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.

rl102: Last Day

The last day was a sad one because it marked the conclusion of a great experience. I wandered around the convention center, listening in on panels and contemplating all the things I had learned so far. Looking around me, I was truly glad to have had the opportunity of coming. It struck me how amazing the convention was–a gathering place for so many female computer scientists. I had learned so much about the computer science industry, its women leaders, and its progress in the past few years. Though I’m without a doubt still a beginner at computer science, the conference helped me affirm my dedication to the field.

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 4 (Reflections)

Right now I’m on the plane ride home. Typing out all of the things we’ve done has made me realize what an event this really was. Also, I don’t know if these blog posts really capture the underlying theme and constant feeling of the convention – pure, raw, inspiration. Every single girl there had some awesome project they are working on, or some great accomplishment they have achieved, or some ingenious idea just waiting to be put into action. I feel confident I could have talked to any girl there (which I tried to do often) and had an intelligent, inspirational conversation. Women or not, these people were just incredible and it was wonderful being among them. This is an incredible convention and I fully support it – I’m sure next year will be just as awesome! If you think you might want to go, I would definitely recommend considering it – at the very least you’ll get some pretty cool free t-shirts!

Aleis: Day 3

Today everything was pretty much winding down. The career fair, which had gone on all three days, ended at 2. We happened to still be around, so we ended up getting a lot of free stuff that the companies still had and wanted to give away.

Around lunch time a few of us decided to explore Baltimore a bit. We walked around the harbor, shopped at the mall, and enjoyed a very interesting candy store. Good times!

Absolutely the best thing about Friday was the Rock-it Party. It was crazy. It was held in a science center, so there was stuff to do built into the facility. Also, as soon as we walked in we were greeted by a bunch of free stuff from Google and Microsoft – t-shirts, water bottle, glow sticks, etc. There were also pretty legit desserts, a raffle, and a dance party (which people did actually participate in). Overall a pretty cool night.

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!)

Aleis: Day 1

It’s hard to believe we fit so much into the first day, especially since our flight was delayed so our really didn’t get to the convention until the afternoon.

When we first got there we all registered. We each got our own name badge and a massive bag of free stuff. I had to hurry off and put up my poster. (You can sign up to presentation a poster in the poster session here [link] – highly recommended!) After that we grabbed some food from the “meal hall” (which really only had one restaurant open, but it had pretty decent options – I split a veggie burger with one of the other girls in our group). After eating we walked around a bit to get a feel for the building (it’s huge!) and then decided to stop by our hotel to drop off some of our stuff and take a quick nap. (We had gotten up at 7 after all.)

We headed back to the convention just in time for the career fair, which was awesome. Microsoft, Google, Intel, IBM, Facebook, Twitter – all of the big companies, along with some pretty cool but lesser known companies, were there, set up, trying to recruit us. Talking to the recruiters was super chill – they didn’t drill us on linked lists or anything. Everyone was just happy to be there and talk to each other about how awesome everything is and all of the opportunities we all have, both in their company and in general. And so much free stuff! And free food! (Good food, too, not just cereal bars or anything.)

Poster presentations were from 7:15 to 10, the same time as the career fair. Luckily my sister and I were able to trade off manning the poster while the other explored the fair and grabbed a box dinner. The poster presentations were also very chill – people just walked around and asked about the poster and our project, and we would tell them about it and answer their questions. Everyone was very supportive and excited about everything.

By the time we got back to our hotel we were exhausted and pretty much passed out as soon as our heads hit our pillows.

Aleis: Preparation

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!

Xu: GHC 2012

The GHC conference was the biggest tech fair I could ever imagine, and getting to talk to so many women successful in a tech career was a huge inspiration. The first day was very eventful. After dropping off our stuff at the hotel, my roommate and I attended our first presentation of the day, which was an info session on how to write a tech resume. The session was really helpful, especially because the presenters shared plenty of their own experiences. Throughout the conference, I also attended several other presentations, including one on Big Data and its potential usefulness in different industries, and one on cloud security.

The career fair was arguably the most prominent part of the conference. A good portion of companies in the tech world was there (and those whose name you and I can recognize are definitely present). I was pleasantly surprised to find several finance firms there. As a economics (finance) and computer science double major, working as a tech analyst at a finance firm seems like a great way to combine my interests. I spent a good amount of time talking to several of these firms to get a good idea of what the job would be like and the kind of candidates they were looking for. Even though most of the firms were looking for juniors for their internship programs, it was still a very fruitful experience as it taught me what I should work on as a junior and also gave me a better idea of which specific kind of tech jobs I would like.

I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to the Duke CS department, the school of engineering, yahoo! and all who contributed funds for the trip. Also, a big thank you to our wonderful professors who took such good care of us throughout this memorable experience!

Peggy: Day 3 Reflections

Today was the last full day of the conference since we’ll be waking up at (or before?) the crack of dawn tomorrow morning to fly back to North Carolina. I was able to sleep in a little more today since the first event started later compared to yesterday; given how intense and tiring this conference has been (though nothing short of amazing), I definitely appreciated the extra hour!

The morning started with a keynote by Anita Young; it’s cool how things have gone full circle since she was also the speaker at the first Grace Hopper Conference! She spoke about the IT revolution, and how unlike previous revolutions, this one is focused as much on personal apps as on infrastructure alone. She also mentioned how the new topic this year was massive open online courses or MOOCs such as Coursera; since I’m taking a peer and academic leadership course that has also discussed MOOCs as a new force of disruptive innovation in education, it was great hearing it mentioned in another situation.

I chose to attend a talk on agile development (“Go Lean, Go Agile – Are we there yet?”). Although agile was briefly discussed by my Software Design professor in the spring, I haven’t had much exposure to it yet, but I’ve frequently heard of it as an important methodology in software development these days and was really interested in learning more. After hearing panelists from several companies, including Mario (an agile coach), I feel like I have a moderately better understanding of agile, and am looking forward to having an opportunity to use it in practice someday.

I returned to the Career Fair for a while to speak to several companies I hadn’t had a chance to speak with yet, and while there, bumped into a friend from another college whom I’d met two summers ago doing CS research! We had lunch together at the food court and caught up on what we were each doing, so meeting her there was a pleasant surprise! After lunch was a plenary talk on Technology Government. Since most of the conference has confused on industry and academia so far, it was interesting to hear from the government perspective and of course about the problems like security that the government confronts.

Then I went to my final two sessions for this conference: “The Future of Online Social Networking” and “Are we ready for the next level yet? Perspectives from junior women in technology” (which talked about career advancement for women, e.g. lower promotion rates compared to men). I had to slip out a few minutes early since I was joining others for dinner.

Dinner itself was an interesting affair – it turned out to be me, another undergrad from Duke, a graduate student from Duke, a professor from Duke, the friend from UMBC, a Stanford professor, and a Stanford student! We ended up eating at a pretty nice restaurant (turns out it was by reservation so we ended up sitting at the bar) – so the food was absolutely delicious!

Last but not least… the RockIT Science and Systers 25th Anniversary Celebration held at Maryland Science Center! We were pretty tired by late evening and didn’t stay very long, but the party was really energetic and everyone looked to be having a great time (in fact, I noticed a few teenage guys on the Harbor trying to crash the party). So many cupcakes and desserts, and free shirts from Google and Microsoft – how will I pack all this swag tonight??

All in all, the past couple of days have been exhausting in the best possible way! I think Grace Hopper was quite an eye-opening experience in seeing how many women are in technology and realizing how large the community really is. I truly had a great time and was really inspired by the people there, and thank all of the sponsors who made this opportunity possible!