I just returned from my first GHC conference, held this year in Keystone, CO. This is an annual conference of academics and industry to bring talented graduating female computer science students together with universities and companies. There is a booth area to encourage meet-ups. There are daily keynotes. This year Fran Allen, the first female winner of the Turing Award and Mary Lou Jepsen, the principal architect of the OLPC both spoke. Although their contributions are quite different – Fran – languages, compilers; Mary Lou – display and laptop architecture; it was interesting to hear commonalities between both of their journeys. My favorite comment came from one of Mary Lou’s mentors "If people are spending time telling you your project is impossible – it actually means that they are a little jealous and that you are heading in a fun and interesting direction."
GHC also has different types of sessions. The first type is called poster, this is where presenters explain their research. I got invited to present about my volunteer work in Africa (around the SmartCare project) there. Most posters were representations of PhD work in computer science, so I am still not quite sure how I got in, but was just glad to be there. There was also an optional judged presentation of poster work (kind of like hearing an overview of thesis projects). It was fascinating to listen to the young women present their work in that format. I also got invited to attend the ResearchHers lunch and was interested to hear the concerns of the soon-to-graduate PhD students and research industry leaders from Sun, Intel, AT&T, Google, and IBM (who were all represented at my table!).
The second type of session is a regular session, these sessions fell into a couple of categories – career development, current areas in computer science research, or using technology to take on tough problems, i.e. poverty, health-care, etc…mostly in the developing world. Of course, I was quite interested in the latter two areas and met quite a few interesting people by attending sessions. There were also several sessions about outreach for girls in technology, of course, I attended those as well!
There was quite a bit of GHC online presence – facebook, flickr, youTube, LinkedIn, etc…I was designated one of the official ‘tweeters’ of GHC and met many attendees via Twitter. For my complete picture set – go here http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=52604&l=521cf&id=561122108
All-in-all it was a great conference – geeky, inspiring and fun! I met many women, both highly experienced or just starting out with whom I plan to stay in touch. I am looking forward to next year’s GHC in Tucson, AZ.