Friday, October 4, 2013

Advancing Your Career With Leadership Presence

This was one of the last sessions of the Grace Hopper Conference, and honestly, I was pretty exhausted. It has been 3 full days of back-to-back interesting sessions, networking, dinners, and dance party! But, I did sign up to blog this session. So, I found a comfy spot in the Ballroom where this session was held, and was all set with my fancy touchscreen laptop (Thank you Microsoft! :-))!

Pat Kirkland arrived, and the room lit up the moment she spoke her first sentence "Leaders are ALWAYS looking for leaders". Pat was incredibly energetic and had an amazing stage presence. She went on "What is presence?". There were some responses from the room, and she then explained "Presence is…the social power granted to you by virtue of how you show up".

Before I blog about the session, here is some intro about Pat-
Pat is the founder of Skills to Success, Inc. and creator of the Predator, Prey Partner™ model, Pat Kirkland learned about communication challenges early in life. She comes from a family of seven children where communication and chaos were synonymous. Pat has worked with over 10,000 business professionals worldwide since 1990. Pat is an entrepreneur, consultant, coach, speaker and…. a character. Her passion and energy are contagious. She readily admits everything she teaches comes from her own personal challenge to move beyond poised, polished and professional to become funny, frank, and unforgettable!
As you might be aware, this session is about advancing your career with leadership presence.  Pat then explained what are the 4 qualities that define a good leader. A leader needs to be:
  • Confident
  • Capable
  • Adaptable
  • Approachable

So, how do we understand how others perceive us?

She started with a perception exercise where each one of us had to pick a partner. Each one of us had to behave according to few keywords put up on the screen (the other person does not know what our keywords are!!). The exercise is to perceive the other person based on his/her non-verbal behavior.

The keywords were as follows:

Person A

    • Keep eye contact
    • Still body
    • No Smile
    Person B
    • Avoid eye contact
    • Fidget a LOT!
    • Smile a LOT!
    I got to be the Person A in the exercise, and my partner was amazing!! She acted so well that it actually made me laugh a bit :-)

    We later learnt that this exercise is infact called the Predator-Prey-Partner exercise. They both form the extreme ends of the behavior scale where predators are rude, aggressive, and arrogant; and Prey is indecisive, and unable to focus. I can imagine how would it be when these two extreme behaviors need to work together. The amicable behavior is somewhere in the middle, which is called the Partner behavior.

    • Keep eye contact
    • Maintain a still body
    • And also, smile (not a lot though!)

    Pat says that we play the invisible power game with every person we meet in our day-to-day lives. The rules of the invisible power game being,
    • We judge the person based on the 1st 30 seconds of every relationship
    • Non-verbal (subconscious) behavior impacts a lot of our perception
    • This in fact determines who has control (i.e., if you are the predator or the prey)

    So, what are some signals of being a Predator?
    Extreme Competence Behaviors
    • Condescending tone
    • No facial expression
    • Impersonal manner
    • Over emphasizing words
    • Using negative words
    • Fast pace
    Payoff: Get results
    Cost: Sabotage trust and relationships

    Likewise, we have some Prey signals too
    Like-Ability Behaviors
    • Avoiding eye contact
    • Head tilt
    • Fidgeting
    • Raised eyebrows
    • Upward inflection
    • Low volume
    • Rambling "and…and…."
    Payoff: Maintain relationships

    So, it is obvious that we need to be somewhere in the middle of these two signals, which brings us to the Partner signals.

    Competence              +                   
    Direct eye contact
        Smile (any size will do)      
    Downward inflection in tone
        Using people's names

    Still body
        Upbeat energy

    Neutral stance
        Friendly tone


    Louder than avg volume

    Payoff: Get results and strengthen relationships
    Cost: Practicing partner behavior and attitude

    So, here is a quick recap image:

    Pat then gave us some practical tips that will help us practice the partner behavior
    1. Power Postures:
    • How to sit at the table
      • Cross your legs, sit at an angle, hands a bit apart, hands on the table
      • Look confident + relaxed
    1. Standing under fire
    • Be in neutral stance
      • Feet at 10 inches apart, one foot slightly at an angle, shoulders apart and relaxed, have a neutral face and don’t smile
      • What NOT to do: Hands crossed in the front/ fidgeting with things, hands crossed at the back shows under arrest symptoms
    1. Owning the room
    • Entry into the room
      • Walk confidently, greet everyone with a confident smile, have eye contact with everyone
      • Talk in a loud volume and don’t tilt your head
      • Don’t move your hands or fidget with them while you talk

    I found these practical tips incredibly useful. By the end of the session, I did realize that I exhibit some predator and some prey qualities and I need to work on those to become a good partner. Do reach out to Pat if you want her to hold a session in your organization:

    Pat Kirkland
    Skills to Success, Inc.

