From October 4-6, eight students and two faculty members traveled down to Orlando, Florida for the Anita B.org Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. This event is a haven for all women in the computing fields to get together and network and simply enjoy the atmosphere of women in technology who share the same interests and similar skills. There were approximately 18,000 women and men who attended the event. Out of this we estimate only 5% of the attendees were male.
The 3-day long event consisted of many different parts. There were the various workshops, inspiring keynotes and influential talks by women who paved the way and opened doors for all future women in tech, a career fair aspect where 300+ companies got together to recruit the thousands of women who attended, and an interview hall for prospective interns and employees to be interviewed on site.
Attendees were able to hear about the triumphs and failures of many tech moguls in the industry through the various keynotes, talks, and workshops. Some speakers included Telle Whitney, former CEO and President of Anita B.org, Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, and Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and former Microsoft employee. In the speakers’ stories, attendees heard of how the speakers’ own perseverance and help from other females and male allies in the field propelled them to where they are today.
Monmouth University students who were sponsored by the Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSSE) Department and a grant received from the School of Science Student Travel Fund included KerryAnn Demeester, a senior software engineering student; William Jones, a junior computer science and software engineering student; Brianna Licciardello, a junior computer science student; Lauren Niesz, a graduate MIS student; Stephanie Okereke, a sophomore computer science student; and Jessica Zemartis, a senior software engineering student. These students were able to attend the event along with two more MU students who attended as Grace Hopper Scholars and were fully sponsored and awarded the trip to the conference through the head sponsoring organization, Anita B.org; these students were Megan Rapach, a senior software engineering student, and Kalyna Reda, a junior software engineering student. Students were accompanied by Chair of the Computer Science & Software Engineering Department and Specialist Professor, Jamie Kretsch, and Specialist Professor, Jan Rohn.
The networking opportunities at the conference were unparalleled to any other networking opportunities that the students had been exposed to previously. Tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple were ready to meet prospective interns/employees and as were insurance, retail, and start up companies such as Prudential, Target, Walmart, and Blue Apron.
“In a way, our attendance at the conference was our way of saying thank you to them [female pioneers in tech] by continuing their work.”
Graduate MIS Student
It is clear that tech is truly in everything. The conference opened the students’ eyes to the infinite possibilities that a degree in anything tech-related can afford them.
Lauren Niesz, a graduate MIS student, said, “It is so important to be exposed to all different areas that tech is involved in. I had no idea that these big, seemingly non-tech, companies are in need of technical engineers. Being that I really didn’t have as much experience in the field as everyone else because I was an English undergraduate student, it was a pivotal experience for me to find out where I fit into the equation in this world.”
“It was also absolutely incredible to be exposed to these women who have truly paved the way for all of us. In a way, our attendance at the conference was our way of saying thank you to them by continuing their work,” Niesz continued.
For Kalyna Reda, a junior software engineering student, the experience was a bit different. Reda was able to attend the conference last year as a sophomore and now, this year, she returned as a Grace Hopper Scholar.
Reda stated, “As a scholar, I was able to go to a reception and work with mentors on our interviewing and networking skills. This helped me get many on site interviews, in addition to my interviews before the conference!”
Many of the CSSE students were offered formal interviews and even internships on the spot and all students were afforded the opportunity to hold lengthy conversations regarding the industry and possible internships/jobs with recruiters from various companies. We are so proud of our CSSE students who attended the conference and experienced what power and potential they are afforded in this industry. Women in tech have the ability to make waves and really change the seemingly stagnant tide in the tech world.
Some women in tech are comfortable where they stand, but for this group of students, they plan on changing the world.
As Grace Hopper herself once said, “A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” Good luck in the future to our Grace Hopper attendees and all CSSE students in their quest for positive change in the industry!
To learn more about the conference and even check out the keynotes, visit: https://ghc.anitab.org
To learn more about Anita B.org, visit: https://anitab.org