This year, I was one of the invitees to the Grace Hopper Conference India (GHCI), one of the largest and widest gatherings of women technologists from all tracks of technology, hosted annually in Bangalore by the Anita Borg Institute.
I checked into Hotel Bloom Boutique, Malleshwaram after a long cab journey from the airport; warm Bangalore air against my cheek from the semi-open window felt an inviting start to my 2-day stay there. It was equally exciting to meet my roommate, a Google Developer Student Club lead based in Mumbai, and exchange our journeys so far. After a quaint dinner, I caught up with my friends from the Women Techmakers retreat at Seoul, making sure to retire early for an early morning coming up.
GHCI kicked off with Brenda Darden Wilkerson, the President of AnitaB.org and Geetha Kannan, MD, Anita Borg Institute India addressing all of us delegates at the BIEC Hall. The keynote, by Pankajam Sridevi, provided me with an alternate perspective on women juggling tech careers along with family roles and how choosing career over family is not always the right option. Even as a 20-year old, the turning points in her life that she narrated with utmost eloquence brought me to relate to her experiences with equal vividness and detail.
GHCI offers immense opportunity to both students and professionals. The Career Fair hosted tech giants, research labs and financial-tech companies actively looking forward to hire new talent. Apart from that, the networking lunches organised by different firms allow for development of good communication among prospective employees, HRs and current workers. In parallel were ongoing talks from one of 8 tracks, which include AI and ML, HCI, Big Data, Systems Engineering among others.
My favourite talk was by Fiona Tan from Walmart Labs, titled “Leveraging Human Interaction and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning in Retail Operations”. The talk allowed me to gain valuable insights into the intersection of ML and HCI, and a good view into how retail companies such as Walmart use ML to develop algorithms to maximise sale and customer satisfaction. Here is an extremely well-written and introspective blog post by Fiona Tan about girls who code; I couldn’t do justice to it by re-quoting it here.
The next day, all of us students from Google Programs were invited to a dinner at Vivanta by Taj, which called for another memorable reunion complete with good food, warm conversation and most importantly, lots of fun!
It is fundamentally enriching and reviving to see professionals from both industry and research come together and contribute to this 2-day event. Not only does it provide an opportunity to interact with some of the most influential women in technology, but also opens your mind to a myriad new opportunities to explore and horizons to venture.
Oh, and do leave room in the bag for swag.