Last month, I attended my first Grace Hopper Celebration. Going into it, I felt totally lost and overwhelmed and wished that I could have found a helpful blog post from a previous Hopper about what to expect. So I’m writing this in the hopes that someone attending GHC 2016 might find it useful.
What I wish I knew before Day 1
- Be comfortable! You don’t have to dress to impress. Almost everyone is wearing a t-shirt and jeans anyways. I wore business casual my first day and regretted it.
- Yes, the schedule is overwhelming… but if you pick out a few talks you’re interested in for each time slot, it seems a lot less daunting. And your top choice may be full so be sure to have a backup talk.
- If you came with friends/coworkers, divide and conquer the talks you want to go to, take notes, and give a summary of what you each learned over lunch!
- Eat before you get there or go early if you want food; the lines are outrageous and you will probably miss some of the keynote.
Other random tips
- Step outside of your comfort zone and strike up conversations with the people sitting next to you at talks or standing near you in line. You never know who you’ll meet!
- Don’t be afraid to skip a talk during a certain time slot and use that time to unwind and socialize (or go to the career fair).
- If you go up to the front after the plenary talks are done, you can talk with the speakers. A coworker and I did this and were able to get one of the speakers to join us for lunch later this month.
With Isis Anchalee after her talk about the #ILookLikeAnEngineer movement.
The career fair is VERY helpful if you’re looking for a job/internship. Many of the companies do interviews at the conference so bring copies of your resume and be prepared for an interview. There are so many companies you probably wouldn’t normally think of as hiring for technical positions like Visa, Nationwide, Macy’s, and more.
Even if you aren’t looking for a job, there are plenty of interesting companies to learn about and opportunities to network. I wasn’t looking for a job but still went to talk to companies that interested me and ended up meeting some cool people. Also, free swag. End of story.
Takeaways from the keynotes and plenary sessions
There were a lot of great speakers at this year’s GHC and I forgot to take notes at some of them, but here are a few whose messages really stuck with me.
Megan Smith, the CTO of the United States of America (I didn’t even know that was a position), spoke about tech jobs in government. She brought some of her coworkers to the stage who also spoke about their roles. It was inspiring to see how technology can make such a big and meaningful impact on so many people’s lives, from making the immigration process easier to the creation of healthcare.gov.
Hadi Partovi, Founder of Code.org, gave an inspiring presentation about the Hour of Code which is a global movement trying to get students involved and interested in the field of Computer Science. His talk encouraged me to get involved and to help my mom, a first grade teacher, set up an Hour of Code event with her students for later this year.
There were many other great talks and lessons learned from this year’s GHC that I hope to summarize in another blog post, however I will conclude this post with two quotes from Janet George’s plenary session that really resonated with me:
“Don’t treat others how you want to be treated, treat them how they want to be treated.”
and >“Technology won’t change the world, people will.”