Each year, tens of thousands of women come together to attend the largest gathering of female technologists. The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is an opportunity to attend speaking sessions, keynotes, interview with tech companies, network, and more. This year, we sent the 2017-2018 TUNE House scholars to experience GHC.
The TUNE House is a year-long scholarship that provides free housing, technical resources, groceries, access to mentors, and more, to eight undergraduate women studying computer science or other tech related degrees at the University of Washington. Exposure to other women in their field is a driver of the scholarship program, and the reason we worked to send this year’s scholars. Generous contributions from Melinda Gates and her team, Snapchat, Dreamhost and TUNE employees made this trip possible. Upon returning from the event, each TUNE House scholar reflected on her experience at GHC. Here are their thoughts, broken into three specific aspects.
On being a woman in tech at the Grace Hopper Celebration
“As a women of color in computing, attending the Grace Hopper Conference made me reflect some beautiful thoughts. By attending the largest gathering of women in computing and coming together to talk about what we do with technology was overwhelming. Not only did I meet impressive women from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences, I myself got the opportunity to let people know who I am and talk about my dream as a future software engineer. It was gratifying to see that there were so many women technologists! The conference re-encouraged me and taught me that I was capable of a lot more as a technologist. I saw how women and other underrepresented groups are being given a voice in shaping the world. The presence of many highly qualified young women provided me with a sight into a brighter future in terms of diversity in the tech fields. Looking ahead I want to continue searching for gaps in diversity and help immigrant women in technology while continuing to raise the bar with innovative thinking.” — Setota Solomon
“My overall perspectives on women in tech has more or less remained the same, but what has changed is understanding the sheer number of female engineers that exist today and the eclectic set personalities of diverse women technologists. There is definitely something very powerful to transforming from within the classroom where women technologists are a minority to a space where women technologists are the majority.
What inspired me the most were my interactions with women technologists everywhere I went; I ran into an HCDE (human centered design and engineering) student at the airport who remembered me from class; I had the most engaging conversation about the field of computer graphics with the person sitting next to me at a session; over lunch, I struck up a conversation with one of the senior managers at Accenture who was passionate about cybersecurity — the list is literally endless. These conversations help me learn about the different work women technologists are engaged in as well as gain personal insight into some of the challenges that I might face moving forward.” — Mitali Palekar
“When people asked me, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” I often answered, “I’m going to be a software developer, and possibly move into management further along in my career.” I’ve repeated this goal to many friends, family members, and potential employers; however, my confidence in that response was never equally distributed. Thankfully, I could always see myself as a software developer, but I struggled to clearly picture my seat at a table of managers or executives at a technology company. Because only 6.4% of the Fortune 500 CEOs are female, it seemed as though that small set was reserved for the truly “special” female technologists, and I had adapted this unconfident, “Why me?” mindset.
At the Grace Hopper Celebration, I had the incredible opportunity of meeting some strong, inspiring female executives, who rightfully earned the respect of their male counterparts, but still let their personality shine. During a conference presentation entitled “10 Steps to a Successful Career,” I was able to reconnect with my aunt, Angie Ruan, who I hadn’t spoken to since I was 10 years old. In these last few years, she had become the vice president of American Express, and is currently living in my dream city, New York City. She is a confident and clear technical leader, but also very personable and kind — everything that I aspire to be. Meeting Angie taught me that my ambitions are not far-fetched; while the current percentage of female tech leaders is very small, there are women like her who are making room for the next generation of aspiring female leaders. I no longer feel as though my career in tech is capped at software development — I have since returned to Seattle with a clear vision of my entire career path, and a “Why not me?” mindset to accompany some once wild dreams. GHC was unbelievably inspiring, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity!” — Cherie Ruan
GHC Conference atmosphere
“From the incredible stories by the keynote speakers, to the people I networked with while having lunch, the women at the conference never ceased to inspire me. From start to finish, I was so impressed by the visions these women had in their minds. Every single woman I met at the conference wanted to use technology to change the world and build a better tomorrow. It was reassuring to see being a minority in their field did not deter these women from achieving their goals. However, the most inspiring thing about the conference was that everyone at the conference was willing to share their knowledge and help one another achieve their goals. Whether it was saying a few encouraging words, or providing connections, these women genuinely wanted to see the other succeed. This made for an incredibly supportive environment. I feel very lucky that I had the chance to attend this conference, and I am very grateful to TUNE for giving us this opportunity.” — Apars Walia, TUNE House scholar
“The conference was full of interesting, passionate, and well-spoken women who were excited about the opportunities in and applications of technology. It was inspiring to hear about the stories and experiences of others; I saw my own story in some and was able to learn a lot from the rest. While the panels and technical interview questions were thought-provoking and educational, some of the most valuable moments happened on the bus or in a long line, when I learned from other awesome women in tech and about what it took to land where they were.
