Thursday, September 29, 2016

GHC Accessibility


The saying goes that everything is bigger in Texas and the George R. Brown Convention Center is no exception.  The convention center falls just shy of 2 million square feet (over 167,000 square meters) spread over three levels.  It is in the heart of downtown Houston, making the ideal place for the projected 15,000+ Hoppers to gather.  While getting from point A to point B in such a large facility can seem daunting, there will be plenty of help available.


All levels and most entrances of the convention center are wheelchair accessible.  Each level has 2 sets of elevators in addition to the escalators.  In addition, every bathroom is wheelchair accessible, however note that the lines sometimes get long during the session intermissions.  Everyone should plan accordingly.  Some of the events such as Syster’s luncheons, will be held in ballrooms of the Hilton of the Americas.  The hotel can be accessed by crossing outside at the street level or by using one of the sky bridges located on levels 2 and 3 of the convention center.  Personally, I suggest the sky bridges because they are air conditioned and the Houston heat can be fierce even in October.  Plus you get to take in the beauty of surrounding downtown Houston!  There will be plenty of convention center staff on-hand to give directions to meeting rooms and other facility amenities.  They are always happy to help hoppers find their way around.  Each level of the Toyota Center is also accessible by several sets of elevators and escalators.  There will be attendants at the Crawford and Polk entrance to help attendees locate accessible seating.  For Toyota Center specific information, email
The shuttles between the venues and the GHC-designated hotels are accessible; there is also accessible parking at each of the venues if you are planning to drive.  In addition, all of the buses from the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County are accessible.


One of the great things about GHC is that both the attendees and the experiences are so diverse.  My experience is different from the next hopper’s experience, but we still get a chance to enjoy it together.  In order to ensure that everyone enjoys all there is to offer, sign language interpreters and dedicated ushers are available.  Check out this page to learn more.

We love our furry counterparts.  And although you may think your cat is just as interested in Artificial Intelligence as you are – and she probably is because that’s how cats are planning to eliminate the need for humans – please leave her at home in the care of a friend or family member.  Only trained service animals and emotional support animals are allowed to attend GHC.  Make sure that the animal has identification marking him or her as a service/emotional support animal, as well as a leash and/or harness.  I am personally one of those people who has to have a mental conversation with herself in order to resist the urge to reach out and pet an animal who is on duty.  Multiply me by fifteen thousand and you’ll understand the annoyance an unidentified service animal has to bear.

See you all in Houston!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Blogging and Note Taking!

Hey everyone,

So I'm sure by now you've all had a chance to take a look at the schedule and see all the amazing tracks and talks that are coming up at the conference! But, you may also have realized that it's physically impossible to go to each and every talk from every track that you'd like to see.

But never fear, we've got you covered! Every year the communities committee organizes hordes of volunteers to do blogging and note taking for all the sessions! Anyone  and everyone is welcome to take part in this effort. In fact, we're still taking applications for this year!

"But what's actually involved with this?" you may ask? "Will this take time away from the conference?" Keep reading to find out =)

The Basics

Short answer, no, this really shouldn't take much time away from the conference at all. The way it works is you sign up for three or more different sessions/talks that you would like to either note take for or blog about. Then, you just attend the session and take your notes or write a post about it later. 

Since your blogging/note taking sessions should be talks that you would want to go see regardless, this is meant to impose a minimal burden on you. The specifics of both are below.


This is more you giving an opinion on what you thought about a given session. Feel free to throw a summary of what went on as well, but also try and discuss what you thought of the session overall. And perhaps what kinds of questions came up from the audience and what they thought too! Just make sure you follow the RSS feed instructions to make sure other people can find your blog post too =)

Note Taking

Note taking is exactly what it sounds like! A factual recording/synopsis of what the talk was about and what was covered. You don't need to add your opinion in, just write down what's happening. Once the session is done, you can post your notes to the GHC Wiki for others to see! 

