Computers are so Cool – GHC 2013

My name is Sarah and I am a 5th year undergraduate student in Computing Science at the University of Alberta.

Grace Hopper was a uniquely rewarding experience and I am so grateful that I was able to have the opportunity to go. Thank you to the Department of Computing Science for funding a large number of us, and for encouraging women to participate and excel in computing science at our university.

On that note, the following is an informative and graphic tale of my experience at Grace Hopper 2013.

Initially I was very excited.

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Seeing so many smart women in one place blew my mind. We attended a conference with 4600 other computing scientists and IT professionals, the majority of which were women.

I have never seen this many technical women in one place before. The experience was really empowering.

Then I was able to see some of my idols give amazing keynotes to this crowd.

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These are women in our industry with a wealth of experience. I am so glad they were able to impart their knowledge on to us. Also the keynotes were so genuine and honest about the current situation for women in IT and instead of tip-toeing around the issues, it was amazing to see them approach gender discrimination directly. For example, keynote, and Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg is providing practical solutions to this problem. Women in IT are often lacking communities, so she created Lean In Circles to encourage women to stay in the field and push for further opportunities.

The conference was amazing and educational, but stressful!!

I am a student after all. For much of my spare time I was attempting to stay caught up on homework.

And I was worried someone would see me type something stupid on my non-modded mac book. So I fretted about someone casually watching me type “ld” in my terminal and realizing I can’t spell “ls” or “cd” or one of these awesome women hacking my computer and crawling out from under the table to take away my nerd-cred brownie badge…

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Then one of the echoes of a keynote speaker popped into my head. “women systematically underestimate their own abilities” There is also this weird thing called imposter syndrome, where somehow women underestimate their skills or think they are frauds. I DO THAT. DR. MARIA KLAWE DOES THAT!! Can you believe it!?

For me Grace Hopper was about building community, about showing you someone out there shares your fears. This is helping me over come my fears and to make new friends.

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There were tons of other students in the exact same position as myself. It was really fun to talk to other women about how to deal with things that effect us every day and move forward to build departments and student bodies that are more sensitive to gender oppression.

Other highlights from the conference included the cornucopia of swag we were given. So many cool things from cool companies accompanied by cool conversations!

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But we were also able to give away our own swag too!! (This means we got to be the cool people giving away cool stuff, featured below.)

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So thank you again everyone who supported Ada’s Team at Grace Hopper 2013 and to my new friends, thanks for making the trip so awesome!

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