Optimizing the Grace Hopper Celebration Experience

Make the most of #GHC18 with resources and tips

Carrie Mah
Published in
8 min readAug 29, 2017


Capturing the stage by Anita Borg Institute

Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) is a technology conference produced by the Anita Borg Institute. Named after Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, GHC aims to recognize, celebrate, and amplify women in technical fields.

This is an up-to-date resource, tips, and guide to making the most out of GHC.

Before the conference

Use alternatives before registration

Instead of waiting several hours to register, use alternatives months before GHC.

  • Get funded through GHC scholarships and company scholarships. Prepare a resume, written responses, and reference letters
  • Register for a discounted price if you identify as woman of color
  • See if your company can sponsor you, or find/sell tickets closer to GHC

Connect with others

Connect with other GHC attendees and other women technologists.

Prepare for the event

Travel efficiently

  • Check your credit card’s travel features for benefit, insurance, and reimbursement information
  • Book flights and hotels early with cancellation policies that provide full refunds
  • Book cheaper flights using guides and third-party sites
  • Search for official hotels to receive complimentary shuttles to GHC or use alternative accommodations
  • Consider a travel phone plan as wi-fi may not be reliable
  • Download everything you need in case wi-fi is unreliable
  • Meet a few blocks away to avoid crowds when using different ground transportation methods

Pack smart

  • Bring a light bag to avoid bumping into people with larger bags or use the affordable bag check
  • Prepare different outfits and accessories appropriate for the weather, GHC, and interviews
  • Wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be on your feet most of the day
  • Leave extra room in your suitcase for swag and souvenirs
  • Carry a folder to protect resumes and business cards
  • Stay hydrated and energized with a water bottle and munch on GHC’s snacks
  • Get cash at your bank’s ATM or cash exchange to avoid foreign transaction fees
  • Bring goodies for people you’re meeting up with (thank you cards, baked goods, local gifts)
  • Bring entertainment for long waits (books, cards, games)

During the conference

Make connections

Networking allows you to hear people’s stories, witness their skills, and find ways to help them.

  • Introduce yourself at every opportunity to meet others
  • Don’t be afraid talking to speakers, they appreciate compliments
  • Prepare business cards or a notebook to share contact information

Attend presentations

Learn from a variety of sessions, detailed in the program guide.

General & special sessions
Keynotes (live streamed) and plenary sessions highlight industry leaders. Special sessions include ABIE awards in Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Social Impact, and more.

Clusters & tracks
Technical tracks target different experience levels in:

Career-related sessions target different career stages, academics, and students in:

Session formats

  • Panels gather individuals to discuss different topics with multiple views
  • Presentations feature one speaker and often include a Q&A session
  • Workshops develop skills in structured discussions or exercises

Discover other activities

GHC also provides interesting opportunities for professionals, academics, and students.

Open Source Day
The code-a-thon features open source projects to help humanity. Register early as spots fill up quick.

Mentoring Circles (formerly Student Opportunity Lab)
Mini sessions help students advance their professional or academic goals.

Speed Mentoring
Students and mentors discuss career paths and personal aspirations.

Professional Development Leadership Workshop
Attendees build leadership skills, overcome challenges, and advance in their careers.

Poster sessions
Students present in-progress research, compete, and receive feedback.

Nonprofits provide tips and skills for graduate students, faculty, and researchers.

PitchHER contest
Celebrating female entrepreneurs from all industries who are leading early stage technology startups, with the goal of empowering women and/or families and children.

Abie awards
AnitaB.org celebrates and highlights the success of women technologists and those who support women in tech.

Community Fair & Speakers’ Corner
Learn about ABI, GHC communities, alliance partners, and nonprofits. Meet speakers at the ABI Booth in an intimate setting.

Technology Showcase
Learn about sponsors’ products and services as they highlight and promote their company’s technology innovations.

Learn from speakers, and network with others during first-come-first-serve socials.

