My new favourite t-shirt says “you had me at hello world” – how adorably dorky is that? I got it at the Grace Hopper conference in Atlanta last week from a company named Palantir (check them out if your a data/viz junkie – they make the coolest software and a little bird tells me they’re hiring).
I also have t-shirts from Google and Microsoft, and a bag from Yahoo that says “we code like girls and are PROUD of it”. But the best thing I brought back is this great feeling of energy, and acceptance, and above all – hope. This conference is getting bigger every year, (it was my first, but I’m already excited for 2011 in Portland) and being surrounded by so many smart and awesome women in tech was truly inspiring.
The keynotes were amazing – Duy-Loan Le and Carol Bartz were my favorite. Fernanda Viégas gave an amazing and hilarious talk on visualization. I also went to a workshop on Risk Taking which was really interesting, and Dealing with your Inner Critic which was hilarious and insightful and awesome – I no longer feel like quite such a lunatic, even if later on I became “the girl who was worried about deportation”!
Best of all, though, were all the cool and awesome people I met – many of whom have promised to write for CompSci Woman!
My new friend Sri Raga and I talked a lot about diversity – I tried to explain why Extreme Blue (which had something like 40% woman in Canada last year) had been so great because I wasn’t a minority, and how I hadn’t realized how hard that was until then but I couldn’t articulate it. Post-GHC, though, I think I have it. Everywhere I turned, I’d find someone I had something in common with. Some people wore jeans and a sweater and others wore beautiful dresses and heels – whatever makes you feel good. Companies were there recruiting, showing a commitment to diversity above and beyond a mission statement. Women wearing the LGBT rainbow ribbon – no need to pretend, be who you are. Walk in by yourself, sit down with anyone – and make a new connection.
It’s the feeling that you can just be. Be who you are. Dress how you dress. Be interested in what you’re interested in. Be passionate about what you’re passionate about.
Two stories that illustrated my experiences. First, having been interrogated at US Security as to the point of GHC and why, as I was clearly OK, I had any interest in helping other women in technology (yes, really), and then sprinting across Toronto airport in my socks in order to make my tight connection (no time to put my boots back on after the second security check) I didn’t have my picture taken for my poken because I was worried I looked a state – a woman there told me I looked great - particularly my eyebrows, which were apparently really neat! That was so charming! Later, I asked a question at the Inner Critic session, and afterwards someone came up to me and said “I’ve been reading your blog” – that seriously made my day.
I had an awesome time. If you’ve been thinking about it, definitely go next year! If you haven’t, start thinking!
Cate Huston is an alumna of IBM’s Extreme Blue program and will finish her Masters in Computer Science at the University of Ottawa researching influence and media contagion on Twitter by the end of 2010. She has a BSc (hons) in Computer Science from the University of Edinburgh. Cate has trained in martial arts in China and is a CSIA Level 2 certified ski instructor. She has taught programming in the UK, US, China and Canada and has developed programming curricula that was taught across the US. You can find her latest CC-licensed curriculum, developed for uOttawa here. Cate is the former president of Women in Science and Engineering at uOttawa and is currently Instigator of Awesome at Awesome Ottawa and an Editor of CompSci Woman. She blogs about technology, programming, effectiveness and life at Accidentally in Code and twitters as @catehstn.