We Are Here—A first-timer’s Grace Hopper Conference experience

 |   Vanessa Ortiz, Microsoft NY Civic Tech Fellow

Microsoft civic tech fellow Vanessa Ortiz (right) with fellow women in computer science at Grace Hopper Conference.

The Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) is the largest conference of women in computing! This year’s celebration started off with Brenda Darden Wilkerson, AnitaB.org President & CEO, emphasizing on the purpose of the celebration and her passion of diversity and inclusion.

“Here not only are we over 20,000 strong—we are over 90 countries represented!” she exclaimed. “This is what women in technology look like and so this is what the roster of every company should look like. Reflective of the entirety of society.”

No matter where you are in your technology journey, GHC is the place to be! The celebration offers an immense amount of opportunities and professional development through a number of interactive activities.

To kick off this event and to truly further empower the attendees, AnitaB.org invited many inspirational speakers, including founder & CEO of Uncharted Power Jessica Matthews. With her unique experience, Jessica spoke of how proud she is of having such a unique upbringing—without her having such a diverse background and life, she “would have not seen the opportunities of the world.” Jessica shared how her invention for a class project and her desire to help her family in Nigeria led her to creating her own business! Jessica explained her idea of harnessing kinetic energy and showing how “just by living, you could be part of the solution.” This idea, now dubbed PULSE, is an energy-generating jump-rope that with just a few minutes of activity you can provide up to an hour of light. Jessica jumped rope on stage—in beautiful bright red heels! Jessica Matthews showed us all how embracing your unique journey can lead you to your greatest destiny while positively impacting the world. If you’d like to be inspired or just simply see Jessica Matthews jump rope like a boss in heels, watch her keynote right here.

Aside from such inspirational keynote speakers, the Grace Hopper Celebration highlighted opportunities like:

  • The Career Fair
    • Over 100+ companies represented
    • Recruiters interviewing in a separate interview hall and some even providing on the spot interviews at the company booths
    • Internship and full-time opportunities for students
    • Graduate school information and even some offering application discounts
    • Research opportunities
    • Free company swag
  • More than 400 session formats
    • Workshops with extensive discussions and some hands-on exercises to help the audience develop their skills
    • Panels that rely primarily on the contributions of the audience for Q&A
    • Mentoring circles
    • Research presentations by graduate and undergraduate students (all of who entered in the ACM Student Research Competition which was sponsored by Microsoft Research)

Applying to the Anita B scholarship and attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of 2018 have been two of the best decisions I could have made as an eager college student looking for opportunities. As an undergraduate and first-timer to GHC I have realized how much I have been missing by not knowing about this event earlier in my technical career path. There are just so many reasons to go to this awe-inspiring event.

Microsoft civic tech fellow Vanessa Ortiz (right) at Grace Hopper Conference.
Microsoft civic tech fellow Vanessa Ortiz (right) at Grace Hopper Conference.

Here are some worthy reasons:

  • The Career Fair is perhaps one of the biggest reasons to attend GHC! As a soon-to-be graduating student, getting exposed to almost 100 available internship and job opportunities is a dream. Running in to that career fair was like waking up Christmas morning and running to see what gifts were for me. The GHC career fair truly opened me up to other potential positions I never knew existed. Organizations arrive to this event to specifically find technical talent.
  • Become Part of a Tech Community! GHC is the perfect event to learn about technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, data science and even entrepreneur-related topics. By attending the many session formats, you have the opportunity to truly network and learn how to get involved in intermediate and/or advanced level tech activities in your area. Also, it’s great to know that many of the attending companies and startups that are at these sessions want to learn how to build inclusive cultures and that includes people of all unique backgrounds and levels in their technical careers. This creates a window of opportunity for you to ask questions and learn how to become more involved.
  • Parties! Not only do you get to hustle for developing your technical career path, but you also get to enjoy yourself in the location of GHC (this year the event was in Houston)! As an attendee, you can get invited to exclusive events through the companies you connect with throughout the event or just simply through friends. Imagine these experiences all while creating friendships with professionals and other students from around the world.

One last huge takeaway from this event, aside from taking advantage of the incredible exposure of opportunities at GHC, is to understand how much we’ve been shown through the many inspirational speakers to never underestimate the potential we all have. “Being underestimated was the best thing that happened to me. I am coming for you Elon, I’m coming!”  Jessica Matthews proclaimed. Not only did a huge smile appear on my face from ear to ear after hearing Jessica say that, but the uproar from the empowered GHC 18 audience gave me goosebumps! One last thing: don’t be the one to stop yourself from your own greatness—leave your fear aside. The Grace Hopper Celebration is the event to not miss out on.

**Here are some more of the other very inspirational speakers: Justine Cassell, Associate Dean of Technology Strategy and Impact, Padmasree Warrior, CEO & Chief Development Officer of NIO U.S, and Sophia Dominguez, CEO and Co-founder, SVRF.