    Happy Reading!

    “Think Big. Drive Forward” – Plenary session featuring all the “ABI” Award Winners

    This is a plenary session with all the ABI award winners. To learn more about the these award winner, check out All these young women are role models for this year's GHC theme- Think Big, Drive Forward.

    1. Tell us a little bit about the opportunities and challenges for women in your community, and how do they overcome it.
    Tülin: A lot of women in my community tend to get married at an early age, and also have to work and not go to school at an early age. So, I am spreading awareness about saying "No" to these customs and fighting for our rights on determining the age when we want to get married, or have kids.

    Violette: In my community, we realized the secret that there is no success without including women. So, we started empowering women in all walks of life. For my organization, gender equality is given utmost importance. We literally measure that there is a 50-50 balance between men and women, which is quite uncommen in Rwanda. 

    Shikoh: For me, my personal philosophy about entrepreneurship is "When you see a challenge, and that is eating you up- Be the change you want to be". So, I started solving the problem that I was really passionate about. I started training women on how to use the internet, and when I started seeing results, I was motivated to keep going. I started focussing on the progress rather than perfection, and over the course of time, this gave me amazing results.

    Unoma: It is good to be angry if it moves you to action. The pictures of African women that I saw as beggars and people in desperate poverty angered me. In graduate school, I was the only African women and was often lonely. So, I put up a website in my Sophormore year and offered a 500$ scholarship for African women who were willing to study. I got 2000 applications, and that marked the beginning of my journey.

    2. How did you end up on the path you are in?
    Margaret: First semester of college was when I took my first programming class, and I had this amazing realization that it was fun! So, I switched my major to Computer Science. I pursued my graduate studies in the field of Computer Science and continued to do a PhD later. I later realized that it was easier to start my career as a Professor…and 19 years later- I am still there!

    Christine: During my bachelors, I took my first engineering class, and I really did not like the subject. I also took a Programming class and I absolutely loved it. While everyone advised me to pursue Engineering as it has more future, my instinct asked me to go ahead with Computer Science. So, I followed my gut, and years later- looks like my instinct did tell me the right thing. The biggest realization for me in this journey is that careers are never linear! You kind of experience things along the way.

    3. What is the most satisfying, most discouraging, and most surprising thing in your Professional life?
    Violette: For me, going back to my country and working for the women is the most satisfying thing. The most discouraging thing is not being able to reach as many as possible. The surprising thing is that the world has not yet realized the power of women!

    Alice: The most surprising thing for me in my profession is that my male colleagues are not really against feminism. The most discouraging thing is that "I have a 16 month old baby, and I get really tired at times". For me, there are not just enough time to do everything I want to do.

    4. Tell us a lil bit about changing a culture. How does that happen. How do u know when you are there?
    Christine: It's easiest to change a culture when it is primed for change. At Harvey Mudd, there was an opportunity for change. For me, the key is to not let others' pull me down. So, I assumed that the culture has already been changed and started behaving accordingly. Slowly, others started acting in response to my behavior. Over the course of time, this did facilitate change. 

    Tülin: When I met the farmers the first ever time, I never told them I was going to give them information about technology, and then slowly started giving them education. We then told them they could learn more about the prices, and they started showing interest in using computers to aid them in selling. We then moved to SMS and emails and educated them on how to get more products from their soil, and taught them how to negotiate with buyers and sellers. We moved from village to village, and spread the education to around 12,000 villages in Turkey. The farmers then realized that this was infact very beneficial. So, I now know that this will be maintainable and it will stick for years to come.

    5. How does the future look like to you?
    Violette: My personal goal is to not rest until I see Africa in a different light. I will not rest till that day when we talk about partnering with Africa rather than talking about the health in Africa. I will work towards that day when African women are able to decide when they get married, how they get married, when they want to have kids, and how they want to live their life.

    Shikoh: I want to change the world using technology! Right now, the biggest issue is unemployment for me. If we have some means to get some money in the hands of the poor, then  a lot of issues will get resolved. I want to see the future where we see "Made in Africa", and not "Made for Africa". I want our kids to stay and study in Africa, and not come to the US to feel included in the society and empowered.

