The comfort zone we all mosh in daily is familiar and comfortable, much like our favorite pair of jeans. However, sometimes, we need to reach beyond the zone boundaries to be rejuvenated and inspired. I took the initiative and created a stretch goal by finding a way to attend this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) for Women in Computing.The annual conference is held in different locations throughout the US, and this year it was a completely sold out event with 1600+ in attendance! I was fortunate enough to have it near my back yard in Tucson, AZ during the last week of September.
I had never attended the GHC conference nor had I heard of it until I saw it mentioned on Intel’s intranet, so I thought I’d check it out online [LINK TO: www.gracehopper.org]. Even though my position is not directly in computing, I’m a sourcer/recruiter that seeks experts in this area and I felt it would be a great professional networking event. Besides, some of the session titles sounded like they could be very inspiring and I really wanted to attend.
The conference kicked off on Wednesday, September 30. I arrived that afternoon and was a volunteer for the resume writing clinic. Given my area of expertise, I felt this would be a great way for me to give back to the technical community. At the end of the afternoon, I truly felt like I had helped many of the women I met (a mixture of experienced professionals, PhDs, and college grads), by giving them constructive feedback and tips on how to revise their resumes. There is nothing more rewarding than to feel like you’ve contributed and are valued. Day one was off to a gratifying start!
The following two days, I attended several sessions. There were two in particular that were extremely thought-provoking to me: “How We Did It: Breaking through the Glass Ceiling” and “The “F” Word: Feminism in Technology”. The panelists and speakers for both sessions were well-respected female professionals from Intel, Amazon, IBM, Intuit and CA, as well as in academia. The presentations provoked a number of constructive discussions that left imprints on me that were both energizing and motivating. It was exactly what I had hoped for! The presenters for the “F word” session were engaging and influential. What was interesting were their stories of being in denial about considering themselves feminists. They each gave a personal account of the turning point of when they realized they were feminists. One quote was “Don’t call me a feminist, how do you expect me to get a date this semester!” Everyone laughed, but it certainly highlighted the perceived stigma of being called the “F word”.
The opportunities to network while at the conference were plentiful. There were organized events as well as impromptu mingling during lunch/dinner in the companies’ exhibit areas. There didn’t seem to be any social or professional barriers when meeting someone you didn’t know. It was easy to smile and introduce myself without feeling self-conscious. To wrap up the week there was a sponsor-only networking event outdoors at the resort. Intel, Google and Microsofthosted a massive soiree for all conference attendees where I had the opportunity to not only meet people from all over the country and the world, but from within other organizations of Intel as well. We raffled off some netbooks, gave away some Intel swag and had Guitar Hero set up at our canopy. Everyone at the event had a blast, including all of us Intel folks! Intel is proud to sponsor the Grace Hopper Celebration because it promotes diversity in the workplace and enables women from all over the world to share ideas and connect with one another.
As Disneypointed out to us many years ago “It’s a small world after all.” This is particularly true when people feel they are part of a community where they can openly collaborate about areas and issues that are important to them. This type of nurturing environment also promotes spontaneous sharing of creative ideas. Attending the GHC was an opportunity to have discussions on the issues that females face, especially in a technological environment, to learn about what’s new in the industry, but most importantly it was an opportunity to meet some incredible, intelligent women and share creative ideas with them. I was also very impressed to hear about different programs being sponsored by GHC/Anita Borg Institute, in order to get girls/young women interested in computer science.
I didn’t realize a conference could have such a positive impact on me; however, simply put, it did.
If you’re a woman in technology, at what age did you become interested in computer science or engineering? Did a teacher or mentor have an impact on you at an early age or did you explore your interest on your own? How can we encourage other young women to consider technology as a career path? A lot of questions, I know, but I would be very interested to hear your thoughts/stories.
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