“So, there’s a moment — which I’m sure you’ll all experience in school, or in work, or in your daily life — when you realize, there’s just a big problem staring you in the face. And you think, “well, there’s a big problem; who’s going to come fix this? Who is responsible?”
For me, this was an especially poignant part of Priscilla Chan’s remarks on day two of the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration. It was this very feeling that inspired me to join the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) technology team last year.
Grace Hopper 2018 — my first time attending the world’s largest gathering of women in technology! Landing in Houston, I drove straight to the conference. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was eager to arrive. I had already researched most of the speakers and had a working list of workshops I wanted to attend. Despite my in-depth preparation, Grace Hopper was not something a newbie could prepare for. With roughly 22,000 attendees,1,800 companies and 81 countries represented, the moment I walked into the career fair in the expo hall, my knees locked and I froze in amazement. Lights, colors, career fair booths that looked like WeWork coworking spaces, company logos, and thousands of women techies! But there was also a feeling of respite in being amongst so many female technologists. This was my first time being in a room with so many female and underrepresented minorities in tech and it was awesome.
Outside of wanting to attend all the workshops (there were over 100 :D) I was anxiously anticipating CZI’s fireside chat being held after day one of the conference. Two of my most admired CZI technology leaders were holding a live, unscripted and honest dialogue around what our work — to help build a future for everyone — looks like everyday. The conversation was moderated by Osi Imeokparia, the Director of Product on our Justice and Opportunity Initiative and Priscilla Chan, our co-founder. I arrived early to help set up, and will never forget one by one, attendees starting to line up outside the venue door until the line wrapped around the entire hotel lobby! My favorite memory of the fireside chat was during open Q&A when a young women shared her brother’s story about transferring to a Summit Public School — a longtime partner of ours at CZI. She’d never imagined her brother could do so well academically and feel so supported in the right environment.
Listening to Osi and Priscilla share their own stories reaffirmed why I’m here and what I’m building towards. Being a woman in tech and having a parent who came to the United States for a better life, I’ve experienced the systematic barriers we are working to address at CZI. I’m also extremely hopeful for what can be achieved and disrupted. That’s why I joined CZI.
As Priscilla stated in her featured speaker session, “it may sound ambitious and a little bit wild, but I believe that if we continue to invest in progress, it is within our reach.”