Grace Hopper Celebration 2016 begins with a keynote by Latanya Sweeney and Ginni Rometty …

… 15000 attendees !! Wow. So much talent under one roof !!

The first keynote was by Latanya Sweeney. First American Black woman with a PHD in CS, and it was in 2001 ! I do hope we’ve come a long way since then. She gave an interesting talk on how we are now living in a technocracy. Technology design decides how we live our lives, and what part is private (if any). Using some hard-hitting examples, she showed why algorithmic accountability is important. People with black names are 80% more likely to be shown ads related to “arrest records”, asian hosts earn less than white hosts on AirBnB, and so on. We are technologists, what we develop in a little or big way will govern how people will live, what discrimination they might face. So, besides hardware, software, we need to start thinking about data privacy and ethics/values in our design. Data availability and data science is enabling great assessments to solve real-world societal, political and governance problems. Society need not choose between privacy and technology, their coexistence is absolutely essential, and each of us can do out little bit.

Latanya Sweeney Keynote @ GHC 2016

The second keynote was by Ginni Rometty, Chairman and CEO IBM. Ginni has a style of giving her talk as stories. She started off giving us three history stories of eminent women technologists — a: Ada Lovelace, the mother of software, b: Grace Hopper, the first compiler writer, c: The three women mathematicians at NASA, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan, responsible for calculating trajectories for top space missions such as Apollo, Mercury.

Ginni gave career advice, based on her personal stories, again a group of three (another trademark) a) Never let anyone define you are. You decide that. b) Growth and comfort do not co-exist. You get an opportunity, you take it, do not let your insecurities/under-confidence deter you. c) Work on something bigger than yourself. Make an impact.

She closed off by bringing three IBM women on stage, all super-achievers in themselves: a) Rachel Reintz: Distinguished Engineer, Bluemix Garage, b) Vanessa Michelini: Distinguised Engineer, Watson Genomics, c) Lisa Seacat DeLuca: a prolific inventor with 250 patents !

Each of them shared what drives them. As per these esteemed ladies, the future of computing is: Innovative, Cognitive, Empowering. Ginni is transforming IBM into a cloud and cognitive company, and her belief is that cognitive and/or AI will transform how we live. To see what is IBM upto, check out this 60 mins on CBS session; How Watson went from winning Jeopardy to Fighting Cancer.