Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Grace Hopper Celebration: Speaking and Connecting

Grace Hopper Celebration is my favorite conference of all times. Every time I go, I learn new things, make new friends, and come home energized. This year I am very honored to be accepted as a speaker, to share my experience as a female software engineer.

Letter to my younger self

The title of my talk is Letter to my younger self: Things I wish I knew when I first started working. I have made so many mistakes in my career that I wish I could go back and point myself in the right direction. Alas, I do not own a TARDIS, but I could pass the information to current students.

Once I came up with the talk idea, I invite two friends, Rupa Dachere and Christina Schulman, to present with me. They have quite a bit more experience than me, and we weave our stories together into the talk.

Me, Christina and Rupa
Me, Christina and Rupa

Speaking to a full house

When we got to the conference, we were rather surprised by the room assigned to our session. It was quite big, with 350 chairs (yes we counted). We anxiously watched people slowly filling the room, until all the chairs were all taken. Every single one of them. The ushers were actually turning people away!

View from the stage
View from the stage

We divided the talk into three parts: career, networking and negotiations. For negotiations, we lightened the mood quite a bit by demonstrating the techniques with skits. People loved it.

We were ruthless in cutting material from the talk to make sure we leave plenty of time for questions, for I always felt that is the best part of GHC sessions, the interaction at the end.

All in all the session went really well. It was a pity we didn't record the whole talk, but our session blogger, Lexy Holloway, types unbelievably quickly. She has a very comprehensive session report that is practically the transcript!

For more information on our talk, here is a collection of links: http://bit.ly/ghc12-letter

Data science and cats

I was busy rehearsing all the way until our presentation, so I missed quite a lot of sessions. Now that I think about it, I only attended a single one during the whole conference. It was Short URLs, Big Data: Learning about the World in Realtime by Hilary Mason. What an outstanding talk! It was a great balance in technical details, insightful anecdotes, and humorous slides.

This slide, for instance, had me laughing uncontrollably. Hilary used it to illustrated that what we share is not what we click. People share links that reflects well on them, but privately they read very different things. Just like the cat dressing up as a chicken, we use sharing to groom a public appearance.

Hallway Track

Although I only went to a single session, I felt I benefited a lot from the conference nonetheless. I love to hang out in the hallway, wave at people I knew from previous conferences, and reconnect. We met over breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, even in the swimming pool. Each of us brought friends, made introductions, and expanded the circle of camaraderie.

I am actually very glad that I spent the majority of my time on the hallway track, to connect with women from all walks of technology, to support each other, to celebrate our achievements. This is the best part of Grace Hopper Celebration!


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  1. Hi Chiu-Ki - enjoyed reading your experiences at GHC and the transcript of your talk. Found it useful even at this stage of my career. There are things we know but we forget :)

    1. Hi Neha! Glad to know that you enjoyed the transcript of our session. Are you going to GHC India? It's right by your doorsteps in Bangalore! http://gracehopper.org.in/2012/