Grace Hopper Key Takeaways

Last week I attended the Grace Hopper Conference for the first time. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Grace Hopper is a conference designed to foster and encourage women in tech. As an engineer and diversity advocate, the experience was absolutely amazing. I want to share some of my key takeaways.

Grace Hopper: where you take photo both pictures with your CTO

Retaining Women is Just as Important as Hiring Them

Karen Holtzblatt and Carol Farnsworth gave an absolutely amazing talk on how to retain women in tech (I could write a whole post just on this talk). Did you know that women in tech leave the industry at a rate 30% higher than their male counterparts? No other industry has a discrepancy in attrition as high as this. While the pipeline may be part of the problem, if we want to see more women in tech we’re going to have to focus just as hard on retaining the ones we already have.

Allyship Requires Active Participation

I always thought of my role as an ally to be one of simple support. I should have an open mind and be listening attentively to issues facing my female co-workers. Several of the talks at Grace Hopper convinced me that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Taking an active role as an ally is not only ok, it’s strongly encouraged and needed.

Furthermore, I learned that there is a certain responsibility that privilege carries with it. We live in a biased world, and as a result, the people who are often the most knowledgeable about bias are also the ones who are the least heard. As a male ally it is my duty to leverage my privilege to combat bias, sharing in the burden of education and amplifying the voices of the marginalized.

Grace Hopper has High Quality Engineering Candidates

This year I went representing my current employer, Uber. I had the opportunity to talk with many prospective employees and even interview some of them. The vast majority of these people were currently in college. I’ve been doing college recruiting for 3 years, and the average caliber of candidates at Grace Hopper was higher than any other college recruiting event I’ve done. Of the 6 students I interviewed for positions at Uber, 5 passed my technical interview question. Several of them got further than some industry candidates. If you’re doing college technical recruiting of any type, you should be doubling down on your investment at Grace Hopper.

I’ve never bought the argument that focusing on diversity in hiring will require you to “lower your bar”. Grace Hopper is empirical (even if only anecdotal) evidence that there are great minds to be found everywhere. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look.

Final Thoughts

I learned a ton at Grace Hopper. And in addition, I felt really welcomed as an Ally. For this and many other reasons, the Grace Hopper Conference can only be described as an absolutely wonderful experience. I think it behooves our industry to continue to support it. I can’t wait to return next year in Orlando.


Kurtis Nusbaum is a Mobile/Backend Developer at Uber and an avid long distance runner. He can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Here’s his github. If Kurtis seems like the kind of guy with whom you’d like to work, shoot him an e-mail at kcommiter@gmail.com.