Below is an article originally written by Stacy Gorelik, Director of Engineering at PowerToFly Partner Flatiron Health, and published on October 5, 2018. Go to Flatiron Health's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
I believe today is an amazing time to be a technologist. I also believe it's an amazing time to be a woman technologist. Yes, sure, there are still plenty of challenges in many workplaces, schools and universities, and yes, young girls (particularly from underprivileged backgrounds) are still largely discouraged from moving into STEM by cultural and socioeconomic influences around them. But the power of the community that women in technology have built over time, despite, or because of, these challenges, makes this moment in time special to be a female in a technical field.
Grace Hopper, ca 1975
Last week, AnitaB.org gathered a record 22,000 women under the roof of the Minute Maid Park in Houston for the annual Grace Hopper Celebration. We learned, we recruited, we taught, we laughed, we bonded and some of us celebrated through the night. For those not familiar with the event: Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was a pioneer of computer programming who invented one of the first compiler-related tools and popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages. The Grace Hopper Celebration, or more commonly referred to as just Grace Hopper or GHC, is the largest gathering of women technologists in the world.
Over the years, Grace Hopper has continued to grow at an unprecedented pace, both in the level of speakers and content presented during the conference, and in the number of companies and people who attend, but it has also enabled to stay relevant and important. Short of writing a 30-page essay, I wanted to document a few highlights of my experience this year to show why I continue to come back to Grace Hopper year after year:
- The excitement leading up to Grace Hopper every year yields a high that's hard to explain: from speaking proposals submitted; to the recruiting strategies developed; to the company-sponsored panels aimed at building excitement specifically for GHC; to the flight full off women taking off from LGA and cheering each other on; to the song on the early morning shuttles to the conference center; to the spontaneous old mentee encounter in line for the coveted machine learning talk…
- At the conference itself, the diversity and inclusion talks have become more meaningful every year, presenting us with tips, studies and solutions. The focus has slowly started to shift from just women in technology to other underrepresented groups, which I believe is not only important but crucial for our industry
- This year, Anita Hill carried a message of hope in a closing keynote. In the midst of the Kavanaugh hearings, she made us look at all the progress that has already been made. She reminded us, "We thankfully now live in a world where corporate CEOs are saying 'I want to live in a better, more inclusive, diverse society'"
- Tenshey's Maggie Chan Jones and Flatiron's Marta Bralic taught us about key decisions and strategies to manage one's career
- My colleague Jenny and I spent a large part of Wednesday in Mentoring Circles, teaching women of all stages in their career on how to boost their internal and external brands: sharing our experience, answering questions, connecting and learning a bit ourselves from the participants
- I yet again met and connected with many incredible women: women who write code, women who run sizable organizations, women who coach others, women who use technology to empower our troops. After-hours events again sparked meaningful conversations, resulting in new connections made, knowledge exchanged, problems resolved
- I was also impressed by the recent influx of mission-driven companies like ours that are now coming to Grace Hopper; there were many new companies at the expo and many participating in various mainstream and hallway track talks
- I loved overhearing our amazing Flatiron crew at our booth in the job fair: after a long day on her feet, Lucy, our machine learning engineer, felt no less inspired to teach every single person who came by our booth about how we combine human experts with automation to extract meaningful medical data from unstructured documents; Alda, our unquestionably most enthusiastic data insights engineer, coached a student on how to approach the recruiter; while another data insights engineer, Sam, high-fived her Twitter followers in the crowds
Thank you to AnitaB.org for yet another high-quality, meaningful event. As cliche as it sounds, it was truly inspiring to be around so many diverse women. The future is in OUR hands, as today we women technologists work for a better tomorrow. I am looking forward to riding on this high for another year, and sharing this experience with more Flatiron women in the years to come.
Below is an article originally written by Lisa Retief, the Director of Engineering at PowerToFly Partner Cloudflare, and published on October 17, 2018. Go to Cloudflare's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
I am 25+ years into my career in technology, and this was the very first time I attended a conference geared towards women.
