Our trip started with a meet up and breakfast Heathrow. The other girls who had been selected to come on the trip were are amazing, and I am so proud to have shared this experience with them. After what ended up as an 18 hour journey encompassing everything from hysterical giggles to naps to really-not-thumbs-up's, we made it to our hotel and allowed the jetlag to take over.
The next morning was the first we got to see Phoenix in the flesh. After
breakfast, we boarded the coach to the Phoenix Convention Centre where we would finally experience the scale of the Grace Hopper Conference. After registering and getting our badges (I got way over excited...!), we headed to the key note speech from Shafi Goldwasser. During her talk I was fascinated by the technical concepts and equations she was referring too, and although I was following the maths side and engaging physicist mode...it really made me want to research and find out more, so I could fully understand.
|Stemettes gone Stateside|
'Anita Borg's vision: A global community of women leaders' was my favourite panel of the entire conference. Moderated by Jody Mahoney, the panellists gave incredibly insightful inputs to the session, hearing about their work in various charities and communities was very powerful and truly inspiring. The Q&A afterwards invited the women in the room to share their own stories and experiences.
|What happens before the careers fair|
In the run up to the conference, women on twitter hit out against the proposed 'men as allies' panel...however, it did go ahead. I was in two minds about how this could turn out, but I
believe going ahead was the correct decision as; if what we are striving for is diversity and equality in the industry, surely we can't be discriminatory and do the same thing back. I do feel it was very safe, not having a Q&A at the end of the session, however, as again the power of twitter alerted the men on the panel to the views of the audience, another session was agreed. 'You talk we listen' is the session that happened the next day...and the stories that came from there were powerful, and I have huge respect for the women who spoke out and shared their experiences.
Day 2 started with a 'half' waffle the size of our heads, before we boarded the coach once more to the convention centre. We had an early start to catch the key note speech, and before that the presentation of the Technical Leadership Award to Anne Condon who said 'I wish all women all over the world happy opportunities' . The key note was a conversation between Maria Klawe and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, which took an unexpected turn and made almost global news when he made a comment on women not asking for pay rises that many did not agree with. However, one thing he said that struck me and I did agree with was 'success starts by being comfortable in your own skin' which I think is a very important lesson to learn. Nadella did commit to attending Grace Hopper next year.
I spent the rest of the day networking at the careers fair, handing out my CV to different companies and finding out that actually there is room for the skills a physicist learns in the tech world. Getting a high five from the lady on the Twitter stand when she found out I was a physicist and a tweetaholic plus a notebook from them with #doodles on the front was definitely a highlight of the day. This was topped only by bumping into Barbara Gee on my Starbucks run, who is one of the most inspirational ladies I have ever had the fortune to hear speak, and talking to her about the men as allies panel on the previous day before getting a selfie and her asking for a hug (!).
It was the warmest day we had woken up to so far, completely blue skies stretching as far as the eye could see and Phoenix at its most beautiful. Day 3 brought with it a sinking heart, as I realised that this experience had passed so quickly and been such a whirlwind...but there was still another full day to go and it was time to make the most of it. First stop was the careers fair, for a last CV dash and swag pick up before meeting Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen aka Tech Girls Superheroes who you need to follow on twitter because she makes super cool books specifically to get more girls into STEM.
We headed out onto the balcony at the top of the convention centre to shoot some video diaries and record our best bits of the conference, before splitting up for our penultimate sessions. I chose to attend the 'Data science in social media analytics' talk, which was composed of three different speakers in a completely new area for me. Learning all about big data and the science of celebrity tweeting was fascinating and many of the problem solving concepts and methods spoken about were relevent to my current studies.
|Sunset in Phoenix, Az|
That was the end...it was over. It's a strange thing to see all of the signs being taken down and everyone leaving the place where you have felt so at home for the past few days. I learnt so much from this experience...the main things being don't give up, you and only you have control of your future...and there are opportunities everywhere, you just have to look.
Thank you to everyone who made it possible for us to go to Grace Hopper - the Student to Stemette scheme, Deutsche Bank Born to Be programme, my mentor Alexandra and of course to Anne-Marie and Andrew who accompanied us and made it such an amazing trip. Truly a life changing experience - thank you.