I will be doing important work that will have an impact on the advancement of our world and its inhabitants. I dream of one day helping create a new technology to improve or save lives of people around the world.

Tags:

« Newer Posts