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!

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