Time flies, I was attending grace hopper conference 4 years ago and it was an amazing experience to say the least. It feels like there are so many sessions that I can attend at this conference it almost feels like I need to copy and paste myself 5 times so I can be present in 5 places at one time. From technology to career to Internet of things to cloud, to the latest research everything is coming at you at once. It is also so inspiring to attend a technology conference and see so many women and not feel like a minority for a change. So many bright women that I can relate to their field of study under one roof and that always gives me goosebumps!
Therefore, I had big expectations from this years Grace Hopper Conference (GHC), which is not always a great thing because it might come back with disappointment. While I was trying to get my high hopes in check weeks before the conference, I am happy to say that this years GHC was also nothing short of what I was expecting and more. They almost took the conference to a new level!
Keynotes at the Grace Hopper
Opening keynote by Hilary Mason is a topic that I can completely relate to. Big data and the conclusions, analysis, predictions, and oh the innovations that we can drive from it. She is the founder and CEO of Fast Forward Labs which is a company with about 8 technology geeks one being herself but the inspiration is that she has the guts to deliver the opening keynote after only 3 years ago when she was the shy gal sitting at the back of the room at the very same conference. I vote Hilary M. for president… 🙂
I tweeted several of Susan Wojcicki’s, CEO of YouTube, quotes during her keynote, on Thursday. “work smart, work hard, do a great job and go home! Be in it in the long run!”, “Men have no special skills to lead technology companies, it is just they are more ambitious and there are just too many of them!”. She is on a mission to change the young women’s perspective on technology, computing, science and engineering fields. Thank you Susan!
I also have to mention Hadi Partovi, CEO and Cofounder of Code.Org, presentation. He was very inspirational and took his presentation to not only to a thought provoking one but also turned his message to an action/mission invoking one. I am already in contact with several public schools in Kentucky and on a mission to do an “Hour of Code” campaign during the computer science education week, Dec 7-12th. Thank you Hadi!
I love the technical keynote by Manuela Veloso, professor at the computer science department by the carnegie mellon university. Her presentation revolved around robotics and how they improve our lives and how they can become part of a society and that her early stages of her research and findings are truly inspirational.
Plenary Sessions at the Grace Hopper
Plenary sessions and the keynotes were the highlight of this conference for me! Amazing messages from amazing leaders. Clara Shih was the bomb.com with her startup hearsaysocial.com and her presentation was highly polished and what I call a remarkable one! She was the complete package; style, knowledge, confidence, precision, clarity, I will definitely be following her everywhere. Blake Irving from GoDaddy talked about how they changed the culture and decided not to use women as objects in their advertisement. He is on a mission for a diverse workforce while accepting the contributions of women in technology. Oh and the amazing Megan Smith, the United States Chief Technology Officer, CTO. I loved her style! I loved her approach of bringing other women in her group to the stage and lift them up. Her distinction and owning the room of 10,000+ during the hosted Q&A was a lesson on its own. Much respect to her and the US government for bringing in right people to solve nations challenging problems.
Throughout the conference, I was looking forward to Sheryl Sandberg’s plenary session which was the second afternoon of the conference. Sheryl was truly amazing and inspirational. She looked great, she spoke well as always and she looked fun, engaged, and wasn’t afraid to talk about the tough topics. I am sure she is used to and went over all these conversations during many book tours and interviews so many times that it is almost a second nature to her. The conversation was almost like an overview of her famous book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, which created a movement. I highly recommend her book and following her. What impressed me the most about Sheryl was she mentioned the death of her husband which was a terrible tragedy that happened just about 6 months ago at the time of this post. She didn’t ignore it and went ahead and brought it up saying she is still dealing with it but wasn’t going to go too deep either. We all can imagine that it must still be tough but what is impressive is she is still leaned in. She is still engaged! She is still like a spit fire and most importantly she is leading by example and not taking any excuse not to lean in! Hats off to you Sheryl, really proud of you and God bless you and your family! Stay strong.
While talking about Sheryl’s interview and not mentioning the host, Nora Denzel, Ericsson Board of Member, would be a terrible dishonor to the amazing, fun, polished, professional, natural and authentic presentation Nora had! OMG, I was floored! She made it look easy! She was remarkable and she is someone we should definitely all follow!
Session Presentations can Improve
I have to say, I attended several session presentations and workshops. As I said earlier although I wished I could since I could not be in 5 places at one time, I couldn’t attend many sessions. There are some good sessions/presentations but there are some that also went wrong.
Here is the guide that i put together to prepare an amazing presenation. When I see a slide with so many words and small fonts that nobody can read, I get agitated. Take a look at this slide (this is with the zoom on my iPhone 6+). One presenter literaly read her notes during her entire presentation.
This is not something I mentioned on my free “present like a pro” tutorial, but I listened/read about it somewhere that I cannot remember right now but here is also another tip: Never end your presentation with “if you have to take away two points from my presentation, these would be blah, blah, blah…” It implies that you just wasted 40-45 minutes of my time, cause if I could have just come to the last few minutes of your presentation, it would have been just fine. Just something to think about.
It is About the Relationships and People
Yes, there are several things that we could improve at the Grace Hopper, maybe the logistics, checkin process for the workshops, order of events but all those really doesn’t matter. I am so proud of everyone who are so dedicated and have done so much to make the conference what it is today. When I was at Grace Hopper 4 years ago, it was a conference of 800 and today it is a conference for 12,000 and growing. You are heros, making a difference! We are all heros! My highlight of the conference is Erica!