GHC 2015 with Pragathi Sanshi

Tuesday, October 13, 2015, at around 3pm, I left my apartment to head over to Boston Logan Airport to catch my 5pm flight to Houston, TX to embark on one of the most inspiring journeys I have experienced. Currently in my last semester, I had always heard great things about the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women (GHC), but never had the chance to attend due to classes or co-op. I was determined to be a student attendant and experience all the excitement first-hand. Thanks to the wonderful sponsors from Northeastern University’s College of Computer and Information Science, I was able to attend my before graduating this upcoming January!

I had never been to Texas prior to GHC and was pretty excited to take advantage of the 90 degree weather. We arrived at the hotel late Tuesday night and after just a mere 6 hours of rest, were up and ready to get to Day 1 of the conference. The first day is very exciting! Everyone is scrambling from one talk to another and quickly learn that this may be the only place where they encounter longer lines for women’s restrooms than men’s restrooms. Trust me, the wait can be as long as 25 minutes in between sessions, so the best idea is to quietly sneak out during a session. I met up with one of my former roommates and CCIS alumna, who now works for Microsoft, and we exchanged our schedules. Turns out, we were interested in many of the same talks so off we went. The first session I attended, “Beyond Technical: Advancing Careers through Business Knowledge and Relationship Management”, was the perfect fit for me. 4 female executives shared their advice on how to switch from a technical role to a more business-oriented, managing role. As someone who hopes to end up in a technical management role, this was a very valuable session.

Heading out for a quick lunch at a small cafe right by the convention center, we enjoyed some quiet time in the sun before heading back for the afternoon sessions. We next attended a series of Lightning Talks discussing IoT and Emerging Tech. The Internet of Things is something that has recently grabbed my attention and I was really excited for these presentations. Although a couple of the five speakers weren’t speaking about what I had hoped to learn about, I got great exposure to some of the processes used and hurdles faced by companies working in this sector. Once this session was over, we all went over to hear the Wednesday Afternoon Plenary. The most interesting aspect for me was hearing the CEO of GoDaddy talk about his ideas on how to clean up the company’s image of previously objectifying women in their ads. It proved to me that awareness leads to change. When someone stands up for themselves, they get noticed, and changes are put in place. The hardest part? Standing up for oneself. How can this be easier? To stand up with many others who feel the same way. There is power in numbers and I thought this was a great way to end the first day of the conference.

After a fulfilling day of listening to some incredible women (and men) talk about their experiences, I headed over to the Career Fair. As a graduating senior seeking full time opportunities, this was the best place for me to get exposure to some major companies. I handed out my resume to a plethora of companies and even secured a couple interviews for the next day. Overall, the combination of career opportunities and technical presentations was ideal for a graduating senior like me. I now have a better idea of what certain companies look for in candidates, what specific roles require out of their workers and how to best represent myself as an engineer. That’s right as an engineer, not a female engineer.