Notes from the Grace Hopper Celebration 2010

I've always been proud to be a woman in a male-dominated industry, but never wanted to be considered a woman engineer — just an engineer. So I didn't know what to expect when I was asked to speak on a panel at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing held in Atlanta last week. Well, let me just say how blown away I was by this conference and honored to be a part of this extraordinary community.

With over 2,000 attendees, this event was huge! The sheer numbers give pause: a record-breaking 2,147 attendees representing 20 countries, and more than 117 sessions by 436 speakers. This pretty much ensured a shortage of Diet Coke and a line for the men's room.

Ladies' room at GHC

This was a really diverse crowd, and I loved that there were valuable sessions geared towards everyone, from students to executives. From deeply technical sessions on emerging and esoteric topics (A Mobile-Cloud Collaborative Approach for Context-Aware Blind Navigation and Coordinated System Level Resource Management for Heterogeneous Many-core Platforms) to practical career-building sessions (10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Career and Elevating the Role of Women: Insight from Women Who Hold Board Positions in the Technology Industry).

About half the attendees were from industry and the other half from academia, government, and non-profits. And all career stages were represented, from the "still-in-school" crowd to, well, Carol Bartz — who gave a fantastic and entertaining keynote about taking charge of your own career.

Carol Bartz keynote

On Thursday I sat on the Career and Economic Opportunity in Open Source Software panel and discussed how working in FOSS development has impacted my career. My distinguished colleagues and I shared war stories about the challenges and glories of working on open source projects and encouraged everyone to roll up their sleeves and dive right in.

Career and Economic Opportunity in Open Source Software

On Thursday evening I helped facilitate the Codeathon for Humanity, a collective coding event to introduce participants to development on Sahana Eden, the open source disaster management platform. What a great way to get folks of all skill levels ramped up on a great FOSS project!

Codeathon for Humanity

What I loved most about being at Grace Hopper was just how very practical and useful it was — this was not a bunch of women in computing sitting around talking about what it means to be a woman in computing. This was thousands of bright, articulate, accomplished, and caring women sharing expertise, making connections, and collaborating in very concrete and immediate ways.