GHC 2015 with Jackie Ali

On October 13th, I boarded my fourteenth plane of the season to fly back home to Houston. I wasn’t there to visit my parents this time though, or even to finally get my driver’s license (successfully acquired 10/13/15). The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing had finally arrived and Houston was hosting.

The week was packed with activities to the point that even Hermione Granger with her time turner could not have attended them all. There were rotating 20-minute workshops for students on Wednesday where I heard Northeastern’s own Rose DeMaio’s advice on “Crushing Your First 3 Months in Tech,” which included an emphasis on performing well and networking early. I attended a panel about Girls Who Code, a group dedicated to teaching girls to code and getting them hired. The career fair was packed with companies galore looking to talk about opportunities and give out invitations to their evening events and mixers.

One of my favorite events was the #WomEngGHC: Addressing the Diversity Gap panel hosted by Twitter on Wednesday night. The panelists included Surhabi Gupta (Airbnb’s Nerdettes), Maira Benjamin (head of Pandora’s Mixtape and Women and Engineering groups), Tracey Chou (Pinterest), Sharon Ly (Twitter), and Hilary Karls (Uber). It was in a Q&A format with initial questions from the moderator, Nandini Ramani from Twitter, followed by questions from the audience. The panelists described their experiences starting and running the women in tech groups at their respective companies, how they got support from management, and what kinds of activities their groups did. They responded to audience questions about how to retain women studying computer science so that they don’t drop the major, to which many of them responded with a suggestion of providing mentorship. This was a common theme throughout the conference as mentors tend to be helpful in providing guidance and encouragement during low times and as a model of what your career could look like in the future as a woman in tech. I asked the final question about how to address diversity for underrepresented racial groups in tech and how to add a network of support for those students if there aren’t enough to form a group. I was told that looking outward at other universities in the Boston area may be a good plan in order to form a cross-university meetup for black, Latinx, and Native American computer scientists.

I spent the week jumping between company mixers, the LGBTQ lunch, a breakfast with Square’s CFO Sarah Friar, and more. I met so many amazing people and had eye-opening conversations, caught up with old friends from other tech conferences, and even received my job offer! I highly recommend the Grace Hopper Conference for all women in tech, and hope many Northeastern students get the opportunity in the future!