Evening celebrations
GHC hosts a silent & live DJ dance party. Companies also hold events, receptions, and parties during GHC.

Participate in the Career Expo

You can apply at companies that sponsor GHC and support women technologists.


  • Update your resume, and if possible your online profiles and portfolio
  • Create different resumes for the roles you’re interested in
  • Prepare and rehearse your elevator pitch when introducing yourself
  • Research companies to work for and find them using the Expo Floor Plan
  • Bring extra resumes and business cards
  • Arrive to the booth early if you have an interview

With a large career fair comes swag opportunities. Expect swag when getting interviewed or attending company events. Here’s some of the things you can expect:

  • Conference swag (large name tag, conference ribbons, flyers)
  • Company goodies (magnets, stickers, buttons, lanyards, puzzles)
  • Bags (tote bags, draw-string bags, pouches, make-up bags)
  • Office supplies (pens, notebooks, post-its, highlighters, stationary kit)
  • Tech accessories (USBs, speakers, ear buds)
  • Charging accessories (USB-to-wall plug, car chargers, multi-use USB cables)
  • Device accessories (mice, mousepads, micro-fibre cloths, stick-on card holders)
  • Clothing (fitted t-shirts, hoodies, socks, pants)
  • Accessories (sunglasses, bracelets, hair ties, hats, gloves, scarves, bandanas)
  • Beauty supplies (pocket mirror, nail polish, lip chap)
  • Snacks (candy, chocolate, mints)
  • Photographs (photo booths, polaroids)
  • Tech items (VR goggles, building kits)
  • Practical items (water bottles, hand sanitizer, lotion, first aid, sewing kit, luggage tag)
  • Unexpected items (candles, temporary tattoos, bottle cozies, yoga mats, colouring book, cards)

If you’re not a huge swag person, you can trade with others throughout the conference or gift it to your friends!

GHC Swag by Josh & Karen Tanenbaum

Take care of yourself

When encompassed in a busy environment, we often forget to breathe. GHC has many spots where you can relax, take a break, and meet others in small settings.

Charging Lounge
Relax and charge mobile devices at the lounge with comfortable seating.

Student Lounge
Convene, mingle, and relax with other students in a fun, interactive space with comfortable seating and amenities.

Break time
Avoid getting burned out and take advantage of the cool GHC locations. If you need extra sleep or downtime, catch up from live streams, social media, or blog posts.

Utilize transportation options
GHC offers free shuttles between conference hotels and its venue. There’s also ride sharing options like Lyft and Uber where companies may offer to provide codes to attend their events.

After the conference


Use social media (#GHC18) to share what you learn or recognize your sponsors. Use popular writing platforms like Linkedin Pulse or Medium and broadcast using Periscope or other platforms.

Enjoy the conference location

Enjoy the perks and festivities of being at GHC.

Provide feedback

One way to help conferences grow and improve is commenting on the speakers, activities, and logistics. Participate in GHC surveys or share your opinions with GHC.

Keep in touch

When connecting with others, write a small note to remember your conversation. Follow-up within a week and email recruiters your interest with the company.

Get Involved and Pay it Forward

Throughout the year, there are many opportunities to get involved with GHC (some include invite only receptions at GHC)

  • Apply to be a speaker and receive a complimentary three-day pass. Applications also receive useful feedback
  • Join a GHC committee to review submissions and receive discounted registration. Attend meetings, read submissions, and provide feedback
  • Volunteer for the Hopper program and receive free registration
  • Volunteer onsite as a mentor, judge, or blogger and gain recognition
  • Volunteer for #GHC19 and AnitaB.org to pay it forward

If you liked what you read or learned something new, support with 👏, spread the 💚 or follow me!

If my background, experience, and skills interest you, please get in touch!



Carrie Mah

Purpose-driven Product Designer crafting customer-led experiences, building relationships, and sharing design career stories