Mary-Emily: The Grace Hopper Convention

The Grace Hopper Convention

A Big Thanks to the Duke University Computer Science Department, Yahoo Women

The Grace Hopper Convention for Women in Computing was an experience unlike any other. Before departing for the conference in Baltimore, I thought I had grasped the concept behind the three day conference.
However, upon my arrival I was blown away by how massive and how amazing the whole experience was.

The convention center was bustling with women of all ages and races. I really only ever saw a handful of men for the entirety of the conference. The way the convention was laid out was that there were a multitude of talks categorized under certain paths while there was an ongoing career fair. Since I must keep this blog at a respectable
length, I am going to talk about three different kinds of experiences I was able to get out of the conference, a traditional seminar, a lunch time table talk, and the career fair.

One session that I went to that I found to be really awesome and out of the box was called the Secrets to Success: in the style of Glee by Jennifer Marsman. Jennifer Marsman is a developer evangelist for Microsoft. Here are the ten songs she played for us and the point she derived from each one.

Speak Now By Taylor Swift
Her main point with this song was to be vocal! If your in meetings or even an interview it is important to use your voice to illustrate your ideas. It is never a bad idea to ask questions because it helps propel the group forward. She even went as far as to say that in an interview (especially with Microsoft) never stop talking! It shows your passion
and enthusiasm.

Let’s Give them Something To Talk About By Bonnie Raye
The main point of this song was to always let your supervisors know where you are standing in a specific project and what progress you have made. As an employee, communicating whatever you are working on or whatever you find useful is key to the company’s success. Give your manager of supervisor something to say or talk about when their boss
asks them!

This song was to remind everyone to take a humble approach. Be confident in yourself but never forget that every single person around you is smarter at something than you. Diversity is important because different people think differently and therefore you get a multifaceted result that can take on more obstacles. Therefore,
respect everyone around you because they can only help you learn something new.

Luck Be a Lady By Frank Sinatra
Someone once said that success = hard work + intelligence + luck. Unfortunately, the luck element is sometimes true. If you work your hardest and did your best at a certain task and you did not get what you wanted out of it, then blame luck! Don’t get discouraged just think that you were not lucky this time and you will be next time! However, if there is a stream of ‘bad luck’ then maybe it is you? See what you can improve to improve your luck.

Be Prepared By Lion King
Being prepared will always help you be more successful, Fact-base Reasoning is always better than out of the blue statements with no basis.

Wind Beneath My Wings
Mentors and role models are essential! Role models are from afar and mentors are the ones to help you drive your career. In turn, you must either speak or blog! Pay it forward and become someone else’s future mentor.

I Love You Always and Forever By Donna Lewis
You must always love what you do! Find your niche or whatever it is you enjoy mots in the tech industry whether it be artificial intelligence of hacking. If you love what you do you will get excited every day to be working and therefore you won’t actually be ‘working’.

Oops I did it again By Britney Spears
Making mistakes is part of getting to your destination. If you make a mistake it is okay! Learn from every mistake. They are not worthless. For example, interviews. If you mess one up completely, that’s okay. You can learn from your stumbling around and develop a better way. Take big risks! If you fail, it will still be worth it.

Lean on Me By Bill Whithers
You are going to need support to be successful. You can look at life in three categories: Time, Health, Money. At one time, you can pick two. In response to this life view, optimize and outsource. Make trade-offs for what you don’t have. Try and balance your life. Your support system will make this possible.

Don’t Stop Believing by Journey
Believing in yourself! Do not let the imposter syndrome get to you! The imposter syndrome is when you feel as if you are faking it and one day someone is going to figure out that you are not that smart. This is just your self-conscious speaking! You must always remember that you got yourself to the place you are today. Never leave your self-confidence behind because it can be your greatest asset!

I really appreciated this talk and everything I learned from it. I feel the main thing I loved so much about it was that it managed to outline the ten most important things without forgetting to have fun. I think that this approach should definitely be taken towards any career and will help you become successful. I noted immediately the enthusiasm and quirkiness of Jennifer. I could immediately pick up on how passionate she was about what she was talking about. You could easily tell that she was really enjoying being at the conference and that she was having a great time letting us in on her ideas. As a result, I decided to participate in another particular characteristic of the conference called Table Talks.

