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!

Peggy: Day 1 Reflections

We flew up to Baltimore in the morning and checked into our hotels. Since not everybody from Duke was on the same flight and staying at the hotel, it took a little longer to sort out the logistics. On the bright side, our room at the Sheraton is really nice, and the hotel is under a ten-minute walk from the Baltimore Convention Center where the Grace Hopper conference is being held.

Even in the hotel lobby where we were waiting, I started to notice women carrying the blue Grace Hopper conference bag for this year, and the numbers only increased as we headed to the BCC in the afternoon. Although I knew there would be over 3000 attendees so the attendance wasn’t necessarily a surprise, it was still remarkable to see so many women, from students to industry representatives to professors. It was really exciting to finally register and receive my Grace Hopper bag and name tag!

After lunch with a few other Duke students at the food court, we decided to attend a panel talk called “How to Optimize Your Job Search” together. All in all, it was pretty good, although I personally felt that the emphasis for most of the concrete tips revolved around LinkedIn and networking, and I would have liked to hear more about, say, websites or events to be on the lookout for when career searching.

On my way down an escalator later, I accidentally bumped into a woman who I assumed was a college professor attending the conference – it turns out that she was the conference director, oops!

My evening was spent at the Career Fair, which included practically every large tech company I could think of as well as numerous graduate school programs from universities across the country. It was honestly a little overwhelming and intimidating at first, but after visiting several booths, I began to feel more comfortable speaking with recruiters and engineers alike and coming up with questions that I wanted to ask. I had an interview with one company that I had set up prior to arrival, but enjoyed having the rest of the time to learn more about different companies and of course, collecting some free swag!


About Me: I’m a junior at Duke majoring in Computer Science and Economics. This was my first (and hopefully not last) time attending the Grace Hopper Conference.

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.

smh54: Just the Beginning

After a long morning of travel, arriving to Baltimore was quite a relief. I was so excited to finally be at the conference. The first session of the conference I attended was “How to Optimize your Job Search.” At first I was a little skeptical about attending this session considering I am only a sophomore, but it proved to teach me a great deal more than what I expected. The women in the panel discussed everything from networking to what they look for in an interview. I made sure to take plenty of notes during this session and used all of the tips they gave for the remainder of the conference. When I went to the career fair later in the week I felt completely prepared and continued to look back on my notes from the session to make sure I appeared confident and prepared.

I also attended the “Latinas in Computing Reception” in the evening. This was a great networking experience for me.  I met latina women that worked for MasterCard, Microsoft and a woman looking for latina women to fill summer internship positions in Silicon Valley! I met other students from all over the country and stayed connected with them throughout the remainder of the conference. The women that organized the WURG (Women of Underrepresented Groups) track really put a great deal of effort into making us feel comfortable and providing us with information on not only problems faced by women, but women of color as well. These sessions, dinners and lunches were some of my favorites at the conference.

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)



Hailey: Final Thoughts

I’ve been wearing my Google t-shirt around campus, and people keep asking me where I got it. So I tell them I just got back from the Grace Hopper Conference. When they ask what I did there, I realize I don’t know what to tell them because there’s too much to tell. Should I talk about the great interviews I got just for showing up at a booth? Describe all the different things I learned at all the presentations? Talk about networking? I can’t possibly describe it to them in a five minute conversation. GHC was a fantastic experience for me. I now feel much more confident, especially about my prospective future jobs. I would recommend GHC to any girl who is even considering a technical career.

Hailey: Friday

After spending the past few days indoors, it was nice to get out of the convention center for a bit. We went and walked around the harbor during lunch, looked at the boats, and did some shopping.  Then at night we attended the RockIt Party at the Maryland Science Center on the harbor. The science center itself was phenomenal, with Dino-exhibits, physics experiments, and multiple IMAX presentations. And to top it all off, we were provided free desserts and swag from Google and Microsoft. It was the perfect fun ending to the past few days.

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.

Hailey: Wednesday

My GHC experience got off to an interesting start when the woman sitting next to me in the airport suddenly revealed herself as a recruiter. After my heart had started again and I had played back my last few minutes of conversation to see if I’d said anything stupid, other Duke GHC attendees and I engaged in a lengthy conversation with the woman about what she looks for in an interview and what the biggest resume mistakes are. I boarded the plane feeling as if I’d already learned more than expected, and we weren’t even in Baltimore yet!