A couple of weeks ago I went to Grace Hopper Celebration (#GHC18), and I can still feel the exuberant energy from the 22,000 women over the intensive 3 day conference. I attended with our Cloudflare team; our purpose was to connect with women in the greater tech community and recruit new talent to join our team and mission to help build a better Internet.
Cloudflare prioritizes GHC because we recognize that diversity in our company, and particularly in our technical departments, is crucial to our success. We believe that the best companies are diverse companies. This was Cloudflare's second time sponsoring GHC, and I was part of the planning committee. This year I headed to the event with 20 of my colleagues to meet all of the incredible attendees, hold on-site interviews, and even host our own Cloudflare panel and luncheon.
Getting to #GHC18
Early Tuesday morning, the day before the conference, as I joined the Southwest Airlines boarding line at Oakland Airport, my fellow passengers were not the usual contingent of suited men on their way to business meetings. Instead I was surrounded by hundreds of women (and some men) in conversation about what to expect in Houston. The anticipation was palpable, and energy was invigorating.
The flight itself was essentially a Grace Hopper networking event. I sat next to two others who were also attending on behalf of their companies. In my row there was a product manager at a well-known and successful startup, as well as an executive who was heading to Grace Hopper to learn and hire. That was the best professional conversation I ever had on an airplane.The topics ranged from how to scale data pipelines at rapidly growing software companies, to how to find and hire great women engineers. All three of us were using the spotty airplane wifi to communicate last-minute conference plans with our colleagues all heading to the event. One of my seatmates showed me a massive airplane selfie that one of his colleagues had sent him—the whole plane was filled with women from his company, and the pilot had even made a special announcement welcoming them.
Upon arriving in Houston there was more of the same energy—it was just warmer and a bit muggier now that we were in Texas.The area of Houston around the conference centre was overtaken by the 22,000 attendees, most of whom were women at various stages of their studies. Uber drivers were eager to ask us what the hell was going on. Why so many women?
Three Non-Stop Days at #GHC18
Cloudflare Expo Booth photo
As a member of the Cloudflare GHC contingent I had a few jobs—working the booth on the expo floor, interviewing candidates, and being one of four panelists at our Cloudflare: Women in Leadership Lunch.
Working the booth was a whole lot more fun than I could have imagined. I am an introvert and tend to avoid crowds and interactions with too many strangers. I surprised myself by taking on the role of "traffic control"— walking the expo floors and approaching women to ask if they are looking for a great place to work. Cloudflare is a great place to work so I could authentically express my feelings and also specifically speak to why it's an ideal place to start your career. Cloudflare is a company where you work to solve some of the internet's biggest problems at a scale where it has real impact.
I would then proceed to walk any interested people over to our booth so that myself and my colleagues could further engage them. I got so much from my conversations with these women. It gave me insight into why the celebration is so well attended. Women at various stages of their studies and careers had very specific reasons for being there.
The highlight of my week was the Women in Leadership Luncheon that Cloudflare hosted on the last day of the event. It gave us an opportunity to interact with some of the women we had met throughout the week in a more thoughtful and private way where we could open up about our careers and personal goals.
Cloudflare Women in Leadership Luncheon w/ Jessica Rosenberg, Jade Wang, Lisa Retief, and Suzanne Aldrich
We mingled with women in a relaxed setting, and had conversations about their situations and experiences. I found it very inspiring. As part of the event, I joined a panel with my three colleagues Jade Wang, head of developer relations, Jessica Rosenberg, head of brand design, and Suzanne Aldrich, solutions engineering lead to share some of our experiences and career journeys. All of us have different paths and have landed in different areas of the company, but all play integral roles in Cloudflare's success. I don't think you can underestimate the impact of seeing someone you can relate to in a position you may aspire to. This is an opportunity I wish I had when I was younger, and now am thrilled to share with the next generation of leaders in tech.