    6. What are you most proud of:
    Christine: Getting my PhD!
    Margaret: Seeing graduate students that graduated from my class!
    Violette: Being a Rwandan diplomat in the US!
    Alice: Getting to meet President Obama last summer with a 10 week old baby!
    Violette: In 2010, I wrote a resignation letter in the times of economic depression because I felt that was not the right place for me.
    Shikoh: The Little girls in my community did not like math. But, I saw them not give up and continue pursuing it, and seeing that "never say die" attitude in African girls was my proudest moment.
    Tülin: I'm 32 years old and I have been doing the same thing for 10 years now. Even though I had to restart 3 times in this journey, I am proud of my patience and attitude of not giving up!

    I hope you found this session interesting and inspiring. 

    Happy Reading!

    Thursday, October 3, 2013

    Asking for What You Deserve: How to Negotiate for Yourself

    “Women do not negotiate for themselves as often as men or as effectively as men.” says Sheryl Sandberg. Women experience a “taboo” about asking for a bigger salary, better bonus, special project, promotion, or flexible work schedule, whereas men don’t hesitate to ask for what they deserve. This panel features real-word advice from experienced women and men on how to ask for AND get what you deserve.

    Moderator:  Angela Wong (
    Panelists: Justin Rattner (Intel Labs), Jane Moran (Thomson-Reuters), Mercedes DeLuca (Sears Holdings Corporation), Stephany Kirkpatrick (LearnVest)

    The session was fully packed in a huge Ballroom. I personally am at that point in my career where I could relate a lot to this session. Angela started the discussion with her questions-

    1. Describe a time when you should have negotiated and you did not?
    Jane: By the year 2000, I have been in this industry for a long time. I had a 6 month old son, and was pregnant again. I was working based out of Boston which happens to be the city my family settled. My work involved a lot of travel and at that point of time, I couldn’t travel anymore, and wanted a position in Boston. This desperation made me negotiate my salary $50,000 less than what I should have been making. Adding to this, I did not care to negotiate my title. So, I was hired as the Head of IT. I later realized that I should have negotiated. So, I went back to my manager and negotiated, and got the title as the CIO of the company. The main lesson I learnt here is not to let external factors such as pregnancy impact you when making career choices. Always consider misc. costs such as student loans, travel expenses like car mileage, gas etc. Understand your benefits package clearly and calculate the details of the entire package when you negotiate your salary.

    Justin: I started working for HP right out of college. I later got an offer from Intel. Back then, HP had no concept of stocks while Intel, on the other hand, offered 1000 stocks. So, I called my dad (my chief financial officer!!) and asked him for advice. My dad advised me not to get stocks and to ask for an additional $1000 in salary either!!! Few years down the lane, I realized how much I lost because of that decision. 

    2. Is there a right way or a wrong way to ask for more?
    Mercedes: There isn't. You should be very clear upfront about what is that you want and by what time. Be very prepared before you have that conversation with your manager or HR. Make yourself invaluable for the employer. Decide on what is your [x] factor and what is it that you care the most about. Is it the title? Or the pay? Or the location? Or the domain? If you hear No for something that you asked for, you still know that you've asked enough. Follow-up after a few months to check the pulse of the team.

    Jane: You need to ask! It is well known that men usually come and ask for a raise, while women ask their managers to offer help instead. We need to realize that work is more objective than school. If you feel you cannot negotiate yourself, get an outside council for understanding how to negotiate yourself.

    Stephany: Well! I can definitely tell you what not to do- "The company needs to do right by me" - Do Not show a sense of entitlement when you speak to your team, especially your manager. It's not ok to say "I deserve it". Be humble because bad behavior will never get rewarded in this corporate world.

    Mercedes: I would like to add another thing to this discussion. Do not go in with your personal problems. Have that professional etiquette when having these negotiation discussions. Don’t get emotionally tied to an outcome. If you don’t get what you deserve (say a title)- don’t get attached to the outcome. Practice to speak the right words before an interview/ review discussion. Use the resources availabe on,, to do the research and math. Talk to other people in the industry above you and around you, and ask them how they got there.

    3. What are some effective strategies that you used or people in your org have used to negotiate?
    Jane: My advice on this front would be- take your 10% and focus on you and your career, and think about self-promotion. Let people know what you're doing and the success of that project. As women, we tend to say "we" a lot. Start saying "I". Start making/having advocates who can negotiate for you in your organization.