We aim to have a blog post and notes for each session. So if you miss anything, you can read up on what was actually covered during the talk and what someone thought about it to boot!

Is this sounding like something you'd like to be involved in? Then please apply here. Applications close September 30th!

Need more info? Click here to learn more!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

GHC Venue

Hello again!

The GHC Venue this year is the same as last year, so you can definitely get some insider info on this one! The brunt of the conference will be at the George R. Brown Convention Center along with a few events at the Toyota Center. So, what should you know before you get there?

Getting to the George R. Brown Convention Center

  1. Conference Shuttles: There will be shuttles to and from the George R. Brown Convention Center and the Toyota Center from most of the main hotels. The route map should be available soon, so keep checking here for that to appear! If you plan on using the shuttle service, be sure to plan this around the talks you want to see. You might end up hitting traffic or taking longer to pick up and drop off other attendees.
  2. Taxis/Ubers: If you have WiFi or a data plan, you can opt for an Uber. Or you can hail a cab the old-fashioned way. If you're splitting with other attendees, even better. This is a speedier way to get where you need to go, just keep cost in mind.
One thing to note if you're getting to the convention center from the an airport, remember that there are two airports closeby--the William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) and the George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). So if you're coordinating rides from "the airport", make sure it's from the same one =) If none of this really fits the bill for you, take a gander on the GHC transportation page to get some more ideas of how to get around. 

The Actual Convention Center

To say that this venue is big is a huge (haha) understatement. It's monumental. Be prepared for a lot of lineups and a lot of map checking. There are several things you can do to navigate the convention center a little easier:
  1. Download the conference app and make use of its ability to create your own itinerary, it will have all the locations in there for you, and hopefully a handy-dandy map!
  2. There will also be maps sprinkled around the building(s) and in your conference book. 
  3. Docents and Hoppers walking around can also help you navigate. They're there to help you, so don't be afraid to ask!
So that takes care of actually getting around. But here's some other things you should keep in mind:
  1. There will be lines to get into certain talks, panels, and presentations. Keep in mind how far your next talk is. If it's a talk you really want to see, you may need to leave your current one a few minutes early in order to go line up. If the room fills up, it's full. They're not going to risk a fire hazard because you were late.
  2. Add extra time to whatever your estimate is to navigate around. The sheer amount of people that are milling around will slow you down. Make sure to account for these traffic jams in your planning.
  3. The sheer number of people attending mean that you're not always guaranteed a good seat. For example, just the plenary talks and keynotes are meant to have everyone attend, so don't fret if you're really far back. There are still screens to help out. But if you want a good seat, be prepared to get there early.
  4. The air conditioning is very strong. If you get cold easily, like I do, be sure to bring some layers with you. 
  5. There are not enough outlets. There are never enough outlets. It doesn't matter what room, talk, or hallway you're in. Be sure to charge everything beforehand and bring any other charging apparatus you will need (wall chargers, extra cables, power bars, power banks, etc.). Side note, sharing a wall outlet is a great way to meet new people at the conference =)
  6. Be patient with the WiFi. 15,000+ women using it all at once is bound to stress things!

Leaving the Convention Center

If you're flying out soon and still want to catch some talks, but have already checked out of your hotel, never fear! Make one last use of conference shuttles and shove all luggage into the coat check =) You are free to roam a few more hours before catching your plane! The center is a great place to get picked up, either by an Uber or a taxi, whichever you prefer.

Hope this helps and that you all have a great time!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Low-down on Speaking at GHC16

So you're speaking at GHC16. What do you need to know? How can you prepare to be the best you can be? How do you calm your nerves?!

Although I wasn't lucky enough to have any submissions accepted to this year's conference, I have spoken at Grace Hopper before along with many other venues. Let me start by reassuring you that this is one of the very best places to present. I have rarely found a more wonderfully supportive audience.

Let's get some of the official stuff out of the way. As a speaker, you need to thoroughly read through everything on the speakers section of the conference website. In particular, note the quick references on the right.

