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25 May 2021

An Interview with Khalil Griffin, #Tapia2021 Program Deputy Chair

Khalil Griffin Photo

Khalil Griffin is the 2021 Tapia Conference Deputy Program Chair and a Software Engineer at Google.  We spoke to him about his year and his hopes for the future of Tapia.

Tell me what you are working on these days?

Well, I got married last year!  After Tapia I was focused on wedding planning and moving and getting married and honeymooning.

My roles at work have somewhat expanded. I used to work on securing accounts for the advanced protection program.  So I am now working on other two step verification flows and account recovery. I am more in the security and authentication space.  My advice to everyone – keep your account secure, use two step verification on all your accounts, and use a FIDO security key for the maximum security on your accounts.

What did you learn from last year’s virtual Tapia?

I was poster chair last year.  One of the biggest challenges was being able to make sure everyone (the judges and presenters) were in good communication since everything was new.  We didn’t have a great way to communicate with everyone in real time.  When an issue came up I had to find ways to communicate with everyone on the fly.   With another virtual conference this year, finding a way to do virtual huddles is going to be critical.  

I think one of the positive things about last year was that it showed that it is entirely possible to have meaningful communication and experience with lots of people virtually.  It also Increased the accessibility to people who could not make it and people who are too shy to talk.  There is a group of people who are more comfortable discussing things virtually – so it is more inclusive.

This year‘s theme celebrates 20 years of Tapia.  What are you excited about?

I’m excited to see ways that we look back to the previous years of Tapia. I started going about 6 years ago.  I missed the first ¾ of Tapia history. I want to take time to reflect on the years of history and learn lessons from people who were at the earlier events.   

What do you hope the next 20 years will bring for Diversity in Computing?

When we talk about the next twenty years – we are talking about people who are being born today or just starting in school.  Twenty years is enough time to bring major changes.  The number one change I would like to see: continue the trend to increase diversity and inclusiveness in computing.  I want to see people from all backgrounds feel included in computing, and have the tools from when they are kids to when they are adults and working. I want to see everyone have the tools to be successful in this career field.

I was thinking about this recently – I encourage people to attend because what I found is that when I go to conferences like Tapia it pushes forward my growth. I can look at habits and traits I have in my networking and communications that they could improve. At Tapia 2019 (the most recent in-person Tapia), I walked up to the general chair, told him I really admire him and struck up a conversation. I am very introverted, so that kind of thing would usually have been terrifying for me.  Each year I push forward on things like that – building my confidence and communication skills – then when I come home, I can apply what I learned to my day job.   Being a chair has pushed me forward to make sure I can recruit people, make sure they meet deadlines, and cold call strangers to recruit them.   This conference motivates me to push forward and do those things, and I apply all of this to my everyday life.  Everyone can think about their presentation, networking, and communication skills. Then you can come to Tapia, take a risk, and try new ways to apply those skills.  If it goes badly, no one will remember a few days later – but if it goes well, you planted the seeds to really improve and build skills you can use every day..