    Stephany: Gain visibility. Do something every day early on in your career that goes beyond your comfort zone. For example, sitting down with people who you do not know. Volunteer for something even if it is outside your territory. Be thoughtful and have clear and clean data that backs up your claim.

    4. What are some ways through which we can start to cultivate some culture at work where women are encouraged to ask more?
    Stephany: Culturally, sometimes you might feel that the company is too fast to slow down. Be the thought-leader and do some research on what other companies are doing. Discuss with your peers if you are unable to bring it up directly to your manager.

    Justin: In technological companies, it is about the technology. Have an agenda as to why are you doing this job. Many people usually let their careers be managed by events. Most people who change/influence the world have an idea and follow that idea devotedly. Once you have an agenda and follow it, promotions and salary raises will follow when as long as you are on that path.

    Stephany: Map out your careers including the money you want to make when you are say 40 years old. In the early stages of your career, tell your Director/CTO/Manager that you are young and hungry and would like to learn more. Ask them if you can shadow him/her. But make sure that your day job gets done. Start observing everything that he/she does. Take advantage of the 1:1 times you have with them like travel time, lunch time and get acquainted to them. You will notice that this will have immense benefits in the long run.

    5. Can you share some tips on the words I should be using while negotiating?

    All the panelists: Be confident. Relax and have your shoulders back. Keep a constant eye contact. Know in your heart what you are supposed to say. Have the explanation of why "me". Be energetic and enthusiastic. If you get a 'No' the first time at the gate, schedule another meeting and follow-up. Publicize the work you've done. Tell your manager, "I'm very much excited to join the team, but can I get a $1 more".

    Hope this discussion helped you prepare yourself for your next big interview/ review meeting.

    Happy Reading!

    GHC 2013: Welcome & Keynote – Megan Smith

    Oct 3,2013

    It's Day 2 of the Grace Hopper Conference of Women in Computing and we are here at the Key Note by Megan Smith, VP @ Google [x]. The hall is filled with 4600 smart girls and women and the stage is set up in an incredibly artistic way. 

    The stage is all set for Megan

    Let me start with an intro about who Megan is-
    Megan Smith is an entrepreneur, tech evangelist, engineer, and connector. At Google[x], Megan works on a range of projects including co-creating/hosting SolveForX to encourage and amplify technology-based moonshot thinking and collaboration. For nine years prior she led Google’s New Business Development team managing early-stage partnerships, pilot explorations, and technology licensing for Google’s global engineering and product teams. She led the acquisitions of Keyhole (Google Earth), Where2Tech (Google Maps) and Picasa, and also led the team transition to add more engineering with Google Crisis Response, GoogleforNonprofits, Earth Outreach/Engine and increased employee engagement. Prior to joining Google, Megan was CEO and earlier, COO of PlanetOut, the leading LGBT online community, where the team broke through many barriers and partnered closely with AOL, Yahoo!, MSN and other major web players, and was early employee at General Magic and Apple Japan. Over the years, Megan has contributed to a wide range of engineering projects, including an award-winning bicycle lock, space station construction program, solar cook stoves and was a member of the MIT student team who designed, built and raced a solar car 2000 miles across the Australian outback.  She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT, where she now serves on the board. She completed her master’s thesis work at the MIT Media Lab.
    Megan Smith

    Megan introduced herself and started with a short video about moonshot thinking. Here are some quotes I loved from the video- "When you find your passion, you are unstoppable", "We don’t know how to do it yet, but we are gonna do it anyways". Quite an inspiring start indeed.

    Megan focussed on the idea of Moonshot thinking from her early years in the professional world. She says "The 21st century is all about technology. While I'm little more of a wandering around person unlike Sheryl who is a Lean In person, what we all aspire to do has a common motivation- Innovate". She shows an image of the 1st robotics conference in St.Louis and talks about the passion that the generation has for robotics and technology.
    The 1st robotics conference in St.Louis

    Megan's style of presentation was heavily image oriented. She let the images build the flow of her talk. While I tried capturing few images, I 
    couldn't really blog and take pictures at the same time. I'll try my best to write the gist of Megan's talk in a way that makes sense even without the supporting images.

    "In effort, there is joy" says Megan. There is an amazing amount of joy in putting in effort to do something you have always wanted to do and considered impossible, but there is even more joy when you succeed. Having this image of how success looks like and taking risks to get there is what makes a difference. Megan was an adventure trot. During her schooling at MIT, Megan recalled how she was the only girl in the Sophomore year project and how she gathered courage to let people watch (or rather stare) at her and took the next step even with all the negative criticism floating around you. One interesting thing I learnt about Megan today was- she is a Mechanical Engineer!

