Getting a scholarship to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) for a student is a much-coveted dream, and I was lucky to be a scholar for the year 2018. I am going to proceed with this blog post from a student’s perspective, and discuss some unconventional pointers from my experience.
An annual conference to bring the research as well as the industrial interests of women technologists to the vanguard, the event can be both inspiriting, for students looking for the right motivation to continue their studies in computer science, as well as path-changing for students looking forward to transition into tech from other fields.
GHC’18 took place from September 26 to September 28 in the beautiful city of Houston, Texas. With tracks ranging from Open Source to AI and Interactive Media, GHC had a diverse set of speakers from all around the world. Three new tracks were introduced — Emerging Technology, Hardware, and AR/VR, much indicative of the recent trends and actuations in computer science. However, GHC is not simply about learning, but also about giving back; most importantly, using the right mix of the two to make the most of the three days given to you.
- List ‘Em Out: One of the greatest strengths of the conference is that it offers a bundle of opportunities for all kinds of specific needs. Before you go, make a list of up to three major goals or aspirations you have from the conference. It could be finding a job as a data scientist or a software engineer, securing an internship, making a minimum of two strong connections with students or professors from your domain, making up your mind on the one career step you’re too afraid to take, finding the right thesis for your third year, finally updating your resume to a LaTeX template, or even shortlisting the right schools for your master’s or Ph.D. You would be surprised to find how easy it is to navigate through the huge convention center once you have this list in place.
- Attend Talks: Honestly, since my undergraduate school was research-oriented in every way, and I had already taken up a thesis, I was not too keen on attending the introductory talks. I was more interested in specific topics in AI, such as Multiagent Systems and Robotics & AI, which somewhat aligned with my interests. However, the talks provide a fairly good representation of what may intrigue you in the future, so definitely handpick some sessions to attend. In addition to these, there are Speed Mentoring and Networking sessions which allow for one on one conversations with an experienced woman — highly recommended for students.
- Visit the Career Fair: GHC has an excellent career fair, and perhaps the biggest one I have seen so far. With over 200+ companies coming with serious hiring targets, offering a wide range of roles: both technical and non-technical, landing your dream job or your dream internship is not a grueling task anymore. The company representatives are more than happy to clear your doubts, introduce you to the current roles and collect your CVs. Do keep about 20–30 CV printouts handy, although there is usually is a printing room in the convention center in case of emergencies. Most of the process is digitalized these days. During my time, companies were hiring heavily for US and Canada offices. Apart from companies, many schools set up their stalls to introduce you to their MS/MBA/Ph.D. programs and can ease you through the daunting application process for higher studies.
- Network: This cannot be stressed upon enough. Speaking to fellow students, industry professionals or young researchers broadens your horizon in many ways and introduces you to a whole new set of opportunities. Even if you are not able to contain all your questions in a single conversation, follow up over LinkedIn. Remember that this goes both ways, so share your own experiences and help other attendees through your expertise, connections, and referrals when you can.
- Don’t Lunch Alone: Yes, you read that right! Companies and schools are always hosting networking sessions over breakfast, lunch or evening snacks, so put yourself out there and attend these events. You just cannot underestimate the power of bonding over food and drinks!
Finally, do ensure sufficient space in your travel bags to store all the goodies from the career fair. And oh, reserve an extra day or two, if you can, to backpack around the city.