Lalita: Career Fair

Today I spent more time at the Career Fair. The Career Fair was  a bit overwhelming but I became very comfortable speaking about myself and asking the right questions. The recruiters were very friendly and helpful whenever I did ask a question. They also gave away more free stuff!

I also had an interview with one of the companies at the fair today. It was a bit stressful since it was the first technical interview I had.

One of the highlights of the day was winning a free iPad! Yahoo hosted a breakfast and I was the lucky guest that had the winning raffle ticket.

Zanele: Day 2: More Advice

Today, my favorite experience was going to the secrets of success seminar. It was a great opportunity to get advice in a nonconventional way. In my hotel, when I got home, I created a playlist with all of the songs that she used to give advice, to help me to keep those things in mind when things get a bit difficult. I also attended the Women of Under-represented Groups luncheon. It was really awesome to see so many black women at the conference, and get advice from them. While I had previous met some awesome women at the Women of Underrepresented groups reception, this was a more focused and personal atmosphere. I was incredibly inspired by the woman that spoke was a researcher for IBM Research. She did research that was inspired by her own experiences. She researched about how to increase access to everyday things for blind people. She helped me to realize that I can use my own experiences to help other people in our society who face similar difficulties.

rl102: Second Day

My second day at the conference was just as exciting–though far less intimidating–than the first. After going to several panels, I attended the Speed Mentoring event, where I had the chance to meet computer scientists already working in the industry. From them I got an insider’s glimpse into the world of computer science, which was–according to the mentors I met–a place where one could find encouragement and support. It was inspiring to meet women who were already working in the industry, especially since many of them were leaders in the workplaces.

Aleis: Day 2

Several of us got up early and headed over to the Yahoo breakfast. They had some of their employees talk about their projects they are currently working on to give us an idea of what we could do if we worked with them. Immediately after that was the keynote speaker, which was quite inspirational and received rave reviews. (Definitely go to the keynote speakers!)

The best session of the day (in my opinion) was the “Letter to Myself,” which consisted of representatives from some major companies telling us about their mistakes along the way and what they wish they had known when they were still in our position. The speakers were really down to earth and fun to listen to. A lot of it was the same thing we’re told all the time, like networking and negotiating our salary, but there was a surprising number of useful tips I hadn’t really thought about before, like making sure people know the cool/impressive things you’re working on, even if it’s just in a quick email. It’s the only way people will find out.

My sister and I are NCWIT (National Center for Women in Technology) award winners, so we met up with them for a dinner/party they hosted. At some point I got interviewed by Microsoft for a documentary they were producing. It was fun, they just asked about what it’s like being a woman in technology and what I liked about these types of conventions. Also the mayor dropped by to welcome us to Baltimore, you know, no big deal.

In the evening there were once again excellent refreshments, which we took in to the award ceremony. All of the award winners had a little blurb read about them and each gave a short speech. Every person’s story was amazing and inspirational – it was hard to believe one person could have such an impact! (And that’s the way I felt about every award winner!)

Peggy: Day 2 Reflections

Rose and shone early this morning for a breakfast reception courtesy of Yahoo! One of the Yahoo! engineers spoke about her work developing gaming platforms; her enthusiasm (especially at 7 am!) was incredibly evident and I really enjoyed hearing about how her job has allowed her to focus on an area she’s passionate about.

Afterwards was the Keynote speech delivered by Nora Denzel, which I found to be absolutely phenomenal. Despite speaking to an audience of thousands, she seemed very personable and engaging, and I really enjoyed hearing her speak about her personal experiences working in industry.

I attended two different talks, the first on “Creativty, Learning, and Social Software” by Lily Cheng (Microsoft Research) and the second on “From Engineer to Executive: the Path Forward” by Susan Zwinger (Oracle). I was surprised but impressed to learn about the scope of Microsoft’s research projects, and I especially appreciated the second talk. After reading about Sheryl Sandberg and “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” by Anne-Marie Slaughter over the summer, I was very interested in learning how successful women balance top-notch careers with family and personal life, so this topic was great as it touched upon her work-life balance, though I was a little surprised that she also talked fairly extensively about understanding one’s personality type. She talked about a friend who had planned out her life (from her career and even salary to her marriage and family) back in college – and actually achieved it all; of course, this isn’t the norm for many people, but it was still fascinating to hear.

