Monday, July 12, 2010

My Favourite Grace Hopper Memories

My fellow Grace Hopper Communities Committee members wanted to share our favourite Grace Hopper memories over the next few days, and we hope you'll do the same! It's so much fun reflecting back on what has made Grace Hopper so special to me.

I picked a few of my favourite memories to share on my own blog. I hope you'll go check it out, then come back here and comment with your own memories.

Maybe you could pull up some of your past conference photos on Flickr, or find your favourites in the GHC09 Flickr group. Post the photos that give you the fondest memories on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or even here on the blog! You can find links to all the Grace Hopper online communities here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

GHC Memories - What's Your Favorite?

This year I'm working with some wonderful people on the Grace Hopper Communities Committee, and it's got me thinking about why I enjoyed GHC so much in the past and what my favorite memory might be. GHC is such a multifaceted experience; you are challenged technically as you attend a myriad of fascinating talks and sessions, you are inspired as you listen to female pioneers and Computing giants like Fran Allen and Barbara Liskov, and you are supported as you network with top go-getters at all career stages, from academia to industry and nearly any field of Computing you can think of. It's a whirlwind of lunches, panels, and great conversations! As you can imagine, anyone who attends would have a hard time finding the one memory that epitomizes their time at GHC. Nevertheless, I'm going to try.

In 2007 I attended GHC with a few girls I knew from school and through the GHC Facebook group. We didn't know each other very well at the time, but attending the conference created a bond between us and we have since maintained our friendship, even though we are now scattered across the world. We talk to each other frequently about our careers, issues facing women in technology, and life in general, and support each other through all our ups and downs. In 2008 we took it a step further by getting even more girls to come from our school and a few more from around the world. It was thrilling to be able to introduce the new girls to GHC and watch them experience it for the first time, as we had previously - the icing on the cake! So given all this, what's my favorite memory of GHC? Dancing with all of them - and 1500 other women in technology - at the final celebration (I don't think I'd been in the same room with more than 15 technical women prior to that, let alone 1500!), and being one of this gigantic group yelling at the top of our lungs: "I am a technical woman"!

If you've been to GHC before, what's your favorite memory of GHC? If you haven't been, what are you most looking forward to? Feel free to share in the comments below and on our Facebook group, where I've cross-posted this!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Introducing a Recent Undergrad Graduate

Hello! I'm Ashley Myers, and I am the other co-chair of the Grace Hopper Conference Communities Committee. As both Ed and Gail I have done, I am here to introduce myself. If you haven't yet, check out other attendees introducing themselves and introduce yourself on LinkedIn, Facebook, or any of the online communities.

I learned of GHC during my first year of college. It seemed like one of those things that only the lucky would attend. "The largest women in computing conference." I was a broke college student, there was no way.

The following school year, a classmate was awarded a student scholarship to attend GHC07. She came back with a ton of photos of her amazing time in Orlando and was totally energized about all things Computer Science. At some point toward the end of that school year, I came to the decision I was going to Grace Hopper in 2008. I applied to be a Hopper (GHC10 Hopper application closes on July 30th), crossed my fingers, secured funds from my university for the flight, saved cash from my summer internship for the hotel and registration (just in case), got a roommate via Twitter to split the hotel room with (Hi @emilyhowe!), and that was that!

Since I had not participated in the official call for participation, Ed (my forever roommate) and I signed up for pretty much everything asked of community volunteers: Twitter, Flickr, note taking, blogging, and video blogging. This involvement has made my experience these last two GHCs. I have met and most importantly kept in contact with so many women through these online mediums. I encourage you to either informally participate by tagging your tweets and blog posts with GHC10, or to officially volunteer (GHC10 online Community Volunteer application is live until August 24th).

The best thing about the online communities is you don't need permission to get involved. Here are all the places you can find and connect with me!
This year marks a big change for me. This will be my first Grace Hopper I will attend as a women in industry rather than as a student. I will also be traveling from my new home in Seattle, moving officially for the first time in my life next month.

What's your story? Undergrad? Grad? Industry? Academia? Introduce yourself in the comments below, on LinkedIn, on Facebook, or any of the online communities! I look forward to meeting you!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

3 Women, 2 Grace Hopper Conferences, 1 Global Collaboration

Three of the memorable women I talked with at Grace Hopper (GHC) in 2009 were Shikoh Gitau, a student researcher from South Africa, and Mary Hudachek-Buswell and Stefanie Markham, the local chairs for this year’s conference in Atlanta. These women forged a strong connection at GHC 2009 that has continued to develop, resulting in a panel to be presented at GHC 2010. Earlier this year Mary shared how she and Shikoh first connected: through our Grace Hopper 2009 Rides & Roommates discussion on Facebook. It’s such a great Grace Hopper story that I asked them to share it here on the GHC blog.

Mary’s story: Meeting Shikoh at GHC09

Last year was my first time to experience the inspiration of GHC. It was a long anticipated trip since GHC has always been something I wanted to participate in, but had not had the opportunity to do so in the past. I was asked to serve as the local chair for GHC10, and I just had to get to Tucson for GHC09. I decided to immerse myself in the experience of attending before traveling by reading the posts on Facebook and LinkedIn as the time approached. In order to save travel money with the budget crunch, I had to fly into Phoenix and drive to Tucson in a rental car. I kept noticing people posting requests for rides, meetings, or attending some sightseeing events together. I thought it was a great idea to communicate in this way. I liken it to listening in on a huge girls' gab session where they were all discussing going to THE party of the year. I became slightly addicted to reading the blogs, posts, and tweets which fed my excitement in attending GHC09. Occasionally, the thought would enter my mind, "What if GHC didn't measure up to my hopes and vision that I built up in mind?"

