Celebrating Women in Computing at Grace Hopper Celebration 2018
Lining up to board the plane for Houston, I quickly realized that there was something unusual about this Texas-bound flight. Turning my head, I took inventory of my fellow passengers. This is what I saw: on a sold-out 737 flight, there were four (bewildered) men and a whole lot of women in tech. Grace Hopper Celebration 2018 here we come!
First Timer Hoppers
For years, I had heard rave reviews from peers and colleagues about the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC). When I joined Strava, I was excited to learn that Strava would be represented at the conference both as a sponsor and attendee contingent. And I was one of the lucky seven employees sent to GHC on Strava’s behalf.
Prior to the event, I was unsure of what to expect. I had attended conferences of comparable size in the past, many of which felt daunting and impersonal. Despite my excitement about going, I had my doubts that GHC would be able to live up to the hype. Could a conference pull off 400 sessions and 800+ speakers without compromising quality? Would I make meaningful connections in a sea of 20,000 people? How would we be able to prove that GHC was a worthwhile investment for Strava from a recruiting standpoint?
The Toyota Center (where the Houston Rockets play) had a very different feel on day one of the Grace Hopper Celebration. The sea of screaming fans was made up primarily of women, and instead of rooting on NBA stars, we were cheering for tech leaders. We heard from amazing keynote speakers who are paving the way in driverless technology and alternative energy.
Jessica O Matthews, Founder & CEO of Uncharted Power, speaking about her path to founding an alternative energy startup.
There were stories about female Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) who had grown teams that far outpace typical numbers on gender representation. There was even a letter from Barack Obama encouraging us to continue to push the boundaries for women in tech. The ceremony closed with 20,000 people chanting the conference’s tagline for 2018: “We Are Here.” For me, it served as a powerful reminder that, despite sometimes being the only woman in the room in my day-to-day, there is a growing force of women in tech, and we are not going anywhere.
Learn, network, recruit, repeat
The next three days were a whirlwind of attending sessions, meeting new people, and interviewing candidates. The conference had three major tracks — engineering, data science, and career development. Through these sessions, we were introduced to new technologies, given advice about how to navigate our career paths, and prompted to discuss topics like the future of investment for female founders. We were surrounded by women who were starting their own companies, building tools to address gender imbalance, and paving the way for women in leadership at their organizations.
Steph Hannon speaking on the Building Products from Scratch Panel
Our very own head of product, Steph Hannon, spoke on a panel entitled Building Products from Scratch where she shared stories about expanding Google Maps, working on the Hillary campaign (she was Hillary Clinton’s CTO), and the future of product at Strava.
Between sessions, we were meeting tons of amazing women at the Strava booth. Some were fans of the product, some just there to say hi, while others were interested to learn about the positions we had open. Because it was Strava’s first year at GHC, we did not know how much interest our booth would attract. Halfway through the first day, we were so blown away by the caliber of candidates that we pivoted our plan, deciding to schedule as many onsite interviews as we could.
Strava team on the expo floor at GHC
Emboldened and Energized
When the conference concluded, I boarded another flight full of women headed back to San Francisco — simultaneously exhausted and energized. We were able to learn about the latest technological developments, make meaningful connections with other women in our industry, and interview amazing candidates for the Strava team. The resounding message from an action-packed three days at the Grace Hopper Celebration was that there has never been a better time to be a woman in tech. There are still plenty of issues to tackle and progress to be made to make tech a more inclusive industry. That said, everyone I met at GHC — from veterans paving the way in their fields to university students entering the industry — left me incredibly hopeful about the future of women in tech.