Meredith Lampe is one of eight female scholars residing at TUNE House, a yearlong scholarship program for female undergraduate and graduate students pursuing computer science and information technology degrees at the University of Washington. She makes her debut on the TUNE Blog sharing her recent experience attending the Anita Borg Institute‘s 2015 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and lends her point of view as a young woman pursuing technology as a career.
A few weeks ago, thousands of computer scientists, technologists, and activists gathered in Houston to celebrate the contributions women have made to computing as an industry and a field of study. The University of Washington’s Computer Science and Engineering department sends some of its own women each year to represent the department and gain insight from the litany of experienced speakers.
This year, I was one of those women, thanks to my donors, Sudeshna Sen and Parvez Anandam. I’ll share with you some of my experiences at the conference and let you in on some of my thoughts.
My Favorite Moment — Breakfast with Sarah Friar of Square
The morning after we flew in, we found our way to the conference center at 7 a.m., dressed to network but with eyes that betrayed our sleepiness from late-night preparations the night before. Along with two friends of mine from the UW, Erika Wolfe and Megan Hopp, I attended an event put on by Square: A chance to hear from their CFO, Sarah Friar, in a casual, intimate setting over pastries and coffee. We arrived just in time, found spots among the hundred-or-so women who were present, and prepared to soak in wisdom from Sarah along with heavy doses of caffeine.
Sarah is a doing it right—balancing a successful career and kids with self-deprecating humor that’s pretty endearing. She shared about her past: floating around in the finance industry and spending a considerable amount of time at Goldman Sachs before eventually landing at Square. She firmly believes in the company’s mission: Make commerce easy for everyone. It seems her favorite consequence of Square’s product is the empowerment it brings to small businesses. In that same vein, part of her presentation was devoted to encouraging us to pursue “work that matters”, or, work that will both fulfill and challenge us.
Sarah’s pillars to live by:
Get an adrenaline rush every day.
Seek out things that put you out of your comfort zone.
Do what you love.
Keep looking until you find it.
Pay it forward.
Remember you’re only part of the reason that you got to where you are today.
Create your own personal board of directors.
Surround yourself with people who can mentor you, and who you can provide guidance for.
The Square breakfast was the first event we attended, and my favorite moment from the conference. However, this is just a taste–hundreds of similar events occurred over the three-day gathering, filled with encouragement, advice, and good conversations.
The Wild Card — Corporate Events
It’s a little overwhelming to be in the middle of such a large recruiting push…if you’re a woman in technology, you’re a very wanted commodity. These corporate events (not nearly as boring as they sound) were basically recruiting efforts from conference sponsors that took the form of breakfast, lunches, dinners, happy hours, and parties for conference attendees. Examples include a Microsoft Painting Party, the much-sought-after Pinterest after-party, and an exclusive Uber Happy Hour, among others. Events leaned toward either information sessions/conversations about the company, as was the case at a Box Breakfast I attended at the House of Blues, or fun experiences filled with more (always more) free swag, which I experienced at a novel event put on by ESPN at a dueling piano bar in downtown Houston. We attended these events before and after normal conference hours, and they served to pad our days until we were guaranteed to be suitably exhausted.
Much demand, little supply.
Women in computing seem to be highly sought-after. To some, we’re like an endangered species: if you find one in the wild, don’t make any sudden movements. Don’t make eye contact. Make loud noises…? Maybe the metaphor falls through at some point, but the point remains. This mission was represented by the massive career fair and sea of interview booths covering the conference center floor, and the army of recruiters sent to entice bright female programmers. It’s beautiful and a little scary, but it’s the state of the industry.
The Grace Hopper Conference was a mess of excitement, opportunity, and wisdom passed down from ladies who’ve “been there”. They told us to be confident, give a firm handshake, and please, take some free sunglasses.
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Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.