“You are building the future – build the one you want to live in.”
Inspiration was rife and passion was tangible in the air at the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, held this year in Houston, Texas. This GHC brought in a record-smashing number of attendees – over 12,000 women and men in the tech joined together for a three-day conference featuring presentations from over 500 speakers including CEO of YouTube Susan Wojcicki and COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg.
It is impossible to sum up all of the Grace Hopper Celebration in one blog post, so I’m going to share with you some of my favourite images and moments. Day 1 kicked off the event with a bang, and we heard from Hilary Mason, founder and CEO of Fast Forward Labs. She gave a great and inspiring talk and shared with us the venn diagram of “awesome nerds” – check it out below.
This was my second time attending Grace Hopper (last year in Phoenix was my first) and this time I wore two hats – one of a student, one of a professional – so I got to see GHC through multiple lenses. With me this year (from left to right in the image above) were my friends from university: Keerthana, Sarah (who was with me in Phoenix last year), and Brittany. These girls are dedicated to furthering equality at Dalhousie University, and this week gave birth to some great plans to bring back to campus.
Day 2’s morning keynote was incredible powerful, this time delivered by Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube. Wojcicki’s story is a fascinating one because it was in her rented garage that Google was born, and she has been involved with the company from the ground up. What I found particularly engaging about Wojcicki’s talk was her firm stance on maternity leave and the unshakeable tenacity that was evident from the stories she told of being discriminated against because of her gender, even as a C-level executive. It’s brave and kind of her to share these stories with us, because those who experience discrimination often think along the lines of, “if I were more successful/intelligent/worthy they wouldn’t say that to me” – but it helps to know that discrimination happens at every level.
Just after Susan’s keynote, another highlight was when Karina Sirota found me outside the plenary hall. She’s a student at Northwestern who I’ve been chatting with on social media for quite some time and it was great to finally meet her in person. Check out her blog here!
Another huge component of GHC is the career fair, where hundreds of companies set up and recruit from the thousands of student attendees. This year I wasn’t job hunting (which was a relief!), but I still hit the career fair to check out the booths and see what other companies are up to. Some companies invest a lot in their booths and set up elaborate exhibits to draw in guests – like Google’s virtual reality cardboard demos and Cisco’s live screen printing.
Not pictured in this post are the dozen other sessions I attended over the three days at Grace Hopper, including career workshops, hands-on sessions, an Emerging Technologies panel featuring top researchers from Microsoft, Google and Intel, and even a Microsoft-exclusive party with Satya Nadella.
For a young woman just entering industry, it was incredibly inspiring and humbling to learn from so many women who have been making waves in technology for years, for some even decades. I walked in to GHC with knowledge about what I do, and walked out with a plan for what to do next and how to approach my future. If there’s one takeaway I want to pass on to you, it’s this: make yourself available for opportunity to find you. It is entirely possible to stumble into the greatest job or mentorship of your life, but it’s not going to happen if you’re sitting at home watching Netflix. Putting yourself out there, going to events, and exposing yourself to life’s potential is the first step to making your dreams your reality.