In the convention center, they had set up about forty tables or so for everyday at lunch. Each table was numbered and had a specific person and topic for every lunch. I loved the fact that after hearing Jennifer’s talk, I could easily go and sit for her table talk with her. The tables were filled after ten participants arrived, and I was able to sit in an intimate setting and pick at Jennifer’s brain right after the session. The table I was sitting at had a wide range of women. There were a couple teachers and students. Our topic was on gaming and the virtual world. When Jennifer sat down, she pretty much just let us fire off some questions. She let us in on a handful of gaming creating websites and even pulled out her Microsoft surface to show us how they worked. This was probably my favorite part of the conference because I was immediately able to make a connection with a speaker I had really enjoyed. The learning did not stop after the session. The conference made it so easy and accessible to have a personal conversation. I also
immediately learned some awesome new tools on a topic I knew very little about. This idea contributed to the whole theme that every second I was at the conference I was experiencing another part of the tech world.

A third and final aspect of the conference I felt was pretty amazing was the career fair. I have been to a handful of fairs and have never seen such an immense one. After three days, I felt I still had not exhausted all the resources of the fair. All the major companies were present such as Google, and Microsoft to not so obvious ones as major banks. It was very easy to go up to any booth and interact with their recruiters. Whether you were looking for an internship or just to learn more. I especially felt I learned a lot at the fair because some companies put you to the test right there. When I went up to Amazon, they asked me a technical question immediately. I was asked to find the duplicate integer in an unsorted array of integers. At first I completely froze. Then after a second of thinking out loud, the recruiter handed me a pen and paper and let me illustrate the way I would go about it. After successfully showing a
working program – woo! – the recruiter then asked the run-time. I was able to semi get the right answer from this question. In the end, I got an awesome sweatshirt from answering the question right and some real life pressure tech question.

Not only were the three days filled with free swag, but also I felt as if this conference was an experience of full on learning. This was out of the classroom learning to the fullest. It helped with not only creating a supporting community of women in the tech industry but also helped with some career questions that were not obvious to me. I
discovered possible career paths that I did not know previously existed and ways to achieve them. I find that this conference really affirmed my desire to be a part of the tech industry and also strengthened it.

Wynne: Reflection (Issues)

Hello all,

I promised you a post on problems with the conference, so here it is after a few weeks.

The conference occurs during the weekdays, which for students, takes time out of group projects and classes (this is why I’m so late in posting). I’m sure there are a lot of other women in the work force who would be happy to go, but smaller companies are probably hesitant to send them to the conference in the middle of a project.

Like some people noted, a lot of the conference was on big data and job/internships. As someone interested in healthcare, I would like to see more technical companies in healthcare. As for jobs and internships, this is very intimidating for someone looking for a job and does not feel qualified. Sure there is the imposter syndrome, but really, going to the career fair, most people are going to judge their applicants by how much experience they have.

Its hard to get out of your comfort zone. I was fortunate to start out meeting people already out of their comfort zone, so I got to meet more people. But really, if you only talk to them for a small amount of time and then get their contact information, how likely are we to remember them in one year? How likely are they to remember you? especially the Microsoft, Google, or Amazon people? Also, I had difficulties with the contact sharing part of the Grace Hopper App, so I awkwardly ended up having to type in peoples names into my phone.

You know, one of the important parts of the conference was the sessions. For around 37,000 women, a lot of the sessions were more than half empty. Many women were focused on the career fair. Others were taking advantage of the city. My question here is why are they not attending the sessions? Is there a way to make them more interested in the sessions? Is it possible that making a time slot for people to explore the city (like give them a task in the city) would be beneficial?

So this was a small bit of the issues I faced or saw. Please comment! Thank you for reading all the way through. Have a wonderful day!


Chisom: Tech Entrepreneurship

Thursday, October 4th 2012.

Today was an amazing day. I learnt so much from being in one room with such intelligent and focused women.

My morning began with the Keynote speech. The Speaker talked around the theme of the conference, regarding whether or not women in technology were there yet. Her answer was that we most definitely not, but that we could get there by applying certain tips which she then proceeded to hand to us.

It was not the topic of her speech that caught me. I had the intuition that we were not “there yet” and I had expected the address to follow in like fashion. No, what I was struck by was the woman herself.

