Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Volunteers make Grace Hopper happen

Have you ever wondered how to become involved in planning a major conference like the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing?

You start by attending your first Grace Hopper. You get blown away by the program, the networking opportunities, and the sheer number of women that understand what you do for a living. A chance conversation sparks an idea and you are on your way to organizing a program proposal for the next Grace Hopper in an area that really excites you.

At the next conference, you tell conference organizers that you are interested in helping wherever you are needed for future conferences. You may review scholarship applications or serve on a sub-committee to evaluate program proposals. The next year, you share ideas about how some aspect of the conference could be even better and find yourself on a task force to implement the improvement for the next conference.

As you show that you can deliver what you promise, you may get asked to take on more responsible roles. In a conference run by volunteers who have other demanding life and work responsibilities, someone who meets all their commitments is extremely valuable.

P.S. The good news is that the staff from the Anita Borg Institute do all the heavy lifting for the conference. They handle the mountain of logistics and coordinate the army of volunteers that make the conference possible each year. No matter how demanding a volunteer role you may accept, they’ll be there when support is needed. As General Chair this year, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work with them.

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