Carnegie Mellon University
November 02, 2015

Celebrating women in computing at Grace Hopper

By Jessica Corry

Janet George, SanDisk chief data scientist, said it best at the 2015 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC): “Technology is great. It won’t change the world. People will.”

For three days this October, the most ambitious women in tech gathered at the world’s largest technical conference for women in computing to inspire, support and engage one another to ignite change. Among these 12,000 women technologists were students and alumnae of the Information Networking Institute (INI), representing Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) for the ninth year at the GHC.

INI has been a strong supporter of the annual conference since 2006 as a silver-level sponsor and, in 2012, became a gold-level academic sponsor. Each year, the INI selects at least six INI students to attend through Women@INI scholarships. Alumnae are also present as representatives for the likes of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco.

Admiral Grace Hopper once said, “the most dangerous phrase in the English language is ‘it’s always been done this way.’” In an effort to shake up the traditionally male-dominated engineering field, Dena Haritos Tsamitis has spearheaded a number of initiatives as director of the INI. “Attending and sponsoring Grace Hopper for the past nine years is just one example of the INI’s long-standing commitment to increasing diversity in the field of engineering,” said Tsamitis. “We embrace this year’s GHC theme because it is indeed ‘our time to lead’ to a future where every person, no matter their gender, ethnicity or background, can thrive in the field.”

At this year’s conference, INI students mingled with pioneering women in tech, including Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer; Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer; and Manuela M. Veloso, one of Carnegie Mellon’s own. Dr. Veloso, who is the Herbert A. Simon University Professor of Computer Science, accepted the INI’s invitation to visit the CMU booth and meet with GHC attendees, as well as join the evening networking mixer. Her presence, alongside a number of successful INI alumnae, was a testament to the strength of Carnegie Mellon’s science and technology programming.

Several INI students met extraordinary female role models at the conference and some even walked away with job offers, but all left with the knowledge that they play an important part in changing the world.

“After GHC, you come back as a totally different person,” concluded Arushi Grover, Master of Science in Information Networking (MSIN). “A woman more confident, a woman more tolerant, a woman who now knows how to take on the world.”

Seven INI students attended the GHC in 2015. Below, they sound off on conference highlights, networking advice and what made this year an amazing experience.

Top three reasons to attend GHC: career fair, technology sessions and networking

“Attending events like Grace Hopper gives women a chance to meet role models and learn to tackle workplace issues from their experience. Be prepared with the 30-second elevator speech and carry plenty of resumes all the time.” – Khyati Sampat, Master of Science in Information Technology-Mobility (MSIT-MOB)

Change is happening, thanks to the efforts of amazing women in the field

“Seeing 12,000 attendees support and celebrate women in computing and all technical fields in general was a breakthrough moment for me.” – Chrysanthi Vandera, Master of Science in Information Technology-Mobility (MSIT-MOB)

GHC is abundant with job opportunities

“What we need to understand is that as much as we want the job opportunities, the companies too want young, passionate women in the field of technology.” – Archana Iyer, Master of Science in Information Technology-Mobility (MSIT-MOB)

Attending Grace Hopper is an experience unlike any other

“How often can you walk into a room full of women and overhear words like 'open source,’ 'code analysis' and the like?” – Preeti Ravindra, Master of Science in Information Networking (MSIN)

Opportunity to meet role models face-to-face

“I had a great moment the first evening where I met Megan Smith [U.S. Chief Technology Officer], one of the women that has been inspirational to me since I decided to go into the computer science field.” – Jennifer Burns, Master of Science in Information Security (MSIS)

Key to networking: be aware of your surroundings and openly approach others

“The key here is to remember the fact that everyone around you is here for the same purpose, and that it's all about who initiates it.” – Arushi Grover, Master of Science in Information Networking (MSIN)

Sheryl Sandberg’s session was phenomenal

“It really epitomized what Grace Hopper stands for – women in tech helping each other to bring out their best without inhibitions and fighting the gender bias by challenging society’s deep-seated prejudice and beliefs, including our own.” – Priyanka Kulkarni, Master of Science in Information Technology-Mobility (MSIT-MOB)