Product Designer Mel Sweet on the power women have to make the tech world better
The Grace Hopper Celebration is one of the biggest events in tech. It brings women technologists from around the world together for four days of presentations, panels, workshops, networking, and bonding experiences unlike any other. At this October’s event, we were proud to have over a dozen of our team members in attendance, not only representing Dropbox but embarking on their own journeys of professional and personal growth. One of these women, Mel Sweet, chatted with us about her experiences at the conference — and why every woman in tech should be there.
“The conference was overwhelming in the best way. Whether they were waiting to talk with various booths, signed up for interviews, or attending sessions, the amount of people there was incredible! Working in tech, we as women are so often the minority, so seeing so many people in one consolidated place was very inspiring and exciting. We might be few and far between across our individual offices, but collectively together, we’re so much more than the sum of our parts.”
Mel is a product designer, one of a smaller but growing group of attendees at the Grace Hopper Celebration, which began in 1994 as an event geared mainly towards female engineers. But as it has grown exponentially in size and reach (drawing over 25,000 participants this year), so has the diversity of its attendees.
One of Mel’s goals for attending the celebration was to connect with and give advice to less experienced designers hoping to advance their tech careers. When she was a student attending such conferences, she was always surprised by how willing senior level people were to give her their email address or connect on LinkedIn, and she was eager to return that favor. She got that opportunity both by working the Dropbox booth and by participating in speed mentoring.
“I signed up for the speed mentorship, in which some of us mid- or senior-level folks volunteered to spend three and a half hours in a giant room and speed mentored a bunch of folks. I was super excited to do that, and it inspired me to do more! I’m hoping to submit a talk next year and get more official mentorship opportunities, not only within Dropbox but within the mentorship circles.”
When Mel wasn’t mentoring other designers, she had the opportunity to learn too. Attending workshops and listening to presentations from highly-esteemed women technologists such as Dr. Fei-Fei Li inspired her to dig deeper into the world of tech and expand her own skill set. But her favorite learning moment of the conference was a one-on-one experience she had with an engineer she had just met.
“When I was in line for a session, I started talking with a woman who is an engineer from Colombia. She started a non-profit and support group for women in the tech field in her country, and it has amassed over 1000 members. I also got to hear her personal story about how she transitioned into tech and pushed past all the trials she endured. Realizing how much adversity some women have had to face that I personally have not had to face brought me to tears. There’s so much we can do to bring other women and other people of color up. This is why we’re here — to hear about all these different backgrounds and experiences! There’s more that we can do outside of our job descriptions to help other folks.”
Even now that the event is over, Mel isn’t finished embodying the spirit of Grace Hopper. If the conference taught her anything, it’s that the benefits of women working together are nearly limitless. She hopes to take that lesson back to Dropbox.
“There were other women from the San Francisco office at the event I hadn’t even met before. And since I’ve returned to the office after Grace Hopper, I’ve seen women in the hall from the conference and we’ve given each other a knowing nod. We have that shared bond now — it’s really cool to continue that kinship we experienced at Grace Hopper moving forward.”
Wondering how you, too, can join our team in celebrating our diverse employees every day? Check out open positions here.