I then had an interview with a company that I had arranged prior to the interview, and attended a session on “Six Reasons Male Influencers Advocate for Technical Women”. This one presented some research findings that sought to understand what motivated technical men to support technical women. Two of the panelists were male leaders from large tech companies, and it was pretty inspirational to hear them talk about how they tried to understand and improve the gender ratios on their teams. Even though the focus of the conference is on bringing together a community of women, I’m really glad that the organizers decided to bring in a male perspective since I was personally quite curious about the extent to which men might support the technical women’s agenda.

The evening involved another interview, followed by “heavy hors d’oeuvres” (read: dinner) – the pasta was delicious, by the way! Then was the awards ceremony, which was very exciting. I found the speeches by the Change Agents and Social Impact award winners to be especially inspirational, since these women are literally effecting change and improving lives around the world. What an amazing group of women!

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.

ak201: Great GHC Sessions

Today was my first full day of the Grace Hopper Conference (GHC), and I am not going to lie: this morning I walked into the Baltimore Convention Center (where most of the sessions took place) skeptical about what I could take away from this conference.

Conferences that encourage women to pursue STEM careers were not new to me, and I suspected that GHC would offer me the same generalized and somewhat uninteresting career advice that previous events had offered me. Thankfully, I was wrong.

 Two of my most favorite sessions for the day were “Letters to My Younger Self: Things I wish I Knew When I First Started Working” and “Tempering the Impostor Syndrome.”
Letters to My Younger Self proved simultaneously informative and enjoyable because the three speakers (who worked at one point for well-known technology companies such as Google) were so candid. Some great takeaways from that session:
  1. Your work does NOT speak for itself: the speakers urged everyone who had good ideas to get them in the open. When you complete a great coding project or want to volunteer some insights on a particular problem, let everyone on your team know through something as simple as a blast email. You do not need to pretend that you effortlessly got from point A to point B—letting everyone from your colleagues to your manager know about the steps you took and the design principles you utilized can do wonders for your workplace reputation.
  1. Learn how to say NO: As someone who has a hard time saying “no” to anyone, this discussion hit home. One of the speakers mentioned how her inability to say no led to a constant influx of work that ultimately affected her performance at Google. She noticed that when she finally declined invitations to participate in certain projects or initiatives, people actually respected her and took her more seriously. I personally am working on learning to gracefully say no, so I’m glad that learning how to say no helped this speaker in the long run.
  1. Always Negotiate For What You Want: One of audience members mentioned that men who aggressively negotiate to get what they want seem more socially acceptable than women who do the same thing. The speakers’ advice: it doesn’t matter, embrace the part of you that knows exactly what you want. The speakers acted out a skit on how to negotiate salaries and respectfully decline a job offer—it was so helpful because I had always wondered how to do that. In the end, don’t feel afraid to ask for something reasonable after doing your research because the worst they can say is “no.” Even then, the prospect of rejection is not nearly as disappointing as not trying in the first place.

The “Tempering the Impostor Syndrome” was very illuminating because it discussed the notion of chronic self-doubt and how someone can feel inadequate even when information indicates that the opposite is true. I realized during the session that I tend to discount my own success or attribute my success to luck. For instance, when I first saw my Duke admissions letter, I was extremely ecstatic, but I always had this nagging feeling “Maybe the admissions office messed up,” or “I honestly do not know how/why they chose me—I got lucky.” When my manager at Microsoft told me in my midpoint review that I have great ideas, my first thought was: “Are you sure? Did you not notice that some of the features I designed were thrown out or that they could have used a little more work?” Many of the women at my table shared similar sentiments—an experience that was eye-opening because it reinforces that age-old cliché of “not everything is what it seems.” After that session, I decided that every time I do not understand what is going on in a conversation be it a technical discussion or an examination of British literature during the Industrial Revolution, I will not be ashamed of my ignorance. I am, after all, only human.

If the same speakers go to the next GHC, then I encourage those who will be attending to go to the sessions I described above because they are absolutely interesting! And a special thanks to the Duke Computer Science Department, Pratt, and Yahoo! contributing funds to help Duke undergraduates attend Grace Hopper.

Hailey: Thursday

Kickstarted the day with an amazing keynote speaker who talked to us at length about fear.  I’ve found this to be a bit of a theme throughout the conference so far; a lot of the speakers have addressed the fact that, in spite of their success, they often feel scared or intimidated. It seems a lot of women (myself included) often don’t try for things because they’re scared. I think that’s why the Grace Hopper Celebration is really important; so many women are so intimidated by others in their fields that they need a strong support system of other incredible women (who are also scared). I know that I personally feel much more confident surrounded by these women than I do on a day to day basis.

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.



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