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.
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.
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.
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!
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.