I'd like to draw your attention especially to the Speaker Ready Room info. There, you'll learn about uploading your slides before your presentation, and you'll see a link to the slides template. Please take the time to design your presentation using the template right from the get-go. Trying to shoehorn an existing presentation into the template tends to look unprofessional, and not using the template at all even more so. Also make sure to leave plenty of time to upload your presentation and test it. You'll want to make sure any embedded media is actually embedded, and that your fonts and colours look ok.

The conference website also includes some tips on speaking. I'd also like to share another amazing resource that brings you weekly inspiration and advice on speaking: a newsletter called Technically Speaking. Subscribe now and you will benefit leading up to your talk, and check out the archives as well.

Finally, I have a few tips of my own:

  • Design your slides with as few words as possible. Convey the main idea through pictures and a short phrase.
  • Add speaker notes into the notes section of the slides. When practising, you can simply read the notes at first. This should make you familiar enough to be able to improvise more day-of.
  • Practice in front of colleagues at some point with enough time to receive feedback. Provide them with a written feedback form they can use to give you anonymous ideas for improvement.
  • On the day of your talk, arrive in the room early to give yourself time to calm your nerves.
  • Make sure you have access to water during the talk.
  • Before you start, take some deep breaths, maybe with your eyes closed. Think yoga breathing.
  • Invite the audience to chat with you after the talk, and stand somewhere where it's easy for the audience to actually do so.
Good luck with your talk – I'll know you'll be awesome!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

GHC16 & (NoobTips | VolunteeringOpportunities | ScheduleExperiment)

by Zaza Soriano

Noob Tips

I remember my first year attending GHC, I am too tired to calculate the exact year, but I remember that it was in Atlanta, GA and had maybe 0x07D0 attendees. Yet, I was still extremely overwhelmed. If it wasn't for being a hopper (one of the ladies (or men) you will see running around in red vests), I wouldn't  have talked to any one. As it was, I would go hide in my hotel room when I wasn't volunteering. Now though, I am a social butterfly!! I thank GHC for part of that, I think having a ton of like minded women around made it easier to hone in my networking skills and break out of my shell.

Two years ago I made a prezi with some useful tips/tricks for getting the most out of GHC ( When I made that Prezi there were only going to be roughly 0x1F40 attendees, but now there are going to be 0x3A98!! The same tips will apply, but I would like to emphasize a few things below.

  • The schedule this year is keeping similar sessions clustered together, this is good except for if you want variety. So keep in mind how far away your next session is, and always have a backup in case it fills up and you can't get in. 
  • Bring a lot of extra batteries, a charging cable, and my favorite, a printed out copy of the schedule. 
  • If you get overwhelmed, don't be embarrassed to go find a quiet hiding place to recoup (yes they exist, you just need to be creative). 

I would also reccommend reading the blog post just before this one, as it also gave a lot of good tips/tricks for first timers. :)

Volunteering Opportunities

As the ABI GHC Communities Committee chair this year, I feel I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't tell you how awesome it is to volunteer at GHC. :)

If you have attending GHC at least once and feel like you are ready to give back and get a unique perspective from the conference, volunteering is a great way to do that. You get to take on some responsibility, grow your network, and work on your soft skills (employers love those). Volunteering is also good for those first timers that like to just dive right in!!

The official ABI volunteer page (with info on each opportunity) can be found here: ( The committee is in charge of organizing the Speed Mentoring and the Blogging/Note Taking volunteers. So I will talk a little about each below, and you can apply to either of them here: (

Speed Mentoring

Mentoring will happen: Friday, 21 October 2016
Applications close: Friday, 30 September 2016

Attendees are looking for various mentors to give advice on career paths, graduate schools and personal aspirations.

Blogging/Note Taking

Applications close: Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Extended till: Friday, 30 September 2016

This is a great opportunity to work on your writing skills and to give back to the community. A lot of times the attendees womaning the booths can't attend the sessions (not to mention all the woman who couldn't register this year). They rely heavily on the notes and blogs that our volunteers do on most of the sessions. 