    She then switched gears and shared her thoughts about the different technologies and individuals who are changing the world.
    •  She urged the audience to take advantage of the fact that the world is one huge open network. There are an amazing number of tools available today which our earlier generations did not have access to.
    • She then spoke about Khan academy- the Heroism of one individual who was passionate about promoting education who began the revolution called MOOCS.
    • The one laptop per child project is creating a revolution by getting laptops to the 50 million kids who are earning to have a teacher to study. 
    • The power of big data in technology and innovation. She showed an image from Africa, and how under networked Africa was 3 years ago, and how much it has improved today. Do check out the "Aid to Africa" project that transformed Africa to "Made in Africa"- which was started by David Sengeh, a PhD student at MIT.

    Image of the world displaying the internet connectivity 3 years ago

    The image that touched me the most personally was the one taken from space. All that the folks in the space shuttle could see was this thin line- the India Pakistan border. This calls for us to act on more important things than hostility and division.
    Image of planet Earth from the space shuttle

    Megan then shared some resources that show real progress in 2013 in terms of visibility and conversation.  
    • Lean In Org
    • Global Women & Girls Focus
    •, which focuses on resurrecting the extraordinary work women did all along
    • Women Techmakers at Google I/O

    As the last part of her talk, Megan shared details about the 4 public projects Google [x] was doing. The sole mission of Google [x] is to work on Moonshot technologies. 

    • The self-driving car project
    • Google Glass (
    • Project Loon (an idea to bring the internet to the most under-connected parts of the world by using 3G hot spots on balloons)
    • Makani Power (Kite based windmills)

    Megan concludes her speech with two powerful quotes- "Think 10x, not 10%", and "Your approach should always be 2/3 yes AND, 1/3 yes but!"So, what's your [x]?

    Happy Reading!

    Wednesday, October 2, 2013

    The Fear of being Singled Out! Are you afraid of success?

    This is the first time I am speaking at the Grace Hopper Conference, and I am very much excited at the opportunity. The topic of my session is "The Fear of being Singled Out!" (which I understand is a topic that has been/ can be discussed for days together). My goal for the session is NOT to give a "speech" about what women fear, but rather spread awareness about the different types of fears (or obstacles) women (and men too!) face in the path of being successful, and discuss some tips to overcome them. This is my small attempt to create a community of smart, independent girls and women who will help each other understand, accept and fight our fears. 

    I prepared a handout that summarizes the gist of my talk. The following is the content from the handout. 


    Think Big”er than your fears”, Drive Forward - is the secret recipe for success in today's world. Fear of being singled out, being successful, is quite common in career oriented women at all levels. This fear can cause us to lose out on a variety of opportunities in life. Most times, we're unable to reach out for support because to do so would mean facing another fear, disapproval. Through this session, we would like to bring about an awareness about the signs and causes of the fear that hinders our progress in life, and discuss options to overcome it.