One of my favorite conversations happened on a bus ride back to the hotel; I was exhausted from talking and interviewing for a lot of the day, so when someone sat next to me I wished the bus would drive a bit faster. We got to talking, though, and it turned out we had a lot in common in terms of our interests and backgrounds; she grew up a bit to the south of Missouri. She told me about some of the obstacles she’s faced in pursuing a Ph.D. and the separation it’s brought between her and her friends and family back home. I went into the conference looking forward to learning a bit more about my options for the future, and while I didn’t come back with any concrete answers, I’m grateful to have a more detailed image of a lot of those options.” — Christine Betts, TUNE House scholar
“I ended up spending a lot of time at the career fair during the conference and the atmosphere of the career fair was quite stressful actually. Being mostly an introvert, talking to recruiters for hours each day left me feeling exhausted by the shuttle ride home. While the career fair was very intense, there was also one moment that reminded me of the general atmosphere at the conference. I was standing in line at the Spotify booth and the girl in front of me started chatting to me about how she was also feeling stressed by the overwhelming size of the career fair. We then bonded over the fact that we were both thinking of entering different fields before we found computer science — me with chemistry and her with biology.
Although I felt the stress from the career fair, that moment with the girl in line reminded me that this conference is made up of thousands of women like myself all looking to find their place and help others do the same with technology. It was reassuring to know that we all have our struggles and are all searching for ways to better ourselves and the communities around us. This was especially apparent to me during some of the panels that I attended. Hearing from more experienced women in technology allowed me to gain a lot of knowledge and brainstorm my next steps. Generally I felt very good vibes centered on learning and imparting wisdom throughout the conference.” — Shanti Camper Singh
Advice to future attendees
“Make a plan! I thought I would just be able to enter the conference and feel it out, but then I ended up feeling extremely overwhelmed on the first day. However, once I rode out this wave of nervousness and decided on what I wanted to accomplish, I felt like I got a lot more out of the conference. Also, I would recommend getting enough sleep! Even if you think that reviewing another binary tree problem is important for an upcoming technical interview, it definitely won’t help if you’re sleep-deprived and unable to focus. And lastly, be confident! It can be easy to feel small or insignificant in the career fair or the interview hall because of the sheer vastness of it all, but be sure to remember that you are a badass woman in tech and there is nobody quite as you as you!” — Olga Andreeva, TUNE House scholar
“As a student, I had my eyes on the career fair, and believe me, once you are in the career fair, it is difficult to come back out. Especially with all that tech swag in each of the 365 booths. I spent a lot of time speaking with companies, perfecting my elevator pitch, and interviewing, which in itself was an amazing experience but it is easy to get carried away. I wish I had been able to attend more talks throughout the day. There is so much going on that it is easy to get bombarded with information, but that is the beauty of it — being surrounded by such cool things happening around you is awesome. Be sure to save some time for it! Lastly, attend all the company events you can go to. It is a great way to meet employees from the company, meet people like you, eat delicious food and of course, more swag. All jokes aside, it really gives you kind of a perspective of the tech industry and made me even more excited to be a part of such an innovative field.” — Aishwarya Manoharan, TUNE House scholar
How you can support women in tech
We provide our scholars with a safe place to engage with like-minded peers and promote their careers as females in tech. The scholars do the rest. At the University of Washington, 32% of computer science bachelor degrees are women — 14% higher than the national average. The number is trending upward but in 2017 women make up less than 20% of computer engineering jobs. Join us in supporting the equity of women in the tech space. Melinda Gates recently visited the TUNE House to have a conversation about this very topic.
For sponsorship and speaking opportunities, or to be notified when applications open, email [email protected].
TUNE House applications will open in early 2018.
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Anna is a TUNE content marketer and an MBA Candidate at the Michael G. Foster School of Business. She's also the mentoring and events manager for the TUNE House: scholars.tune.com. In her spare time you can find her reading (mostly fiction and business), biking, eating the great food around Seattle and traveling.