Grace Hopper 2019 Trip Report
Despite this trip report being over 9 months late, I wanted to share it because I can’t stop thinking about how positive an experience this conference was. Grace Hopper is the largest women in tech conference in the world, with around 25,000 attendees flying into Orlando, FL from all parts of the world for the 2019 conference. In previous years I had been interested in attending but hadn’t gotten the chance—and I (as a man) also strongly did not want to take the spot of a potential woman visiting the conference. This year I was lucky to get the chance to attend and thought it would be a valuable experience to learn how to be a better ally and advance the cause of women in tech, as well as learn about the latest tech from across the industry.
The Grace Hopper Conference is made up of a few parts:
- The opening and closing keynotes
- Technical sessions: a very wide range of technical talks (all by women), including introductions to specific fields, hard-won knowledge from the cutting edge, and panels where women shared their career experiences and expertise in their field.
- The career fair: every major company you can think of has a booth. A lot of booths are elaborate with mini-games and fun photo-taking opportunities.
- Company parties: you get invited to these by talking to recruiters or current employees of the company attending GHC. Since I understandably was not the intended audience for most of these parties this didn’t factor into my experience - though I did attend an informal Chrome party.
There was an overwhelming number of talks to choose from at the conference. I attended talks about self-driving cars (one about “Are We there Yet?” and another about Vehicle-to-Vehicle and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure communication - V2X), ethical AI, catching security bugs with NLP, deep Reinforcement Learning, and another “Are We there Yet?” talk about Quantum Computing.
Despite the rich array of tech talks, I have to admit my favorite conference sessions were the ones with panels of women talking candidly about their real-world experiences from their careers in tech.
Every major company you can think of has a booth set up in the career fair. I walked around it a couple times, watching people line up to speak with recruiters and hiring managers - I heard some people get offers right on the spot! I didn’t take enough pictures, but I definitely want to give a shout out to Apple and Disney, whose booths were really well done IMO.
One of the biggest highlights of my experience at GHC was the energy. The feeling in the air was completely different from any other conference I’ve been to. It’s difficult to describe—it felt a lot more welcoming and inclusive than I expected. I felt a lot less anxious about going up to and meeting people. The usual anxiety surrounding conferences wasn’t there for me.
Being one of the only men in a tech-oriented space was an informative and invaluable experience. I noticed myself feeling more conscious of my appearance and how I acted, in order to not stand out. It made me realize that this is probably the daily reality for so many people in tech.
Despite making numerous promises to improve gender equality in the tech industry, the numbers are still pretty abysmal. Tech still has a long way to go for better gender representation, but this conference gave me a ton of hope and perspective to help fight to make it better. I’m honored to have had the privilege to attend an inspiring conference like this, and will do my best to take what I learned and put it into practice every day. I strongly recommend anyone in tech to attend GHC, even (or especially) if you don’t identify as a woman.
Since I was already headed to Florida, I added an extra weekend at the end in Miami with my buddy from high school.
It was lots of fun! Things I tried and recommend:
- Mango’s Tropical Cafe on South Beach for live music and dancing
- Going to the beach on South Beach (of course)
- Wynwood Art Walk
- Versailles Cuban Bakery (the l’s are not pronounced as y’s)
That’s it for the trip report. If you’re still here, thanks for reading and I hope to see you at GHC one day!