My Grace Hopper Experience: Tuesday and Wednesday #ghc14

Having been flying since 1.30pm Arizona Time Saturday, I finally got back to Hull around 6 or 7pm GMT Sunday, and whilst that was a very long journey back, the 3 days I spent at the conference were brilliant and definitely worth going for.

Looking at my stack of work, I’d much rather write about why than actually do my work, so here we are.

It all began on Tuesday, arriving at Phoenix Airport via Amsterdam and Minneapolis, where I met up with my room mate, picked up my badge and other swag from the conference, and went over to the meet and greet with the other scholars. This gave us all time to get better acquainted with each other and with the program managers, Tina Pratt and Elizabeth Bolin, as well as meet several of the Anita Borg Institute staff who organised the conference.

The next morning my room mate and I attended the Facebook sponsored breakfast, put on for anyone interviewing with Facebook, working there or who had received a scholarship to attend through Facebook. I expected this to be a little more nerve racking than it was, but it helped to calm my nerves of the next few days and of the upcoming interview on Friday, and in general the atmosphere was of openness and community, so a great way to kick off.

This continued with:

– The newcomers session, where Tina Pratt talked a little about the conference, her experience and welcomed questions to herself and other conference organisers

– The opening plenary with CEO Telle Whitney and head of the ACM Alexander Wolfe, followed by ABIE award presentations and an awesome keynote from Shafi Gosswasser, a noted cryptography researcher.

– Aaand lunch break.

Lunch, for the 400+ scholars, was sponsored by Apple so obviously, this meant we had a little more swag given to us from Apple in the form of a notebook. The lunch had a more formatted approach than breakfast in that each table had a female Apple employee, who at a given moment, introduced herself, talked a little bit about her job and invited each of us to introduce ourselves in turn. This segued into talking about personal experiences and asking advice of each other, and at the end an announcement:

Just one more thing: turn to the back page of your notebooks, and there might be an apple sticker. If you have one, stand up. Each of you have won iPad minis

Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the lucky ones, but nevertheless enjoyed my time at the lunch and found the discussions very rewarding.

Following this I attended:

  • The Student Opportunity Lab: I attended a session in here on cybersecurity and one on data science. I thought they were good, but neither really brought out my passion for either job option – whilst they were very factual and defined that the areas are useful and that every area has it’s needs for both, I was looking for something more to show me “this is why it’s fun and why I’m passionate about it”.
  • A talk on contributing to OpenBSD: I don’t have a lot of experience contributing to open source, and whilst OpenBSD rang a bell, I didn’t know much about it, so this talk was good for showing me how nice a community they have and the options for mentoring and support they provide
  • A talk on contributing to the Linux Kernel: again, this was a nice talk to show that whilst the Linux Kernel has some notoriously negative conversations and arguments, there is still mentorship options available and having a guide of where to start and what process to follow for contributing helps me consider working with more open source projects in the future. Presently I wish I had time to do all these things…

Afterward I headed in to the career fair for a couple of hours: I’d somehow managed to forget my CVs which are a vital part of the career fair as a lot of the stands will ask you questions based on what’s on it, but for the few that I went to I gave them business cards. After dinner I headed back to the hotel to chill for a while, and print some more CVs as I predicted I would run out the next day.

As this is already a very long blog with just those two days, I’ll cover Thursday/Friday/my journey back Saturday in another post, and in the meantime try and dig out the photos I took of talks and such during the first couple of days.

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