If this interests you, you will need to create an RSS feed for part of the application. The instructions are below: 

Schedule Experiment

Hopefully by now you have all seen the official schedule ( In an effort to make the schedule more user friendly and similar to the old style where you could easily see what sessions overlapped, I started putting together a google sheet version (

It started out simply as a plain excel sheet that had blocks for each session. In an attempt to procrastinate (coding >>>>>> writing), I spent the night learning the Google API scripting language and added in a way to display the details on a session on a right panel. As you can see in the gif below, the panel updates based on what session is selected.

You will need to log into your Google account to view the sidebar. You will also need to allow the script to run. In order to get the authorization prompt you need to open the script editor and run one of the functions (see 'Adding Functionality' section below). At which point you should be able to go back to the sheet and see it populate with the session info of your selected cell.

The Experiment

If you look at the sheet you will see that I completed Wednesday and just barley started on Thursday. THERE ARE SOOOO MANY SESSIONS!!! The link above allows anybody to edit the file. I would like to see if as a community we can make a better, more useful schedule for everyone. Can you contribute? Even a couple minutes here and there will help tremendously, I mean... with  0x3A98 attendees, I think the odds are in our favor.

How to Contribute?

Below are some basic instructions to help get you started. The main thing is to follow the format that is already there and please try not to break anything. :)

Adding a new item 

Merge the cells that cover the block of time. Color it according to the cluster.

To have the side panel pull up the session info, you need to add a link to the cell. I found it fastest to right click on the '[More]' to copy the link and then paste it into the cell.

Adding functionality

If you are familiar with writing scripts for Google apps (or just want to learn), feel free to help with that as well. Again, please don't break anything. :)


  • Currently the sidebar cuts off the description, so you have to scroll to the right to read everything. 
  • If you try to click on a speaker, it will break and you need to reload the sidebar. 
    • I replaced the href with the full url, but the schedule site has a cross-domain block. If anyone has experience with this, your input would be a HUGE help. 
If you are interested in learning more about the development side, leave a comment below. If there is enough interest I can make a YouTube video of a walk-through of the code. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Travelling to GHC!

Hello all!

I think it's quite ironic that I'm writing a post about travelling to GHC as I'm not actually able to attend the conference this year! But, I have done it quite a few times, so wanted to give you some tips!

First off, flights there:

Flights. Long haul or short haul, they're all stressful (well, they are if you're me). I do everything possible to try and make sure that my flight there will go as smoothly as possible from check-in to takeoff to touchdown. Here's some ways to help make that happen:

  1. If possible, check in electronically the night before. This saves you time in lines once you get to the airport and it's one less thing you have to worry about the day of. 
  2. Tip 1 goes directly into tip 2--print your ticket at home. I also have tickets sent to my phone to be scanned there when possible, but I always print the ticket as a backup. If you've checked in electronically, you can do this at home and you can have all your travel documents ready to go as soon as your'e at the airport.
  3. For goodness sake, get to the airport on time, if not early. I always arrive well before the recommended time they say for flights. This means that I don't have to worry and be all in a tizzy when I get there, sprinting through terminals to try and make my boarding call. Worst case scenario when you get there early: you read a book, catch up on a show you've been meaning to watch, get some work done, or organize your GHC itinerary. Worst case scenario when you're late: you forlornly watch your plane fly away before you go stand in a long line to book a new ticket, hopefully still early enough to get to the conference.
  4. If at all possible, travel carry on only. Unless you're tacking a vacation on either side of the conference, you're only there for a few days. This way, you have everything you need with you at all times, no extra bags to worry about or standing at the luggage carrousel. 
  5. Going through security can be an absolute nightmare, so here's a mini list of tips to help you through:
    • Wear slip on shoes--walking through in your bare feet or struggling with laces isn't great.
    • Wear easily take-off-able layers or have as much stowed in your carry on as possible. You can always rejig things once you're through security.
    • Have no metal on you. I always have my watch and jewelry in a compartment of my purse to put on either after security or the flight itself.
    • Have your laptop easily accessible. Have other electronics stowed (you usually don't have to take out your cell phone and e-readers anymore).
    • And lastly, have all your liquids readily available and properly packed in a clear, quart-sized bag. Don't be that person that holds up the line while rummaging around for your shampoo.
  6. Wear comfortable layers. It can be freezing on the plane and hot once you land. Be adaptable!
  7. Bring a water bottle and fill it up once you're through security--staying hydrated is important!
  8. Bring some snacks! Airport food is expensive and there's no guarantee that you'll actually like your flight food. Having some of your own treats can make the world of difference.
  9. Bring something to do. You don't want to be bored for 5 hours in a terminal and on a flight. Bring a book. Download a movie (legally, of course). Have some work you can do. Or, my favourite, bring an audiobook to listen to. Take some time to relax on the flight!

