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Field Notes: Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

Automattic heads to Houston, Texas — along with 15,000 other people — to talk women in tech.

Automatticians, the people who build WordPress.com, participate in events and projects around the world every day. Periodically, we report back on the exciting things we do when not in front of a computer.

I’d like to share some experiences from the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, where I was joined by my colleagues Marjorie Asturias, Deborah Beckett, Mo Carter, Rebecca Collins, Kelly Dwan, and Megan Marcel.

Picture an airplane hangar-sized space full of women bobbing to rhythmic pop music, neon glowing necklaces dotting the crowd. This was the closing party for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), a massive conference devoted to women studying or working in technology, and named in honor of the legendary computer scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral.

It was an intense few October days in Houston, Texas, where the 16th edition of GHC drew 15,000 international participants, from computer-science and software-engineering college students to established professionals working at large technology companies like IBM, Microsoft, and Apple.

Automattic was proud to host a booth at the career fair, where we chatted with many young women getting started in their technology careers. We introduced a series of postcards featuring Automatticians, which you can see on our new Diversity and Inclusion page. The cards showcase the wide range of people working at Automattic from their home bases across the globe, in roles from Data Scientist to Happiness Engineer.

I also had an opportunity to attend some sessions at the conference itself. Highlights included a talk about how to negotiate more effectively, a skill a lot of women find rather challenging. According to the presenter, we tend to negotiate well on others’ behalves, but many of us — including me — find that negotiating for ourselves can be difficult! Another thought-provoking session was a panel discussion with women who have created tools to help bypass unconscious bias during the hiring and interviewing process. I also attended a public speaking workshop; since I also run public speaking workshops, it was useful to see one from a participant’s perspective. I picked up some good tips on how to handle a larger group — there were at least a hundred women at this one, in a huge ballroom.

My week at GHC was inspiring and exhausting, but more than anything, it was energizing to be around so many women passionate about technology.

Looking for your own adventure in tech? We’re hiring!


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22 Comments

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  1. Jo Smith

    Cool!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Brass Castle Arts

    This post brings to mind a post I read in Maria Popova’s “Brain Pickings” about black women mathematicians a couple of months ago. The book sounds fascinating!

    “Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Powered Early Space Exploration” https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/09/19/hidden-figures-margot-lee-shetterly/

    Liked by 9 people

  3. cielotech

    Great post. Grace Brewster Murray Hopper is one of my heroes. She was single-handedly instrumental in pushing computer science for our country. A Rear Admiral in the US Navy, she coined the word “bug” for computer glitches. The story goes, there were roaches and other crawling creatures in the basement where the first computers for the Navy were located. These critters would frequently get in the computers themselves; i.e. bugs in the computer. If it were not for Admiral Hopper, we would be playing catch-up instead of leading the world in computer science. Great post.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Wm. Allen

    I knew about Grace Hopper over 35 years ago, she was in the forefront of computing.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Renee Johnson

    Love this post <3. I attended a local event that broadcast the keynote featuring CTO of the US, Megan Smith, and was so inspired by her talk as well as seeing so many women in the space. It makes me warm inside to know that Automattic was there to represent :). It's also great to see some familiar faces from my Happiness Engineer trial. Fantastic team! I still dub it as one of the best growing experiences I've had professionally and personally. I still haven't lost sight of being an Automattician one day ;).

    Liked by 4 people

    • Kathryn P.

      Aw, thanks for the kind words, I’m so glad your trial was a good experience.

      It’s very cool that you got to hear Megan Smith speak. I can imagine how inspiring it was! She gave a keynote at GHC this year but I missed it.

      Thanks for chiming in and good luck with your career path!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Kathryn P.

      I just re-read your comment and now I realize that you actually did watch this year’s GHC keynote by Ms. Smith. Even cooler to experience that!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Carla Doria

    This is certainly an exciting event. And I love the idea of not only celebrating the participation of women in technology but also encouraging more participation through these events. Looking forward to attending a similar event sometime!!! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  7. smorrismath

    Love the post! When I was in college pursuing my Master’s Degree, I did a research paper on Grace Hopper. She was a very interesting woman and the person who coined the phrase “bug” in a computer program. The first computer “bug”, which was found by Hopper, was actually a moth between connections in the computer wiring. I don’t think I will ever forget that fact!!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Lloyd Lofthouse

    I wonder why they picked Houston, Texas for the 16th edition of GHC. I’m sure they didn’t know about Houston being the gateway for trafficked children and women from around the world.

    The Texas Monthly ran a piece on this and called it “The Lost Girls”

    “For the thousands of women who have been trafficked into Houston and forced to work as prostitutes in the city’s underground sex trade, escaping from captivity may be the eaiser part of the nearly impossible road to recovery”

    http://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/the-lost-girls/

    CNN also reported “Inside Houston’s sex slave trade”

    http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/11/us/the-hunt-john-walsh-diaz-juarez-texas-sex-slave-human-trafficking/

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Marjorie

    Reblogged this on Mad About the Dogs and commented:

    This was the most exhausting, most exhilarating and exciting conference I’ve ever attended. And I continue to be amazed, even weeks after the event, that it was held just a few hours’ drive from my home.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Val Sanford

    Grace Hopper is my hero. One day I think my cousin, Lena, will be a winner. I first learned of Grace Hopper while working with the Seattle Girls’ School in Seattle. They honor women every year with a Grace Hopper award for leadership and one for outstanding achievment in their field. It’s thrilling to watch 7th grade girls give awards to amazing women.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. homeomart

    Its nice to see power puff girls taking a break and doing their bit to make the net a better place, also shows how women empowerment can make this planet a better one to live in

    Liked by 1 person

  12. woman psyche

    Wow, hope someday my name includes there..just wishful thinking. This kind of events really empower women. Really cool!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ellie P.

    WOW! Sounds amazing!!

    I hadn’t heard of “Amazing Grace” before, so you’ve afforded me the opportunity to find out. (Went to that other “W” site: Wikipedia.)

    Excellent summation, I can just imagine the great time you all must’ve had!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. afthead

    Thanks for this post! I’m always looking for inspiring conferences for me and my team that are relevant to our jobs, but also will give us an opportunity to grow and learn outside of our normal day to day activities. This looks perfect! Maybe we’ll see you next year.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. raufworld

    Love the way you compose your posts,such post keeps young bloggers like me moving.Keeping the trend going……….

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Patricia Finnegan

    Wonderful post. Grace Hopper was the Key Note speaker at my graduation from Villa Julie College. We were the first class to graduate from the college with an AA in Business Administration and Data Processing. I’ll never forget the impression she made on all of us. She was a real pioneer in the computing world.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. desfortinmenulis

    It’s a nice post. But I could not imagine if it was energizing to be around so many women passionate about technology.

    Like

  18. UmzugHelden Wien (@umzughelden)

    Interesting article WP, thanks for sharing it!
    Good to know some Details about Grace 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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