UR Women in Computing Represented at Grace Hopper Conference 2015

November 30, 2015

Thanks to funding from the BRAID initiative to increase diversity in computing, the Department of Computer Science was able to fund nineteen young women to attend the Grace Hopper Conference in Houston, Texas from Oct. 14-17th.  Undergraduate coordinator Marty Guenther, graduate coordinator Niki Pizzutelli & and chairwoman Sandhya Dwarkadas hosted a booth representing both Computer Science and Data Science at the 3-day Career Fair to recruit graduate students, faculty and generate interest in the Computer Science and Data Science programs at Rochester among the attendees.

The application process for Grace Hopper took place in April 2015 as we had more demand than space. Our would-be ambassadors to GHC completed several components to their applications for the committee, and once selected, attended a resume workshop and worked diligently to maximize their time at this conference.  Now experienced, our GHCers made suggestions for next year include technical question prep sessions, elevator speech practices and preparation to be better informed about companies present at the Career Fair.

The UR CS Career Fair booth showcased current research from Prof. Ehsan Hoque's "Roc Speak", delivering real-time feedback on public speaking skills to test attendees on their elevator pitch to prospective employers at the conference. Additionally, the CS staff members were able to network with inquiring undergraduate and graduate women interested in Rochester research through REU and future graduate study. Attendees were highly impressed and intrigued by the new addition of the Data Science degrees and the construction of the new building.

Marty Guenther and Niki Pizzutelli at Career Fair Booth

Over 12,000 participants attended talks, networked with corporations, collected swag, met with recruiters, had technical interviews, and marveled at the scope of the conference as well as the huge number of women associated with the tech industry.

Rochester students who attended the conference each described the event in one word: informative; stimulating; intimidating; amazing; fun; insightful; energetic; exhausting; helpful; opportunistic. Sarah Harari '16 wrote, "The event is without a doubt the best opportunity I could have imagined to network with professionals and technologists in the field."; As a result of the conference, many students have had follow-up interviews by phone and in person, for both internships and full time employment. Some have also received job offers.

Another highlight of the conference was the Thursday evening dinner at The Grove with our UR alumni. Alan Cox (PhD '92), John Mellor-Crummey (PhD '89), Bill Scherer (PhD '06), Diane Panagiotopoulos '09, Robin Miller '11, Adina Rubinoff '12, and Pamela Vong '08 all joined us at dinner to share their experiences, enthusiasm and words of encouragement. Several of the students commented that they would like more of these small group alumni interactions in the future because they felt the networking was so valuable.

URCS Alumni and current students at The Grove restaurant, Houston, TX

As a follow-up to GHC, our UR WiC group met with students who had not attended the conference to share their experiences. Discussions about opportunities in different career paths, how to interact with employers, gaining confidence about one's skills, the wide variety in types of companies, and tackling this conference with better time management were all part of the conversation. One constructive criticism for the conference organizers was the desire to see more solutions to problems in the industry that have already been identified. Yes, it is evident that there is work to be done in how women are viewed and treated in the technology workplace. Our students want to be part of the solution. UR WiC is hoping to help make changes that will have positive outcomes for future women in the industry.