    The Signs, Causes and Tips to overcome our fears

    Some very wise words from a very wise (fictional) person, Albus Dumbledore, “Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery”. We need to ask ourselves, what is it really that stops women from owning their success and standing out in a crowd? It is only by acknowledging these fears that we will collectively be empowered to fight them. Let’s talk about 5 such fears and how to overcome them.
    #1: Have you received compliments like you should have been born a man because you understand technology or excel in sports? Or you are pretty smart for a girl? Or you feel you shouldn’t venture into a space because it is dominated by men?
    Many women are afraid of fighting everyday sexism [1]! Instead of choosing to bury our experiences and accepting them as part of daily life, help the other person understand that he/she is being a sexist (if they are doing it unknowingly). If they are infact doing it consciously, report this behavior to higher authorities. Help create a cultural shift to let girls and women know that they do have the right to say no to gender inequality.
    #2: Do you find yourself waiting for someone else to voice your opinion? Do you look for other’s approval everytime you speak up? Do you feel insecure about your opinion that you consider it not worth sharing?
    Many women are afraid of speaking up [1]! Don’t give yourself an excuse for not speaking up. Start leading without worrying about what others might think, and don’t preface your ideas with ‘maybe’ or ‘I don’t know, but…’ which show signs of weaknesses. Stand up for what you believe in, and tell yourself that it is ok to be wrong at times. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
    #3: Have you been criticized for your action or lifestyle choice? Do you think twice before posting a picture just because it isn’t cool enough? Or getting that tattoo because others might judge you? Do you try to create an image of someone you are not? Do you not do something you like just because someone else is better than you?
    Many women are afraid of being judged [1]! Trust yourself and the choices you make and stop worrying about what others might think. Stick to a confident posture, assertive tone and keep a smile on your face and you will find people judging you positively. Sometimes, you might even miss out a potential opportunity (like an employer) just because you pretend to be someone else due to your fear. Realize that there are infact very few people in this world whose approval you should be after.
    #4: Do you feel failure is not acceptable but rather shameful? Do you associate success with uncomfortable things such as competition and its evil twin, envy? Do you withdraw from the game altogether because it’s more comfortable to stay in the current familiar situation, than exposing yourself to new pressures and demands?   
    Many women are afraid of being successful [1]! Remind yourself that you are not alone. Remind yourself of all the extra resources success will bring you- a boost to your confidence, a more powerful network, a dream job, and a growing reputation that opens new doors. Think for a second- what have you been meaning to say or do? Can you make a tiny shift in your perception that will make it easier to step beyond your fear?
    #5: Do you receive a compliment and immediately follow it by a self-deprecating response? Do you attribute your success to luck, timing, or as a result of someone else’s help? Do you feel you suffer from the imposter syndrome?
    Many women are afraid of claiming their success [1]! Be proud of your accomplishments and build confidence to acknowledge compliments with an open heart and mind. Accept yourself as being healthy, happy, successful, prosperous, and accomplished. Visualize your life when you are successful and walk towards that path. Let us, as a community of smart, independent women, help each other understand, accept and fight our fears.


    [1] Based on the results from Lean In’s social media campaign

    I hope you are now inspired enough to understand, accept, fight, and recover from your fears and take that next big step towards being successful. Feel free to comment and/or continue the discussion on Twitter. My twitter handle is @vidya1288 and make sure you use #GHC13 while tweeting. 

    Happy Reading!


    Monday, October 8, 2012

    My experiences at Grace Hopper Conference 2012

    I have heard a lot about the Anita Borg Institute and the Grace Hopper Conference, but never had a chance to be a part of the conference. Thanks to Microsoft, I got a chance to attend the Grace Hopper Conference 2012 at Baltimore (all the way back to the east coast…reminds of my school days in NC #Nostalgic!). I ll pen down my overall experiences at GHC 2012 in this blog. For the individual sessions, please visit this link  (you’ll find a bunch of my blogs over there too).

    So, I’m all packed and set to fly to Baltimore. I along with my other female colleague (though we call ourselves the ‘giggly sisters’ at work) boarded our flight on Oct 2. After a really long flight (or should I call flights coz we did not have a direct flight. Sigh!) we reached Baltimore at around 9 pm. My first impression of Baltimore was ‘this place is hot!’ As soon as I stepped out of the airport, I was actually sweating! Can you believe that? Both of us were put up at the Sheraton City Center hotel, and I had to fight myself to get to sleep that night (Thanks to the time zone difference).

    Oct 3, 2012- First day of GHC 2012. I reached the Baltimore Convention Center, and the conference registration line was longer than any other line I have seen so far. There were women, more women, and even more women all over the convention center. After registering myself, I got my name tag, and I picked up the relevant ribbons to attach to my name tag. (Ok, for those of you who don’t know the story behind the ribbons - Ribbons are a big deal at GHC. It’s a way to let people know of your affiliation, association with GHC and Systers, and your participation). I picked up the Platinum Sponsor, and Partner (Thanks to Microsoft again), Systers (because I’m a member of Systers), and I received the Community Volunteer and Systers 25th ribbons at the Community Volunteers meet up later that day as I was a part of the GHC official bloggers group. As I walked through the convention center to attend the welcome note, I was reading the name tags of other women present at the conference to learn more about where they are from. I could see women from a wide range of fields- there were girls from school, women from industry, professors from academia, and some men (Well! The men: women ratio was like 1:300). And we were 3600 attendees at GHC 2012- so you can do the math!