She looked like a boss. And I don’t mean that as a slang. She looked like a leader, and a mentor. She was confident, warm and intelligent. I found myself wondering what it must be like to be her. In her speech, she told us about her life, and how she overcame feelings of insecurity by getting out of her head. That’s one lesson that is going to stick. You have to get out of your head sometimes to put things in the best perspective and prevent self condemnation. As I filed out of the hall, with thousands of women, I was already thinking about things differently, and excited to go to my next session.

Between the keynote speech and my next session, I talked to more than 10 truly impressive women. They worked everywhere, from California to London, and they were okay with talking to a sophomore. In fact, they gave me their business cards and asked me to contact them anytime.

I then went to a short hour session about translating from academic projects to dealing with real life situations. Here, a group of young women and their faculty advisor talked to us about a project they had done to solve problems of time wastage in emergency medical services. These were real people, who had done something to solve a real world problem. Hearing from them was a confirmation of what I had always thought would be my track at Duke.  I want to learn all these cool new things, but I want to apply them just as fast, bringing change that people around me can feel. I now realize that I am not doing enough of that because I have pre-occupied myself with things that have been reduced to dramatic insignificance in this conference.

It was just like Nora had said earlier that morning, you need to get out of your head sometimes.

My next session was targeted towards Tech Entrepreneurs.

This session was, as the name suggests, a forum where women entrepreneurs in the tech industry talked to us about the challenges they faced in starting their own companies, and gave us tips on how to successfully set up our own enterprises. I got out of that session and sent a thank you message to  Susan, my Duke coordinator for bringing me here. That was a pivotal moment in my life, and I began to remember a lot of the goals I had coming into Duke. I wanted to have my own start-up, and focus my biomedical engineering knowledge on things that would benefit others.With the advice and encouragement I received today, I am poised to do just that. To crown it all, I came back for the second phase of the session, where we were presented with real world problems and asked to come up with an elevator pitch for a product that would bring solutions to the given problems. My group went ahead to create a whole new experience, We veered significantly off from what we were asked, to create a product that was centered at collecting data from wearable electronics and converting it into information that could be used for health purposes. That idea was a great one, and I hope to pursue it someday.

I stole some time after that talk to go to the Baltimore Harbor, I took pictures, and did some thinking.  I had been presented with a radically different world, and I really did need to figure out what that meant for me.

I came back to the conference in time for the Awards ceremony, and right after that, we enjoyed a dance party with all the generations represented.

The most amazing thing about today for me was the conversations I got to have with people.  There are some truly inspired women in the world, and I feel greatly blessed to have met some of them today.



In addition to the great experiences I had on that, day, the next day was to prove to be an even better experience than I could ever have hoped for. I met with Cathi Rodger, founder of the IGNITE program. A program geared at exposing young women to science and technology fields early in their lives. I was inspired by her, and we went on to have a long and meaningful conversation that led to my new summer plans.

I plan to work with the IGNITE organization in Nigeria this summer, on a Duke Engage independent Project.

Cathi put me in touch with a representative in Nigeria, and now I can live my dream of being a positive influence to young women like me who only get rare peeks into the world of science and technology.

Wynne: Thanks

Not much happened to me on Friday, and Friday made me more aware of issues that I will discuss in my final thoughts. I will use this post to thank the Anita Borg Institute and all the women and men who put the Grace Hopper Celebration together. They have brought together a group of diverse women, wonderful speakers, and great topics. Thank you for providing me the scholarship to attend, which gave my school the chance to bring another technical woman to the conference. I wish to express my gratitude to the National Science Foundation, who funded the scholarship I was given.  I am also much obliged to the Duke Computer Science Department for first giving me information on the Grace Hopper Celebration and second making sure I had an anchor in the form of a group of Duke women in the sea of strangers at the conference. Thank you to the women I met and talked to for making me feel welcome and supported. Many thanks to my professors and teammates for projects for understanding my time away from campus and work.


For anyone who read my posts and have questions about my experience, please e-mail me using my netID (at the top of the post)



Wynne: Differences

Nora, the keynote speaker for today, was phenomenal, and her discussion about how women have a different point of view and why it was important to have women on a team made me think how differences are sometimes an advantage.

