Attending the Grace Hopper Celebration

I attended the Women in Computing - Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) in Phoenix, Arizona a couple of weeks ago. GHC is an annual conference where women in all stages of their career come together to talk about relevant topics both in computer science and on what being a woman in the technology field is like. I was awarded a full scholarship, sponsored by Cisco, from the Anita Borg institute. Since at Hope College I am one of a handful of women in the computer science department and here at Collective Idea I am one of two, meeting over 7,000 women who are involved in all facets of computing and technology was surreal. Not only was it exciting to meet so many women who are passionate about computing, it was also exciting to experience everything that this conference had to offer.

My conference highlights:

  • Keynote speakers. It was really interesting hearing from such successful people in their fields such as Shafi Goldwasser, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella and the new United States CTO, Megan Smith. Ms. Goldwasser gave an extremely technical talk about cryptology and some of the problems that she is both currently discovering and trying to solve. The interview of Mr. Nadella gave some insightful, if somewhat controversial, viewpoints as to how he views women’s growing roles in technological fields. Ms. Smith explained some of her new responsibilities and hit upon some of the goals that she has for her term.
  • Career fair. My main goal at the conference was to interact with and learn from as many people as possible. I wanted to learn and hear stories not only about them as individuals, but I also wanted to learn about their companies. GHC was therefore a great opportunity to meet representatives from some of the biggest names in computing such as Apple, Microsoft and IBM to name a few. Getting to interview with some of them was also a great experience, especially since I’d never had a technical interview before. They are kind of daunting.
  • Meeting with seasoned professionals. I got to meet not only seasoned GHC attendees, but also many seasoned technical professionals. From recent grads one or two years into their jobs to senior managers who have been in tech for over 30 years, it was really interesting to hear their stories about how they got to where they are and the challenges they had to face along the way such. For instance, one of the ladies I met during the morning commute to the conference center told me how she ended up working at Microsoft after taking a 7 year maternity leave!
  • Swag. All the companies who sent representatives to the conference also sent lots of swag with them. I got lots of stickers, pens, screen cleaners, hair ties and t-shirts. I had so much stuff I couldn’t bring it all back! Unfortunately, I lost my luggage on the plane with all the swag in it so I couldn’t share it with my friends back home.
  • My future. I got into computer science because I found that I really enjoy the puzzle-like feel of coding problems. It makes solving problems interesting and enjoyable. The more I’ve gotten involved in computer science, the more I’ve realized that it’s what I really want to pursue. After attending GHC, I now have some idea of what lies in my future as both a woman in the technical field and as a recent grad.

These are just a few of my favorite things about GHC. Even though I really enjoyed the conference, I am really glad that to be back in Michigan. The energy at GHC was so intense that you failed to feel the exhaustion until you left. Now time for some R&R… or homework. Same thing, right? Wrong.