Monday, October 20, 2014

Grace Hopper - 3rd year in a row

A couple of weeks ago, I had the good fortune of attending and speaking at Grace Hopper (USA) about PiDoorbell.  This was the third year in a row that I spoke at GHC.  In 2012, Chiu-ki Chan, Christina Schulman and I did our first major talk about "Letter to my younger self - Things I wish I knew when I started working".  And we talked about Career, Networking and Negotiation to a room of 370+ women (fire code turned away many).  I was in charge of negotiation since I had a lot of stories about this category.  So, we did three skits on Negotiation in that talk.  Which are still talked about since I got pinged by a young woman engineer at Google's GHC meetup a few weeks ago.  Apparently, it was vastly entertaining - especially when I asked for a pony and Christina said "No Ponies !!!".

And in 2013, I talked about the RaspberryPi along with a bunch of women from Cisco and VMware at the Grace Hopper Conference in Bangalore, India.   That was yet another standing-room-only workshop and we had a bunch of Rpi's that people got to ssh into and look at for a short while.  I spent hours in my hotel room (while jet lagging like mad), setting up 4 Rpi's with breadboards, jumper wires, LED's etc. so that each table in the workshop could have their own setup.  And that was great fun - it was fantastic to see super-smart women engineers and try to answer their questions.  Some of them I just couldn't answer - they definitely knew more about hardware that I did.

2014 : Guess who I meet in the elevator - Prof. Alex Wolf - my Algorithms and Data Structures professor from CU !!!  He is now the President of the ACM and was a keynote speaker :).

This year, I presented PiDoorbell at GHC and mentored Sthiti and Sushma for their first GHC presentation on OpenCL.  It was the usual stresses that PiDoorbell presents that kept me tied up until my presentation was over.  This was the first time I did a live demo of Phase 3 of PiDoorbell and it worked quite well.  My good friend Kimberly Spillman was the guinea pig and she was AWESOME!  What a good sport - especially when the first try didn't quite work and she had to come back a second time.  With the slides not advancing temporarily, no table, no network cable etc., I detached a chair from the audience section and placed it next to the lectern to put my hardware on it, connected to the power from the lectern (used by the laptop), created a hotspot from my cell phone, tethered my mac to my cell phone, connected the Rpi to my laptop with dhcp and ran pidoorbell in interactive mode on my laptop to show the audience what was going on.  And the photo being uploaded to Dropbox and then tweeted out.  And showing up on my phone.  

My good friend Christina Schulman was there as were a bunch of women from VMware and many others.  I was happy to finally be able to present to a crowd that was majority women as opposed to the numerous other conferences I have presented at.  It was a special event for me - I spoke about the need for all women engineers to step up, create/build their own projects and talk about it at conferences.  I don't want to be the only one doing hardware/software demos - I want to see my friends, colleagues, relatives - anyone, also, stepping up and being a role model for other women engineers to follow.  I hope I was articulate enough and that some of the audience members will follow in my footsteps.   And inspire others to follow them too.

I was so busy chattering, walking, listening and doing, that I forgot to take photos.  The only other photo I have of GHC this year is of the food at the Systers lunch (the chocolate ganache was really good).  

I know there were some controversial events that occurred at GHC this year and some of it got a lot of media attention.   But, that is less important than the fact that this is one conference that is a huge success and is a great way to meet and reconnect with fantastic women from all walks of life, backgrounds and cultures.

I hope I get to go next year too.

Oh yeah, and I might take some male principal engineers with me next time.  I think it would be interesting for them to be in an environment that is close to what women engineers face everyday.  Might give them some food for though and, perhaps, positive action.