The 2009 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

ghc09I spent the past four days in the company of about 1600 technical women at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Tucson, AZ, an it was an absolute blast! I attended with two of my professors and four of my classmates (none of whom had ever attended the conference before). I went into the conference thinking that it wasn’t really going to be “for me,” but that assumption was in error. There was plenty for me to participate in:

• The Companies: I knew there would be several hundred professional representatives at the conference, but I wasn’t expecting that there would be loads of professionals interesting in networking with me! I collected at least half a dozen business cards from people I’d love to work for, who actually invited me to contact them later. I also gave copies of my resume to at least four companies doing the kind of web development I want to get into when I graduate.

• The Panels: The panels, as expected, were awesome as well, though some were more awesome than others. The main problem I encountered was that the interesting panels were all at the same time, leaving me with less interesting choices at later times. A couple times, the presentations didn’t live up to the titles, either: I was very excited for the cloud computing panel, but the presenters weren’t excited at all. I ended up leaving that panel before it ended. However, the panels in which the presenter was really excited about her work were a thrill to attend. My favorites were, “Engineering Self-Organizing Systems” and “Bits and Bytes: Explaining Communications Security (and Insecurity) in Washington.”

• The Networking: While I think the Connect Project was a success overall, it could still use some improvement. The idea behind the project was to include a barcode on every conference badge, and then if you wanted to share your contact information with someone you met, you could flag down a “hopper” (conference volunteers) who would scan your badges and “connect” you. I did this several times, and I’m excited for my connections to be emailed to me so I can send notes to the people I connected with. The only problem was that it was sometimes difficult to find a hopper, and sometimes the hoppers weren’t sure how to use the scanners. I think more training is in order for next year.

• The Swag: When my professor told me to leave extra room in my bag for the swag, I don’t think I took her seriously enough. More than one girl from my school had to check a bag on the way home because they gave us so much stuff! My favorite handouts include a four-way USB splitter, a hand-cranked flashlight, shirts from Google and Microsoft, and the shoulder bag that came with the registration (which I intend to use all the time – it has a pocket for everything!).

• The Hotel: The conference itself was only one great part of this trip. The hotel that hosted the conference, the JW Marriott Starr Pass, was amazing. The landscape was breathtaking (and filled with cacti) and the food was incredible. They served us breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two days, and I couldn’t believe how delicious everything was. I guess that’s what we get for getting a spa resort.

• The Price: While registration normally cost around $500, plus hotel and travel, I was able to attend at no cost to me thanks to a combination of scholarships from the National Science Foundation and a grant from Winnifred Asprey through the Computer Science Dept. at Vassar College. Thanks so much!

    This year’s Grace Hopper was a blast, and I can’t wait to go again next year when it comes to Atlanta, Georgia. In the meantime, I picked up a bunch of ideas for blog posts, so expect to see plenty of GHC-related posts in the coming days.