Oct 26, 2016 By Victoria Grdina
A group of Computer Science and Engineering students and faculty members spent last week attending the 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Houston, Texas.
The Grace Hopper Conference is a three-day convention filled with prestigious speakers, networking events, and professional development activities. Produced by the Anita Borg Institute in partnership with ACM, it’s the world’s largest technical conference for women in computing.
This is the third year that students from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln have attended the conference as part of the BRAID (Building, Recruiting And Inclusion for Diversity) project. Senior computer science major Libby Gentry attended the conference for the second time this year.
“Both times in attending the conference, I saw firsthand how companies want people like me in their businesses, which gave me great confidence in my abilities and pushed me to go farther in finding bigger career opportunities,” Gentry said. “Attending a second time affirmed my interest areas, whereas the first time showed me where my interests actually were.”
Twenty-three CSE students and two faculty members attended the conference this year. Of those students, three received scholarships to attend from GHC, and one received a scholarship from Google. Two students also received internship offers at the conference from Disney and Intuit, and several other students had the chance to interview for positions.
The Expo event provided a rare opportunity for students to make connections with representatives from hundreds of companies, including big brands like Facebook and Twitter. Senior Hannah Finnegan, who received the Disney internship, said the conference was instrumental in her achievement and provided her with new insight into the real world of computer science.
“The networking opportunities at GHC are unlimited,” said Finnegan. “It was a chance to talk to people that worked in different companies and talk to the executives of companies and hear their stories, especially the women executives.”
Students also got to hear those stories in the keynote speeches from industry leaders, including Ginni Rometty, president and CEO of IBM, and Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. Attendees were able to further explore areas of personal interest in specialized info sessions that covered topics like security and artificial intelligence.
Graduate student Natasha Pavlovikj said that the networking, speakers, and sessions all make the conference an immensely valuable experience for attendees—one that also gives them something to strive for going forward.
“When you hear people asking questions you realize, ‘It’s not only me that’s having these thoughts.’ Other people are having those ideas as well,” Pavlovikj said. “So it inspires you to work more for diversity and for inclusion.”
The Grace Hopper Conference is certainly a beneficial event for students and recruiting companies, but also for academic institutions. CSE had its own booth at the Expo event—across from the Google table—and was also selected to present its history of Nebraska women in technology at the poster session.
Pavlovikj said that the conference gave students plenty of useful knowledge they can apply to their academics and future careers—and just as much motivation.
“After the conference while we were flying back here, everyone was talking about how inspired we are, and how we can’t wait to come back to work and study and work more so we can be a part of this group of women in technology,” Pavlovikj said.
The 2017 Grace Hopper Conference will be held Oct. 4–6 in Orlando, Florida. Students who wish to attend are encouraged to apply next spring.