I always knew that I was interested in Math and Science but when I came to college I was unsure of what I wanted to study. Luckily, towards the end of my freshman year I decided that I wanted to major in Computer Science. Most of the tech world is new to me so I am spending a great deal of time learning about it and trying to find out what I am most interested in. I was excited to go to Grace Hopper because it seemed like a good opportunity to learn more about the industry and meet women who are experienced in this field.
Zanele: Getting Ready
Before arriving at Grace Hopper, I did a lot of anxious awaiting. I went to the career center to get help with creating a resume, and looked at all of the different career opportunities. I looked through the schedule, and was eager to attend the women of underrepresented groups seminar. I also looked at all of the different companies that would be attending to see who seemed aligned with my interests.
The days preceding Grace Hopper for me were a blur of exams. (I had all three of my midterms Monday and Tuesday and we left Wednesday morning.) I had pretty much no time to spare, so it was super awesome that the Duke staff involved in making Grace Hopper happen were so on top of things. We had a pre-departure meeting where they fed us and filled us in on the plan, and we all received emails requesting information on our preferences for the trip, like which airline we would prefer, but pretty much all arrangements were taken care of for us. (So I guess here is the appropriate place to send a huge thank you to everyone who helped with that – it has been greatly appreciated!)
Packing was easy enough. It’s funny, I brought a number of nicer blouses to wear and seem all impressive, but it was actually my Duke t-shirts that made the recruiters most interested. I also recommend having plenty of space for all of the free stuff you will be bringing back!
In the past few days I’ve begun to notice people’s reactions when I tell them I’m going to the Grace Hopper Celebration this week. Students and professors alike exclaim, “Wow, that’s going to be great, you’re really lucky!” I’ve even heard male computer science students admit, “Huh. Kinda wish I were a girl now…” I guess it took talking to other people to realize what unique opportunities I’ll have at the Grace Hopper Celebration.
Wynne: Arrival to Baltimore
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.