The first session I went to was the Creativity, Learning and Social Software session. The speaker had started out as an architecture and changed to a technical career. Her experience as an architecture provided with a unique perspective when she worked on projects especially for the users. This is where I can learn that no matter how dissimilar two fields are, one student of a field can shape another’s world by contributing something that other could not see.

Walking around the conference, I met up with a graduate student from Haiti, Google employee who was also a Duke alumni, and Microsoft employee. It was interesting to note unalike we were and yet these variances make up what each person is. It is to my benefit to hear what the situation is like for women in Haiti, how life is like after Duke, and who Nora was to people who knew her. I hope that my life as an undergraduate Duke student stands out in there memories as they have in mine.

During lunch, I ate at a table with a gentleman writing an article about why men have difficult changing. He believed that women used areas in decision making that men did not use as much due to the invisible advantage men had. As a psychology minor, there were times I questioned what he was saying. There were also times when he was right about the differences between men and women. He took the advice from the women at the table very well, and I look forward to reading his work.

The award ceremony was a display of another type of difference. I do not have much to say about it except that the work by the women who were recognized was fascinating and almost unbelievable in how big of an impact they made.

Tomorrow will be my last day attending the GHC 2012 conference. Whatever Friday brings, the celebration has already left a lasting impression on me.


Wynne: Collaboration

My fellow Duke mates were unable to attend the welcome ceremony this morning. What they missed was the message that I got today at GHC: collaboration.

In my mind, there are companies that are competitors in certain fields; however, here at the conference, they unite for women.They unite to be role models for us students. They unite to teach and inform the new women in the field who will later become role models.

At my scholarship lunch, I sat with someone from Google who was one of the founders of Systers. She stated that “women, rather than view meeting people as networking, see it more as connecting” (this was summarized). I don’t know about you, but I agree with her. Unlike the severe and cut-throat feeling I get from the Duke career fairs, the women at GHC feel more open to discussion and supportive.

In the field itself, it was fun to see how my psychology classes can be applied or were used in some of the research that I heard during the break-out sessions. For example, one research on which diagrams were best to display information directly ties to my Health Communication class, which tries to ensure the public (the illiterate, numerically, textually, or health-wise) understands the message being delievered. Knowing that Euler ellipse diagrams are better for readers can be used when demonstrating the probabilities such as dying of a disease.

I have to say, I’m glad to see some guys at the conference and to meet a few that have gone for a few years. To me, it paints a picture that “hey, yes this conference says it’s for women, but men are welcome to come and join us in our celebration.” What better way is it to show the men how to interact with us than to openly invite them to see our world?

There was breaking the ice yesterday and collaboration today. I look forward to finding out what tomorrow brings.


Wynne: Arrival to Baltimore

Hello all,

As a scholarship recipient, I was invited to arrive early to the conference. So, here I am in Baltimore, Maryland one block away from the convention center.

I have to say, this conference has already started for me. On the airplane to here, I was sitting in the midst of a group of women all discussing their previous experiences at GHC. It was exciting and a little nerve-racking because I was an outsider and a first-timer; yet, I wanted to talk to these women about what they have done.

Professor Rodger is right. Once you initate the conversation, everything will flow. The person I sat beside is a senior manager at Cisco whose daughter had gone to Duke as an undergraduate. By talking with her, many of my questions about entering the job force were answered and a lot of my fears were lessened. The one point that stuck out to me was that you aren’t going to stick with you first job for forever. There is room to explore and find what you like, but make every job a learning opportunity. Through me, she invites all of the Duke students to come by the Cisco booth.

Later in the day, I got to meet my roommate. She’s a sweet and bright international graduate student at a Kentucky University. Her concerns, which focused on her being international, about her future were interesting to hear about and to think about. Will there be time when we are no longer concerned about country boundaries? Why did she decided to go to graduate school for a masters degree here and look for a job afterwards?

I’m looking forward to seeing all my fellow Duke students tomorrow as well as learning to be someone who can come back to GHC and help other newcomers.



We are a group of undergraduate women attending Duke University who, with the help of the Computer Science Department, will be attending the Grace Hopper Conference 2012 at Baltimore, Maryland.  Please read to follow our various thoughts and experiences during our days at the conference.

~Wynne Lok