    The opening note was awesome. We had the senior execs from the Anita Borg Institute talk briefly about the motive behind Grace Hopper, how to get the best out of GHC 2012, and a welcome note. Once the opening session ended, all the women gushed out of Hall D into the open (I use ‘gushed’ because it really was like water gushing out of a dam, but just a lil more colorful!). GHC had a variety of sessions catered for different streams- there were sessions for students, for women in industry, a career development track (mostly for junior women in industry), senior women summit panels, thematic tracks (Oh! GHC has a theme associated with the conference every year, with this year’s theme being “Are we there yet?”). Having many sessions (that too at the same time) has its obvious advantages and disadvantages. I went through the conference schedule ahead of time and picked the sessions I would be attending and hooked them to my Outlook (Thanks to my giggly sister for the suggestion to use Outlook on my phone). Do check out my blogs about few sessions that I attended at

    We had sessions and more sessions and even more sessions (with 15 min breaks in between ofc) for three continuous days. I was trying to absorb as much as possible. There was so much energy and it was really refreshing to be at GHC. We had an amazing career fair for the three days, and there were around 100 different companies and schools present at the career fair. It totally reminded me of the career fair at Grad school and how I used to prepare for on-the-spot interviews and take dozens of resume copies with me. I had to prepare this time too- but for a different reason- to recruit potential candidates for Microsoft and to tell them how awesome it is to work at Microsoft! It felt so good to be at the other side of the fence.

    We also had a crazy dance party on Day 2 and Day 3. It was so cool to dance with random people and get to know each other while dancing! I set a new record for myself – I made the most number of friends on a single day at GHC! Day 4 was the open source day where registered attendees can pick a project from the list of open source projects and work on them.
    So, there were sessions, career fair, dance party, key notes, many Microsoft specific events (like the luncheon, dinner, exec panel, senior women panel- it felt so good to connect to other Microsoft women and share our experiences and most importantly learn from each other).

    Here are some of the main reasons of why you should attend the Grace Hopper Conference-

    • Best place to build your network- Be it ‘C’- level execs, senior leaders from your org, or like-minded people, GHC is one place to meet them all.
    • Talks to learn about the leading edge technology- Many sessions in GHC are devoted to tech talks where researchers present their work. What is better than learning about technology from the experts?
    • Talks to get inspired- GHC hosts sessions focusing on women and their advancement. Be it talks relating to the low numbers of women in computing, how women juggle between their different world, or how do women break the glass ceiling and become successful- GHC has it all. Come, hear, and get inspired.
    • Your chance to give back the two cents to the field of computing- If you are one of the few women in computing (well, the ratio of men: women in tech is startling), this is your chance to give back your two cents. Be a part of GHC panels, senior women can find mentees and help them, motivate young students by telling them your story, give something back to your own community.
    • Most importantly- Have fun and let the woman inside you shine!

    Grace Hopper 2012 was an amazing experience, and I’m definitely going to attend Grace Hopper 2013 (at Minneapolis) and contribute more than just blogging. I hope to see you there at Minneapolis…

     PS: Pics coming up soon...

    Happy Reading!

    Friday, October 5, 2012

    GHC 12: Unlocking the Clubhouse: A Decade Later and Now What?

    Oct 5, 2012- Day three at the Grace Hopper Conference in Baltimore. Here is my next blog from an invited technical speakers track. This talk had an interesting title "Unlocking the Clubhouse: A Decade Later and Now What?". The title in itself was very thought provoking. Here is the abstract for the talk:

    In the decade since Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing was published, educational  institutions have coalesced around the mission of increasing women’s participation in computing. Yet, despite the uptick of interest in computer science majors and the surge of technology shaping all aspects of our lives, the numbers of women majoring in computer science are still abysmally small. In this talk, I will reflect on why this is the case, and make connections to the issues raised in Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing—the underrepresentation in computer science of students of color. As this talk is occurring one month before critical US national elections, I will examine how underrepresentation in computing relates to the larger issues we face as world citizens.
    The speaker, Prof. Jane Margolis is a senior researcher at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and is the author of two award winning books: Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Comuting, and Stuck in the Shallow End: Education Race, and Computing. 

    Jane came up the stage with a bright smile on and started the talk with some statistics about under-representation of females in CS:
    •  25% of female in computing workforce in 2011
    • 18% of female into CS in 2011
    • 14% of female into CS in 2010
    I was surprised on seeing these numbers. Only 25% of female in the computing field is startling! Jane then spoke about the startup cultures and the number of women in startups. These numbers made me all the sadder. Most of the women are in marketing and PR, so the actual number of women in engineering is far less than what is shown here.
    • Foursquare: 6/40
    • Dropbox: 3/35
    • Tumbler: 1/16
    • Vimeo: 4/31
    • Kickstarter: 4/14
    • Square: 10/54

    Jane bought up the interview with Jack Dorsey (co-founder of Twitter) about the number of female interns in Twitter. Jack’s reply was “Not in this batch…we’d love to find some”. My heart sank hearing this. “Not in this batch???” What does he even mean?