Another personal highlight of GHC was getting to really know my colleagues, many of whom I had never directly worked with. We were a team of women and men across different departments and locations who were excited to represent Cloudflare and ready to make some hires. We all had fun doing this and worked well together. While I didn't go out dancing and singing quite as often as some of them, I made friends who I now greet enthusiastically whenever we cross paths at work. Two things we look for in candidates are empathy and curiosity, so it was great to be able to bond with my colleagues and get to see that side and know each of them personally.
Team dinner @ #GHC18
As I left Houston, I reflected on the contrast between the national headlines and what I had experienced at the conference. The week had coincided with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford giving testimony that was resonant to many of us. It was hard to hear. In spite of this, I saw at the conference a groundswell of potential to transform today's companies into places that can help affect change.
When people ask me about what it's like being a woman in tech, I often joke that I have never had to wait in line for the restroom. And while I'm being funny, it's true. GHC was a very different experience, however. For me, attending GHC was like entering an alternate universe — something like a Margaret Atwood speculative fiction novel, except this was not a dystopian future. It was a future I want to see happen.
I look forward to #GHC19.
PowerToFly was proud to collaborate with Audible for a truly unique event during this year's always amazing Grace Hopper Celebration, held this year in sunny Houston.
After a long day at the conference, which this year received over 18,000 attendees, Audible's invite-only guests were taken by private shuttle to Audible's secret location - an event space transformed into the ultimate game night!
From what to pack for the Grace Hopper Conference to how to network, pitch yourself to employers, and of course, get to the best parties.
Going to a technical conference like the Grace Hopper Celebration offers huge rewards. By attending you can learn the latest techniques, make professional contacts, and maybe even find a new job. Even better, you'll meet mentors, and friends for life if you optimize your time while at Grace Hopper. But you know all that... that's why you're going!
What you need is a guide for how to navigate the massive conference - and I'm not talking about the schedule they provide. I went to the Grace Hopper 2017 Conference in Orlando and was overwhelmed by the number of amazing candidates who came to our booth and our event one evening. The best part was that I got to meet a few women who PowerToFly has placed in positions over the years. After all that, I still left feeling like I could have planned my time better... hence why I made a guide for Grace Hopper 2019 (also in Orlando) where I break down the basics from packing to how to share your conference experience with your boss so they send you again.
Ok... on to the guide...
1. Optimize Your Time - Plan Ahead!
Many conferences require you to pick a particular track or the sessions you want to go to ahead of time so they have an idea of attendance for their presentations. Some sessions will fill up early, so make sure you work out your schedule as quickly as possible (well before Oct. 1st).
The team at the Anita Borg Institute put together a great video last year on how to prep for the conference - it's very applicable for the 2019 Grace Hopper Conference so I recommend watching it.
The conference runs in Orlando, Florida from Tuesday, October 1st to Friday, October 4th, but you should make sure you stay until at least October 5th so you can take advantage of any closing events/parties on Friday night!
If it's your first time at the Conference, don't forget to attend The First Timer's Orientation at 3:30 on Tuesday, October 1st (Pro Tip: pick up your badge there and skip the line on Wednesday morning)!
2019 Locations & Expo Map
Grace Hopper 2019 is being held in the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, Florida. It's a pretty big space, so for the directionally challenged among us, it's good to download the map of the expo floor in advance. Use it to figure out where things are and what companies you want to pitch yourself to!
Pro Tip: Download the OCCC's Wayfinding App to get step-by-step walking directions, a building directory, parking locations, and more!
Before the conference, look over the sessions that the Grace Hopper team has provided here. Decide which ones are going to be most useful to you. Don't depend on the title of the session to tell you what it's about! Make sure you read the descriptions so you avoid ending up in sessions that aren't of interest to you.
You may be overwhelmed with the choices available to you, and tempted to juggle lots of different ideas. For your first time out, you might be wiser with a single strategy. Perhaps this time, you look for sessions tackling specific issues you are grappling with at work. Or maybe you focus on particular new skills you've wanted to learn.
This might seem obvious, but you should try to avoid sessions that cover a topic you're already an expert at. While it might be comforting to know the subject, you will most likely find yourself bored.
