Grace Hopper Conference was held in Houston, Texas this year with the theme “Our Time To Lead”. This time the conference was limited to only 3 days (October 14 – October 16). But unlike in 2013 conference held in Minneapolis, the number of participants was 3 times more. The official count was 11000 but I heard it was close to 12000! I wouldn’t be surprised because it was literally a chaos after every session. SO. MANY. PEOPLE.
I along with a friend of mine reached Houston 2 days before the conference actually started. So we checked in a day earlier to avoid long lines and having to get up very early.
The first day started with a bit of a rush and lots of confusion. Expected! There were bus services to and from the convention center to hotels which was very useful since my hotel was about 3 miles away from the conference venue. But it took really long time to reach convention center during the rush hours. So I missed a good chunk of the first keynote speaker on my first day.
The first keynote speaker was Hilary Mason (picture above), Founder of Fast Forward Labs and Resident Data Scientist at Accel Ventures. She was later joined by winner of Technical Leadership ABIE Award, Lydia E. Kavraki.
For the first day, I had signed up for codathon. It was supposed to be a whole day session starting at 10:00am till 5:00pm. But things changed at the last-minute. I went to OMSCS scholarship brunch to meet the rest of the OMSCS students attending the conference and also the Dean of College of Computing! There was no way I was missing that chance. Fortunately I didn’t get fined for canceling the coding session at the last-minute. OMSCS brunch was so much fun! I got to meet so many brilliant women from my school. Each one of them were so humble and so supportive. Things like this really help you get through tough times. It reminds you why you started graduate school in the first place. I feel really lucky to have met these women. On top of this getting a chance to meet and have a one on one chat with dean Galil and the rest of the staff from the college whom I have only communicated via emails, just elevated the whole experience.
I didn’t get a chance to attend too many sessions but the ones I attended were very informative. My favorite being the lightning talks. They are short and precise and the topics are always interesting!
The coffee stations between sessions was pretty interesting! There were rows and rows of tables with coffee dispensers!
Appropriately labeled unisex bathrooms!
After a quick breakout session, it was back to afternoon plenary. All of the three speakers were very interesting. If I had to choose one then I think Blake Irving’s presentation stood out the most. He was very humble about his motives of presenting in one of the biggest women conferences. Kudos to his bravery! This could have gone very wrong but he handled it very well. It almost went wrong when he started off with a “Hi” and no one responded! But his modesty gained him a loud applause by the end of his speech!
Clara Shih – CEO and founder of Hearsay Social
Blake Irving – CEO of GoDaddy
Megan Smith – Chief Technology Officer of United States of America
Picture above are few other women who work for the US government in technology sector along with Megan Smith. My favorite is this woman Sarah Allen who was part of some amazing products like Shockwave, After Effects and Flash video! And I loved her attitude. She owned that stage!
Day 1 ended with career fair and boxed dinner! I was super hungry by the end of day so that sandwich disappeared in less than 2 minutes! I reached home at 10pm (as expected) feeling very happy about the whole experience. Stay tuned for day 2!