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First Timer’s Guide to Grace Hopper #GHC19 Part 2: Planning, Strategies, Networking

10 Sep

Welcome back! Continuing with my First Timer’s Guide to Grace Hopper series. Make sure you read Part 1 and A non-brief Interjection Latinx in AI of the series.

Before I get chatting about the day, let’s get some strategies down first.

Sourcing sponsor events strategies:

  1. Find everyone that you know that is attending and promise to share info on company events (This didn’t help me find any events at first but I shared everything I found via Techqueria’s Grace Hopper Channel, Write/Speak/Code similar slack channel, and to friends I knew were going.
  2. Market Yourself: Include the #GHC19 tag on your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. I received invites from companies to interview, visit their booth, and/or attend their events
  3. Scour the web
    1. This by far netted me the most events. I checked Twitter, LinkedIn, and Techqueria’s slack channel regularly for #GHC19 events. I found out about the Twitter and the Google events in this way
    2. Google Github + GHC19 Events
      1. I found out about many events this way. Big thank you to the maintainers of these lists. MUCH LOVE ❤️
    3. University Student / Scholarship Recipient: Ask whoever is sponsoring to attend to forward you all events
      1. Make a groupme chat for everyone that is being similarly sponsored and share info here. I found out about dinners for small companies / startups I wanted to meet with in this manner

Remember to pace yourself during the week. The conference is shock full of programming, interview opportunities, networking, etc. It’s incredibly easy to overdo it and exhaust yourself.

What is your Definition of a Successful Conference Experience?

I cannot stress this enough. It is easy to get lost in the massive career fair, in the massive conference space, and the countless events.

Now I recognize my extreme privilege attending Stanford University. We have aggressive recruiting from top companies on campus year round. That being the case I was not interested in spending much time in the career fair or having interviews eat up my first Grace Hopper experience.

My concrete goal:

  • Meet with my top 3 companies, make a good impression, walk away with invites for interviews.
  • Practice asking companies questions about their efforts in inclusivity and trying to assess workplace culture
  • Grow my network of women in tech, particularly in the space of Artificial Intelligence

Anything else was icing on the cake.

With that in mind, let’s get talking about Day 1!

Day 3:  Wed 10/2 First Official Day of GHC, Keynote, Networking, and Sessions!

I could not sleep due to the time difference so waking up early for the keynote wasn’t a problem. It may also have had to do with rooming with someone I just met. My roommate was amazing as we were both tidy and considerate but I can’t remember the last time I had to share a room with someone I wasn’t related to or in a relationship with. Welcome to college life. 🙂

at the busI was the first one on the bus shuttle to the conference and I felt my insides shake with excitement. My plan for the day was to attend the keynote, attend 2 – 3 sessions in data science / AI, take a peek at the career fair space (I heard that the first day was the busiest time to attend as everyone is there to get invited to parties), and save energy for the company parties I had been invited to. I had Google’s Women of Color Hop Up and Twitter’s #GHCBeachBoardwalk on my calendar.

The Keynote

As I arrived to the convention center, I walked as quickly as I could to find the entrance. I was there half an hour before the keynote started and there was already a loooooong line. I have a feeling that they host this in Orlando to get you in the Disney park mindset that you will be waiting in lines all the time.

What to do while waiting? Chat up those around you of course. Now you probably won’t believe me but I am an introvert. Being in crowds, talking to people that aren’t extremely well known to me, meeting new people = EXHAUSTION. But you can’t come to a conference of 25,000 women in tech and not push those feelings of discomfort aside. What helps me is thinking that I am doing those people around me a favor by being the one to initiate the conversation and make them feel welcome. I chatted with my line neighbor, connected on LinkedIn, and shared tips on what to attend. By the time we entered the keynote hall we were looking for seats to sit together.

Nothing prepared me for the incredible energy of this room it was like the hall was a heart beating to the rhythm of creativity, inclusivity, and warmth.

Please do look up videos of the keynote. I won’t post more than the below clip to give you an idea of the vibe. Note that I was early, every seat was taken by the time the keynote started.

The keynote speakers were 🔥 🔥 🔥 on it and knew how to fire us up. From sharing the vision of AnitaB.org, vision of the companies that were honorees, and personal stories of how they got into tech – the keynote is something not to be missed.

After the keynote I made my way to the career fair area to assess how crowded it would be but the doors were still closed but a monster line ~5 people deep across had formed. I patted myself on the shoulder for avoiding the madness.

Sessions > Career Fair: Why?

When the session sign-ups were released, I tried to sign up for as many Artificial Intelligence and Data Science sessions as possible. The system froze and kicked me off a few times so I missed signing up for some of the sessions I wanted but I still filled up my days as much as possible so that I had anchors throughout the week.

My first session was D3 Data Visualization that Sparkle. I made the incredibly rookie mistake of forgetting my glasses so I made a beeline to sit on the front row table. This was a session I signed up for so I was easily scanned in. Note that about half an hour before the session started the standby line formed.

At my table I was sitting with awesome women working at Amazon, Adobe, and a consulting firm. I connected with all three of them and was able to network in a relaxed setting where we were all in attendance with a common goal – to learn. There is no way I would have had the same intimate opportunity to make an impression at the career fair. In addition, the session was organized, well structured, and educational. Up for the Win.

My second session was one of my top favorites Three Tips for Better Predictive Models presented by Stephanie Yang at Foursquare. I also showed up early and sat at the front row and turns out I sat next to Stephanie who was the presenter. I felt good pumping her up before her session and when she got ready to start I started chatting with my new neighbor and ended up connecting with her as well. The presentation provided concrete and practical guidance and I am so glad that I attended.

Lastly – Enjoy yourself! This is a gift for yourself, an investment in what you want to grow and nurture so remember to seek the events that provide meaning and community to you!

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