Schedule Down Time
You don't have to attend every session. If you can't find anything that really interests you and you feel indifferent towards what is available, take that time to visit the expo, sit and meet people, or even take a short power nap.
And lots of conferences are held in interesting locations. If you can build in a little time to get out and enjoy the surrounding area, you should!
2. Getting Ready Before You Go (What To Pack And More For Grace Hopper)Giphy
The last thing you want to do is think about where to find toothpaste when you're at Grace Hopper 2019. So focus on what you're taking now so you don't waste any time when you have a full day of sessions and networking ahead of you.
What to Pack
As you decide what to take, keep in mind that you'll be lugging this stuff around with you all day. Try to pack as lightly as you reasonably can. Pro Tip: Make sure to leave extra room in your bag for expo swag and books you may want to bring home.
Lay out everything you want to take on your bed. Take a close look. Are you sure you need that second pair of headphones and a third lightning charger cable (you'll get free ones at Grace Hopper at the career fair - trust me, the swag is amazing)? Do you really need your laptop, or can you manage everything with your tablet and phone?
Business Cards + LinkedIn + PowerToFly
If you don't have business cards from your job, have some made up for the conference. Make sure one side is not glossy and a light color that can be written on. You'll be leaving cards with recruiters at the career fair (although Grace Hopper does have a way of giving your info to recruiters via your badge).
Moo.com offers great designs and a quick turnaround.
You'll also want to make sure you're LinkedIn is totally refreshed. When you meet a contact, connect with them immediately, and with a note reminding them where and when you met! Then follow up by sending them an email if you have their business card.
Pro Tip: most companies representing at the Grace Hopper Conference are on PowerToFly to engage and recruit more women. Make sure you have an updated PowerToFly profile too.
When in doubt, business casual is a safe bet. But most importantly, wear clothes that make you feel confident.
A Note About Shoes (Important!)
Maybe you've already thought about it, but you'll be on your feet for hours. Grace Hopper 2019 is in a massive expo center and you'll have to walk from one end to the other multiple times to get to your sessions or any conference-related events outside of the building. Make sure your shoes are comfortable!
Your Packing List
Here's a list of things you should think about bringing:
- Comfortable bag to carry your conference gear
- Weather-appropriate clothing - check Google!
- Comfortable shoes
- Necessary technology (laptop, tablet, phone)
- Charging cords
- Any conference paperwork
- Cash, credit cards
- Business cards - for recruiters at booths
- Resumes if you're job hunting - again, for recruiters at booths
- Breath mints - yup
- Notebook and pen - your phone could die
- External cell battery
- Lip balm - the air is dry in the Grace Hopper expo hall!
- Travel-size medicines
- Business cards
- Resumes if you're job hunting
- Breath mints
- Notebook and pen
- External cell battery
- Lip balm
- Travel-size medicine
And even more items to consider
- Good quality coffee to make in your room
- Energy bars - onsite food is expensive!!!
- Water bottle
- Eye mask
- Hand sanitizer
3. Devise Networking Strategies
Practice your networking skills ahead of time by reviewing who you want to talk to.
Pro tip: study the Grace Hopper 2019 schedule and who will be at the career fair. Rehearse what you'll say to start conversations (I like to practice using a mirror!). P.S. If you're overwhelmed by all the companies, be sure to attend the Career Fair Hall Crawl on Tuesday after your First Timer's Orientation!
Come up with a sentence or two that tells the listener who you are and what you hope to get out of the conference. Your pitch should be to the point, shorter than 30 seconds, and include:
- Your name
- What you do
- Why you are at this particular conference
Having this pitch will make networking so much easier. It's an ice-breaker that gives the listener something to grab onto and discuss with you.
And stand in your circle of power - need a refresher? Watch Amy Cuddy's video above!
Pre-Networking + Research
- Twitter is also great for finding other people who are going to your conference ahead of time. Follow @gracehopper and #GHC19 for this year's Grace Hopper Conference tweets.
- Check and see the other social accounts the Grace Hopper Conference Organizers are using here. FaceBook pages are good for longer discussions.
