Monday, November 14, 2011

Grace Hopper Celebration: It's all about connections

As I am sitting in the Portland airport waiting for my flight back to San Francisco, I look back at the great times I had at the Grace Hopper Celebration last week. This is my third time attending GHC, and I always come back fully energized. What makes GHC so wonderful? It's all about connections.

Connecting to others like you

It can feel lonely being a woman in a male-dominated field like computer science. Simply being in the same venue with almost 3000 other women sends a very strong signal: you are not alone. As you sit in various sessions, you get to meet people in the same situation as you. You realize that you are a victim of the Imposter Syndrome, that everyone in the room also thought they got to where they are because they are lucky, not because they are good. You chat with the woman sitting next to you at lunch, making a deep connection because both of you are a few years into your job and unsure what to do next. You swap tips, you hear great advice, you share your stories, and you immerse yourself in the solidarity of your fellow women in computing.

Connecting to others unlike you

While it is energizing to meet people just like you, it is also empowering to see women thriving in so many different ways. You see a young professor doing groundbreaking research. You see a mother of six going back to school for a PhD and loving it. You see an executive taking the helm of a large corporation. You see an undergrad leading a non-profit project and making an impact. It shows you that success comes in many different sizes and shapes, and opens your eyes to the possibilities of greatness for yourself.

Connecting to yourself

When was the last time you took time to think about yourself and your career? At Grace Hopper Celebration, you step away from your daily responsibilities and think about the big picture. What I want to do? How do I get there? You are surrounded by amazingly supportive people, helping you recognize your achievements, hearing your fears and concerns, giving you tips and advice, and urging you to take charge of your future. You feel energized because you got to lift your head above the daily grind and see what's out there in the horizon. Your newfound connections let you know that you are not alone, that others before you have struggled and succeeded, and wherever you want to go, you will get there. It's a wonderful feeling.

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