    So, what are the main questions ahead of us now?
    What should we do NOW?
    What are our goals?
    What are our strategies for change?
    Why is this issue important considering everything else going on in the world?

    Jane started with a little background about her. She started at Pacific Bell as a telephone installer (after graduating with a degree in social science). She knew nothing about working with tools- absolutely nothing! The phone company was forced to put women into this job because of the civil rights movement, and women’s liberation movement. So, they trained women about the process. Through that process, Jane discovered that she actually loved the job. Small things like “you don’t have to dress up for this work” made Jane fall in love with this job even more. This was a life-changing experience for Jane realizing that these opportunities were never being given to women for no reason. Her journey started there…

    Jane later went to Grad school and got her PhD in Education. Her main focus was on access and opportunities. She was also a visiting professor at CMU. The key findings during her stay at CMU (from interviewing girl students) were:
    •       Norms, Standards, Expectation were based on a small subset of males
    •       Women suspect, lesser, just because of their gender

    So, what are the key factors for social change?
    •       Date from your own backyard (so none could deny)
    •       Insider champions!

    After this study, Jane was determined to study the cause for underrepresentation of women in CS. She got a NSF grant for the same. Her key findings include:
    ->      Technology not the great equalizer
    ->      Disparities in opportunities
    ->      Issues are systemic:
    o   Structural
    o   Normative (Beliefs)
    o   Policy

    These beliefs and policy affected everything- ranging from the curriculum offered in the school to CS being considered just a vocational course. Jane found it hard to believe that floristry and CS were given the same credit at few schools. 

    All these findings inspired Jane to create a course called “Exploring CS”. It is predominantly used in the LA schools, and its being picked up around the country (around 70 schools). This is a course designed to show kids who don’t have experience about the numerous opportunities in CS, and how it is relevant to them. The course is tailored for them to show what they can achieve with technology. Presently, 40% of ECS students are girls.

    What I loved about Jane’s way of speaking is the intuitive set of questions she asks that makes you think. So, the next set of questions that Jane put forth were:

    •          So, what should we do now?
    •          Learn and discuss more about… Theories of social change for action
    •          How do we amplify our voice? 

    There is a lot of unconscious bias against women in the start-up world. Bias is within everybody and within us all, but we all need to be more conscious to be aware of this unconscious bias within us. Jane bought up reference to two topics here:

             ->  Reference to Square intern picture
    The interns at Square released a picture that caused quite an uproar amongst women in technology. Apparently Square did not find even ONE single female intern. All the 15 interns at Square were males. I wonder what Square has to say about this.

              ->  Reference to the resume study (for the science lab).
    The researchers at Yale University conducted a study for a position for a science lab. They had the same resume with just the names changed- one as a male student and other as a female student. The findings were startling. But Jane says she is sadder that this finding is a surprise! She asks “Isn’t this just known already?”

    We know this exists- Ok, so what are our strategies for social change? What do each one of us think in a situation like this?

    The solution is simple: There are NO quick fixes! We need to form communities wherever you are- there needs to be a social change. We as women need to raise our voice in situations like this. WE are the answer to such questions.

    The world of computer science has totally changed our responsibility. So, what is our responsibility? Jane answers this question with a series of pictures. (Sorry! I wasn’t able to take a picture of them)
    1) Work-family balance (May 1998 New Yorker- Child Care- woman sitting in a construction site and breast feeding her child)
    2) More Work-family balance (Two guys on a life boat and cribbing about not having a smart phone to do their work)
    3) Exclusion- July 23, 2012 New Yorker (Family on a vacation- and everyone looking at their own phones- is this even called a vacation?!?)
    4) Global consequences of CS and Technology
    5) Growing inequalities

    I feel the main motive of Jane’s talk is to make us think through her questions. THINK. Because only when you think- you realize what you should be doing and what you actually are doing. Think..and Think more…
    •          How do we deal with the contradiction, the biases?
    •          What do we do with all the pictures above (topics)?
    •          What should our response be?
    •          What have we be doing so far?

    If we have actually been doing something- why haven’t the needle moved yet?

    These questions made me realize a lot of things. I hope it did to you too…