This is my fourth Grace Hopper conference, and one thing is universally true about my experiences at GHC: by the end of day 3, I am mentally EXHAUSTED. The days are so jam-packed and the networking and energy so intense that it really is hard to sustain over 3 days. So if this post become incoherent at some point…well, you have been warned.
This morning’s keynote was by Fran Berman, VP of Research at RPI. Fran talked a lot about the challenges of all of this digital data we are generating, amassing, and storing, and a bit about developing CS and engineering talent. She had a lot of interesting factoids sprinkled throughout her talk: for instance, by 2023, the number of pieces of digital data we will have will be greater than Avogadro’s number. That just blows my mind.
I missed the rest of the morning sessions to attend a planning meeting for regional women in computing conferences. Yesterday, I caught up with someone I had met on an NSF panel, who invited me to this meeting, but was kind of vague as to what the meeting was about. Turns out that attending meant that I was volunteering myself to co-organize a regional conference! After I got over my initial shock, and once I figured out why I was at the meeting, and after fighting the urge to flee (“what? I’m not ready to do this! I’m not qualified! help!”), I did enjoy the meeting, and am looking forward to making this happen….soon, apparently(!). Stay tuned to this space for more details.
Today was the annual Systers lunch. Systers is a mailing list for women in computing. I have been a member for about 10 years now (wow, has it really been that long?), and this lunch is always one of the more enjoyable lunches. I shared a table today with an industrial researcher, a winner of a Pass-It-On Grant who runs a technology camp for girls in Nigeria, an undergrad finishing up her CS degree, a software engineer, and a woman who owns her own web design firm and is going back to school to get her CS degree. To say that the conversations were interesting would be a gross understatement. The coolest part of the lunch, though, was when the Pass-It-On Grant winner spoke about what getting the grant meant to her, which led to someone deciding to pass around a wine glass or three for impromptu donations, which resulted in over $500 raised for the next round of grants….in 5 minutes flat.
In the afternoon, I went to a talk by Susan Landau, of Sun, on telecom security and security policy. She did a great job making the topic accessible and had some interesting stories. Interesting gender phenomenon: I never saw more than 1-2 men at a single session during the conference, except at this talk—I am fairly certain that almost all of the men in attendance were at this talk.
I also went to a (surprisingly sparsely-attended) session on recruitment and retention at primarily undergraduate institutions, where I discovered that St. Scholastica (yes, the one in Duluth) is kicking our asses in terms of percentage of women faculty and percentage of women CS majors—and that they have set a goal of gender parity in CS by 2019. Go, neighbors! The most popular recruitment/retention strategies seem to be (a) recruit student TAs and/or lab assistants who are women (check), (b) have women teach the intro CS courses (check—I’m teaching 2 of our 5 sections this year), (c) have women in computing groups (nope, sadly), (d) send women to represent the department whenever possible (nope, but we could do this), (e) personally invite good students in CS 1 to take CS 2 (check).
The day ended with the annual Friday night sponsor party, with the requisite t-shirts and blinky things and food and dancing. I met up with a recent Carleton grad and got to catch up with her, which was lovely; and dispensed some random career advice to various strangers (always entertaining). I did bail early though, due to the whole exhaustion thing I mentioned at the start of the post.
So, another year, another GHC in the books. All in all, it was a great conference. I met some junior faculty, networked with some senior faculty, and talked with a ton of graduate students at various stages in their careers, some of whom I hope will apply for our tenure-track position. And I’m now at the point where I run into people I’ve met in previous years, too, which is always a treat. I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference, in Atlanta (yay, Delta hub!).