The Grace Hopper Celebration, recently hosted in Houston, Texas, is “the world’s largest gathering of women technologists,” according to AnitaB.org. It is a major opportunity for women, who are generally underrepresented in the tech industry, to seek job opportunities, attend learning sessions, and connect with others within the field. Over 20,000 women attended the conference this year, and some of our very own QUEST students did as well. Sasha Miller (Q29), Jacqueline Deprey (Q30), and Neha Satapathy (Q30) got to fly to Houston for the expo featuring over five hundred companies set up by the Anita Borg Foundation.
While the conference has a very technical base, the conversations to be had were very enriching beyond the obvious deliverables. Q30’s Jacqueline attended a session comparing careers in software engineering and project management. Jacqueline got to see what each of the career paths looked like beyond their surface titles and past the stereotypes. After reflecting on the conference, Sasha learned the most while listening to a talk given by Emily Chang, the author of Brotopia. Emily’s message and Sasha’s biggest takeaway was that “women can’t fear away from intimidation of men (especially in Silicon Valley) and women have to continue to break the norms in tech to change the future.”
Being that the three women featured in this article are also QUEST members, they definitely noticed QUEST playing a role in their time at the conference. The overarching sentiment was a sense of gratitude towards QUEST as ideals and projects from QUEST panned out to be great talking points during interviews. Recruiters were consistently impressed by the advanced team-based work that the QUEST students had. Jacqueline really felt that QUEST was also helpful in strengthening soft skills to be used for the casual networking events that followed conference socials.
To get involved with future Grace Hopper Celebrations and even just to grow a network amongst women in computing, joining the Maryland Center for Women in Computing (MCWIC) is a great place to start. They not only provide a plethora of resources here on campus, but they also awarded scholarships to send women from Maryland to the conference. Jacqueline says that she “100% would recommend attending…[she] gained advice that helped shape the direction [she] wants to take [her] professional career in, networked with inspirational industry leaders, and even obtained several job offers.” On a similar note, Sasha said, “I would recommend this to all females in tech. It is a once in a lifetime experience that provides you with such unique opportunities. You’ll meet great people, be challenged intellectually, and have amazing offers come out of it!”
The trip was full of meaningful highlights for our QUEST students. Getting to meet so many new people and having the chance to learn so much in such a brief time was exciting! Sasha loved getting to develop stronger connections with UMD’s community of computer science females that she did not know before the conference. Furthermore, she feels like “[she] gained a positive mindset… being around such influential and powerful women in tech made [Sasha] feel incredibly empowered.” From traveling and rooming together to attending company sponsored socials and celebrating the adventure, the conference was an all-around fantastic experience. Long term, the Anita Borg Foundation hopes to create a more level and equal platform within the tech field, and it is definitely fair to say that Sasha, Jacqueline, and Neha left with not only a polished understanding of the tech world but also with memories to last through their careers in tech and beyond.