Grace Hopper Celebration: Bridging the gap between women and engineering
Kate Fiedelman |Pinterest diversity and inclusion
Our vision is to help people live inspired lives. As engineer Tracy Chou wrote in her post about our employee demographics, “we only stand to improve the quality and impact of our products if the people building them are representative of the user base and reflect the same diversity of demography, culture, life experiences and interests that makes our community so vibrant.”
Inclusion is more than just statistics, it’s about team sentiment. This involves partnering with organizations , developing new recruiting strategies and fostering all the communities that exist within our workplace. Over the past 10 months we’ve participated in a variety of programs that help bridge the gap between women and careers in technology including the Code Documentary, Hackbright, Girls Teach Girls to Code, WEST and XX+U. But our biggest continual partnership is the annual Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC).
This year 22 of our women engineers attended GHC in Phoenix. Four spoke on panels, and we hosted an event with more than 350 engineers.We received more than 850 resumes and have been interviewing like crazy ever since. We’re really excited about raising our 17 percent female engineering ratio (our females in tech ratio is 21 percent).
We had a great time at GHC and are excited to attend again next year in Houston. In the meantime, we asked a few of our engineers, Sahana, Flora, Stephanie and Kelsey, who attended to share their experiences and learnings from GHC.
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Sahana and I’m a software engineer on the Web team. I graduated from UC Berkeley in May with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and computer science. I attended GHC for the first time during my senior year through the Grace Hopper Scholarship program. That’s actually how I got my job. I attended a Pinterest event where I met engineers and learned more about the technology.
My name is Flora, and I’m a software engineer on the Black Ops team. I work on building tools to keep spammers and bad guys off the site. Before this gig, I was studying computer science at Brown, serving as a TA in the department and a mentor for WiCS, the Women in Computer Science group. This was my second GHC.
My name is Stephanie, and I work on the Recommendations team. Before Pinterest, I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I graduated with a master’s degree in May. This was my first GHC.
I’m Kelsey, a software engineer on the Infrastructure team. I build core services to scale Pinterest in a way that’s reliable, fast and efficient. I studied computer science at Waterloo University and worked at A9 on Amazon CloudSearch before coming to Pinterest. I heard about GHC as a student, but never attended the conference until after I graduated. After reading “Lean In” and finding out that Sheryl Sandberg would be giving a keynote at the 2013 GHC, I decided to attend for the first time and was very glad that I did!
How did you spend your time at GHC?
Sahana: I had a great time attending panels, talking to people who stopped by our career fair booth and spending time with other Pinterest engineers. I also really enjoyed catching up with some talented women I’ve worked with in the past.
Flora: I spent a lot of time at our career booth, attending conference sessions and interviewing candidates. Interviewing presented an exciting new challenge: I was tasked with evaluating people’s technical skills and cultural fit in an hour or less time. The best advice I received before diving into interviews was to have an arsenal of “onion-like” questions, meaning questions that have multiple layers of complexity. GHC is a great environment for interviewing because it’s very hospitable, especially for women who may be new to the industry.
Stephanie: I spent many hours at the Pinterest career fair booth. Before the conference, I prepared for the career fair by thinking about my experience at Pinterest up to this point, which helped me realize how much I’ve learned and how big of an impact I had in my first few months of work. I also went to the keynotes, several career-building sessions and as many panels as I could squeeze in. The Data Science for Social Good talk was my favorite. I signed up for the DataKind mailing list immediately!
Kelsey: Last year, at my former company, I attended GHC and went to as many talks as I could to soak up all the information and network with others. This year, as a Pinterest engineer, I participated in our career fair booth, led a coding challenge, spoke on a panel, attended the Pinterest event and networked as much as I could.
What was your favorite part about GHC 2014?
Sahana: I was especially excited to participate as a speaker in the Student Opportunity Lab, an interactive session that allowed students to navigate different topics and speak to mentors. My group’s theme was “Getting Started in Industry: Applying and Picking Internships and Jobs,” and students were encouraged to ask candid questions. The theme of the conversations leaned toward confidence, and more than 200 students stopped by our table!
Flora: The best part about participating as a Pinterest engineer was being on the other side of the table this year. I met Pinterest engineers at GHC last year, and the company had really stood out to me as building a workplace for the future (shameless plug), with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Pinterest as a company is at a really exciting stage, and if more women can be involved, I think everyone wins.
Stephanie: At the career fair itself, I tried to find out what each person I spoke with was passionate about. This was my favorite part of GHC, because I got a chance to talk with so many talented women. It was inspiring to hear from so many people about the projects and challenges that excite them. I’m glad that I went to GHC, and I look forward to another dose of inspiration next year!
Kelsey: My favorite part about GHC was seeing so many women in tech all in one place. Each company alone has a small percentage of women in engineering, and you get used to seeing that ratio. When you arrive at GHC, though, all of those small percentages really add up. It’s very empowering to see so many successful women in tech all around you. Last year, I attended Tracy’s panel, and was excited to learn about the architecture of Pinterest and how it scaled over time. I really wanted to be a Pinterest engineer and applied shortly after. It was awesome to attend one year later and be sitting in the spot I had dreamed about.
Kate Fiedelman is a Recruiter at Pinterest focused on diversity and inclusion.