I was going to GHC09 with my Computer Science "sister", Stefanie Markham. As the time approached and anticipation mounted, I took the plunge and began participating in the online conversations. There was a post from a young woman in Cape Town, South Africa who needed a ride to Tucson from the Phoenix airport the day before the conference started. I had space in the car with only Stef and me driving down from Phoenix, so why not? It was the day and time we were arriving, and it would only cost sharing a couple of hours with a stranger in a small car in the middle of the desert. So Shikoh Gitau and I began coordinating online how we would meet, since phoning was out of the question. I gave Shikoh my cell number to call the day I would arrive in Phoenix. That was how we left it. Would she actually be there from South Africa? What did she really know about me? We each gave a leap of faith based on our common bond for what GHC could hold for both us.

Stef and I landed in Phoenix, finally got our bags, located the rental car facility, and finally got the car (seemed like hours). All the while playing phone tag with Shikoh. What Shikoh must have thought of the two crazy women from Atlanta. We met in an underground parking lot in Phoenix on what seemed like the hottest day of the year. As we began our drive to Tucson, (yes there were wrong turns as I was the driver) we got to know about each other and how our paths led us to GHC09. Shikoh had the same spirit as Stef and me, and a passion for furthering women in computing. Our new acquaintance with each other was fast growing into a tentative friendship as we filled every minute of the two hour drive with giddy discussion. We arrived at the resort and Shikoh determined she needed to be at a hotel somewhere else in downtown Tucson and there were no shuttles to get her there. Stef and I quickly checked into our room, and then headed out to take Shikoh to her hotel at the University of Arizona, as wel as a couple of other stranded students. Stefanie and I dropped the young women off, and then headed out to explore Arizona after a stop for fast food. We thought this would be our last encounter with Shikoh.

Not so! First thing the next morning and throughout the week, I continued to run into Shikoh and we would share our viewpoints, ideas, and information from sessions. We talked about how we should do something together for a future GHC. As we discussed the important issue of gender based violence after Megan Smith's speech, an idea came to the forefront of what we might be able to do. It was one of those goosebump moments in your life where you realize you might actually be able to make a real change in the world for the greater good. Our idea continued to grow, and plans were sketched out before we departed for our separate parts of the world. Both of us were forever changed by our meeting and connection to GHC. We have communicated electronically over the last 8 months, and our panel Take Back the Tech (Part II) was accepted to GHC10. We have a dream to harness technology in order to end violence against women in third world countries.

Shikoh’s story: Meeting Mary and Stef at GHC09

After receiving the news that my poster had been accepted for the GHC and that I had a travel scholarship to go all the way to Arizona, I was ecstatic. After all the excitement cooled down, I got right into planning how I was going to get myself SAFELY to Tucson. The Cape Town – Arizona flight takes about 24hours, so to beat the 11 hour jetlag I planned to arrive a day early. However, my funding did not cover the extra night so I first scanned my over 800 Facebook friends list to see who among my former classmates and friends lived in the area. The nearest I got was Phoenix, Arizona. They were very kind to host me for the one night. The next problem I encountered was to get to the hotel in Tucson from Phoenix. I joined the GHC fan page to see who was doing what, and posted my need for a ride to Tucson. Being from Africa, I am very wary of this kind of arrangement, Hollywood does not instill much confidence in as far as the great American desert is concerned. I had seen all sorts of imposter and hijacking movies, but I cast away the fears and went to the underground parking lot of the Phoenix Airport. With no pictures to view, I had to work with clothing color in order to identify Mary and Stef.

The U.S. was very new to me, so they brought me up to date with the whole being an American ritual. In that drive, I gained good friends and mentors as we headed towards GHC09 in what I regard as the greatest gathering on earth. Previous to the trip, I read a lot of what was presented in GHC, and came away feeling like an odd ball. My research in computer science was totally different from anything anyone was presenting, and needless to say I felt like an imposter. So as we exchanged our research approaches, I ended mine by saying that I am not “a real computer scientist”. The reaction from both Mary and Stef was not what I expected. They in unison told me to never ever say that, and stated that my research was great. It was good that I met these women and they had told me my work was good, because in the coming days, I continued to experience the “I am not a real computer scientist” thing, and they were there to correct me at every turn. After the keynote speech by Megan Smith (Google), they both came hunting after me with an “I told you so” expression written all over their faces. I have to say they were right; my research is indeed real computer science research. The meeting and discussion thereafter lead to the organization of Take Back the Tech (Part II), a panel at GHC10 that will bring together women from industry, academia, women’s rights activist as well as feminist organizations to discuss technology and gender based violence. We hope to have a concrete technological intervention as result of this panel as well as the continuing conversation.

Join Shikoh and Mary in the Grace Hopper Celebration session Take Back the Tech (Part II): A Feminist and Techie Dialogue on taking control of technology to end violence against women from 4:15 p.m. – 5:15 p.m. on Friday, October 1, 2010.

If you seek a ride or roommate for GHC, look for Grace Hopper 2010 Rides & Roommates on the Discussions tab of our Facebook page. And make your own pre-conference connections through our GHC online communities.

Do you have a story of a great connection made at the Grace Hopper Celebration? Tell us about it!

GHC Bloggers Latest Updates