Sunday, October 6, 2013

Grace Hopper Highlights

While the entire experience of Grace Hopper was fantastic, I wanted to take some time to point out some of the talks from the conference that really stuck out in my mind.

While maybe a bit obvious, seeing Cheryl Sandberg speak was a really inspirational way to start the conference.  Her convictions on the topic are so strong it's impossible not to be motivated in her presence.  Especially during the panel with Maria Klawe and Telle Whitney; what a wonderful mix of backgrounds and personalities.

Similarly, while seeing Megan Smith was unexpected, I am grateful I had the opportunity to hear her speak.  The work she does with Google is a pretty good definition of "Thinking Big".  She covered so many topics in her talk with such enthusiasm and still left me with the feeling she had a hundred more worthy projects she would have loved to talk about.

If I had to choose just one session that really impressed me, it would have to be the tech speaker Sheila Nirenberg.  She presented some work on creating a prosthetic eye for people with degenerative blindness.  The technology is amazing, but easy to follow and will improve the lives of millions of people around the world in a tangible way.  She has a TED talk about the project which I highly recommend.

Thad Starner did a talk on wearable computing, where we were able to see Google Glass in action.  Clearly this is a hot topic and very cool.  He also went into some of his other projects, such as teaching and learning ASL through wearable computers which was very interesting.

The ABIE awards offered me the great experience of being exposed to truly inspirational women of our time.  I was especially impressed with the ABIE Change Agent Awards Winners (Violette UwamutaraShikoh GitauUnoma Okorafor).

One of the most popular talks I went to was Brenda Chapman, the writer and director of the Pixar movie Brave.  She had the room mesmerized with clips from iconic movies that she was responsible for, including the Lion King, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.  She definitely had the crowd pegged :)

One of the smaller talks that left a real impression with me was the lightning talks on career on Friday.  While I enjoyed all of the talks, two really stood out for me. Google's Sabrina Williams did a frank talk on Nailing your Technical Interview, which gave great real advice for those stressful situations.  Not to be outdone, Microsoft's Matt Wallaert gave a presentation based on, a project he is involved with.  Besides his exceptional public speaking skills, Matt offered great realistic advice on how to close the gender based pay gap.

Finally, I have to mention the 30 minute Remembering Anita Borg Documentary which was shown on Thursday evening.  While the movie itself offered insight into Anita's life, we were lucky enough to have several of the people interviewed for the movie have a conversation afterwards.  This turned into an open mic for people to share the experiences they had with Anita.  It was a wonderful celebration of her life, of which the Grace Hopper Celebration is a product.