Secondly, at the conference:

This year, the conference will be held in Houston, Texas again. So here's some of the tips I have from being at the same place last year, and just from attending GHC in general!

  1. The outside is hot. The inside is cold. Wear adaptable layers. Houston has some great sunshine, but they also have great air conditioning.
  2. Bring your own cables, spare chargers, power bars, and possibly power banks as well. Your phone or laptop will die. There will not be enough outlets.
  3. Your hotel is pretty much a place to sleep. The conference itself is full on. Make the most of it! =)
  4. There is so much free swag, especially from the Career Fair. But keep your suitcase size in mind.
  5. Don't underestimate the shuttles to and from the conference. Taking Ubers can add up. Make sure you plan your itinerary carefully and make use of the free transit.
  6. Don't worry about bringing a lot of snacks--there will be more snacks, tea, coffee, and water than you can possibly ingest at the conference. So don't weigh yourself down too much! 
  7. If you miss a session, don't worry. We've got note takers and bloggers for all the sessions, so you can always see what you missed! For note taking, visit the GHC16 wiki. And for blog posts, keep checking back here!
  8. Dust off your dancing shoes! The dance is an amazing and completely judgement free place for fun. So just have fun =)

Thirdly, heading home:

The conference is over and it's time to head home. But...somehow you've accumulated a lot of stuff. And you're super tired for your flight the next day! What do you do? My tips from flying *to* GHC apply here as well, but here's a few extras:

  1. Make full use of breakfast at the hotel, if you have it provided. Don't run in with an empty stomach. Standing in security while all you want is some coffee and a bite to eat is brutal. And lines can take forever. Make sure you're taking care of yourself and are fed.
  2. If you have a later flight, ask the hotel about a late/delayed checkout. You'd be amazed how much difference one hour can make.
  3. As I said before, check in the night before and print your ticket from the hotel printer. Saves time and effort the next day!
  4. Split cab or Uber fare with those in your room if they're leaving at the same time. 
  5. Pack the night before. Madly trying to be a Tetris god in the morning can really backfire.
  6. Sort your swag. If you can do this before the end of the conference, bonus points, as you can donate any swag you don't want. You have limited suitcase room so make sure you're really only bringing back stuff you know you'll love and make use of.
  7. If you run out of suitcase room, and can't check luggage, but really want those things, buy a prepaid postage box and post it to your place. Way better than having to buy another bag to check or checking a bag you really don't want to. And, sometimes, even cheaper than checking an extra bag anyways.

There's a lot more, but I don't want to take up too much about prepping you for your first time at GHC. Because, we'll actually be having another blog post on that! So keep your eyes peeled!

Safe and happy travels, everyone! Don't sweat it if something goes wrong with your travels, it will all get sorted. You'll have a blast! I'm so jealous and wish I would be seeing you all there, but I'll just have to live vicariously through you all from afar!

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