My Grace Hopper Experience: Friday-Saturday #GHC14

Friday morning I missed most of the keynote: I didn’t have any corporate breakfasts to go to and my brain wanted sleep from all the early mornings and late nights. I went in for the last few minutes, before queuing with everyone else for the opening of the third day of the Careers fair, and my final booked interview, which was with *dundundunnnn*…Facebook.

I felt this went well, which I have to say is a shock: for anyone else who’s considered not interviewing with the big companies because of the tech interview, do it, but look over the various blogs and questions people have out there. Preparation I think this time around (I did a practice with Google in February which I sucked at) was key to making me understand the process and feel ok about it: the blog that helped me was from Cate Huston which was pretty much exactly what I needed – a list. She also gave me moral support over twitter and the advice “find a way to stay calm”, which are words to live by.

Of all the books I purchased in the two weeks I had notice of the interview, Programming Interviews Exposed is the one that prepared me the most. I had serious difficulty not looking at the answer and puzzling out everything myself, and for most I just read the answer, but because of the style it’s written – aka breaking down the problem piece by piece, writing out the algorithm in text, and then writing code and refactoring – this helped to get into my head how to go through the interview.

Key piece of advice: talk before reaching for the paper/whiteboard, and if you’re stuck, say why you’re stuck and see if you can get any tips. Whether or not the interview went well, I walked out smiling and thought I did my best, and here’s a shock: I enjoyed it.

Moving on:

– Wearables talk: went along to see some presentations on wearables, including an interesting one on swim watches and reading from them on windows phone.

– More careers fair! I tackled the coding exercise at the Amazon stand who had Coding Ninja challenges every day which saw quite a lot of women stood around their stand with pads of paper and puzzled looks on their faces. The one I dropped in on was C++ which I hadn’t done in quite a while, so it took a lot for me to finally understand the answers (referencing and inheritance puzzler). Towards the end as it was reaching the close of the Careers Fair, I approached one of the Amazon programmers and said “I’m giving up: how close am I?” to which she looked disappointed, told me I had one answer correct but nudged me towards the right answer on the other, and gave me the prize anyway, which is a female Ninja with “Amazon” written on the top: supposedly Amazon will be having a gallery of where these dolls have travelled to, which as I frequently take pictures of wherever I’ve taken Charlie Babbage, is quite a doable task for me 😛

– IOT/wearables talk: some more presentations later in the day on how we can innovate this area and why women are probably going to be the ones to innovate it

– Dinner at a local Thai restaurant & celebration party thing: as aforementioned the two women I met at the VMWare party invited me out for dinner, which was quite nice, after which we went together to the final celebration, glowsticks and all. Here I made sure I had my LED necklace turned on and got plenty of comments on it, mostly “did you make that? where can I buy one?” which once again makes me wonder if that should be my path after university…

I said goodbye to my new friends, and despite only knowing them a couple of days felt sad to not know when I’d see them again. By the power of the internet though I’m sure we’ll stay in touch.

The following day, my housemate and I got breakfast at our hotel and headed out to try and find a shopping center: I took far too many dollars for a conference where almost everything was free, and where I had to pay for anything it was done using a prepaid debit card given by ABI/my sponsor.

Due to this (after not finding any shops, whatsoever!) I headed to the airport a bit late, and almost missed my flight. Whoops!

I had a brilliant few days at Grace Hopper, and despite the work and stress catching up on things I’d missed, I would recommend this to any of my friends as it’s an awesome experience…just don’t go to Phoenix for shopping, although next year it will be Houston and the following year, Memphis. A big thanks to everyone who made my trip possible, and all the people at GHC who made my experience so awesome.



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