- Consider connecting with Meetup.com groups around you that are focused on the conference topic before you go.
- Use the Anita Borg platform to find official dinners and parties outside the conference that companies like PowerToFly are holding (we're partnering with Audible this year - scroll down for the invite).
- Pro Tip: most companies at the Grace Hopper Conference have pages on PowerToFly. Follow them via PowerToFly and we can send you invites to their events and alerts directly to your inbox!
- Before you go, practice asking people around you questions that are open-ended rather than ones that allow for a yes/no answer.
- Monitor and engage with the #GHC19 Twitter hashtag.
- Look up other people you know, even slightly, who may be going. While it's not good to cling to the people you already know, it may help break the ice early on at the conference.
4. Getting The Most Out Of The Grace Hopper 2019 Sessions
It seems obvious, but try to sit in the front so that you can clearly see and hear the presentations at Grace Hopper. Being up front will also give you a better chance to be noticed if you want to ask the speaker a question.
Pro Tip: try to make eye contact with speakers. As a speaker at conferences myself, I love it when people are nodding along with me. I remember them!
Make sure you have some way of taking notes, but don't take so many that you forget to listen!
The Hallway Track
Everyone at Grace Hopper 2019 is interested in the same OS, platform, or language you are, so lots of the side conversations around you will be interesting. Even though the scheduled sessions are important, some of the best conversations happen in the hallways between the conference rooms.
In hallways you can talk one-on-one with other people who care about the same things you do, or are working on the same problems.
All you have to do is pull out your elevator pitch you should have prepared and use it. End with a friendly question about their goals in being at Grace Hopper, or what kind of things they're working on.
Between hallway and random mealtime conversations, parties, social media meetups, and various vendor events, you'll have many chances to connect with fellow conference-goers.
Talk to The Presenters
After most presentations, a small crowd of people will gather around the presenters at Grace Hopper. It can be intimidating to stand around, especially if you are wondering what to say. If you're not sure how to start a conversation, you can say hello and make a quick comment on what you especially enjoyed about the presentation. Grace Hopper presenters are there to meet you too - they didn't travel all the way to Houston to speak into the void!
Tips for Parties At Grace Hopper
There's not much time during Grace Hopper to have full conversations with people. At the very least you'll be able to trade contact information so you can follow up after the conference.
Pro tip: Keep in mind that you don't have to stay and talk with anyone who is wasting your time or making you feel uncomfortable. Your time is too precious. And scroll down to see register for PowerToFly's part with Audible (we'll let you know if you're a match after your register).
Take a break
Grace Hopper can be exhausting! Don't feel that you have to constantly network. Realize when you've had enough and be willing to give yourself a break. Don't feel you have to make new connections. If you've had enough, give yourself permission to leave and enjoy some peace and quiet.
5. What To Do After The Grace Hopper Conference Ends (Pro-Tip: Share What You Learned)
Once you're home again, it's time to take advantage of the new skills, inspiration, and connections you've gotten from the Grace Hopper Conference.
Create a Grace Hopper Conference Report
Use the notes you took during sessions and write up a report about what you learned at the conference, new ideas, and the names of your new contacts and where you met.
Pro Tip: Your boss will especially appreciate if you present it to her or him.
It's a good practice for several reasons. First, if you know ahead of time that you'll be creating this report, you'll take better notes and pay more attention to what's going on around you. Creating this report will also reinforce the what you've learned. And the report can also help you remember your new contacts.
Stay in Touch
No doubt you made lots of great connections! Don't forget to stay in touch. Connected on LinkedIn and social media outlets. Drop them a message about how nice it was to meet and reminding them of the context. You'll stand out from all those other new connections. A little politeness can go a long way.
Share Your Knowledge
Make a point of sharing your new skills with your coworkers. Consider giving a presentation at work. This will be great practice for you to get ready to present at a real conference.
Ok, Really Finally... Watch This Video Intuit Did Around The Grace Hopper Conference.
It cracked us up - you should tell them you saw it at Grace Hopper! They're also a PowerToFly hiring partner. So follow Intuit!