Ep 73: Grace Hopper Conference 2018: Diva Tech Talk is Here!

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“A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for.” - Grace Hopper

The Diva Tech Talk team was ecstatic to attend the 3-day 18th Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing #GHC18 (ghc.anitab.org) --- the world’s largest gathering of women in computer technology --  September 26 through 28, 2018 in Houston, Texas. The conference has taken place since 1994, with a yearly cadence since 2006. Named for the inspirational and courageous U.S. Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, the annual conference is a tribute to her work on the Mark I computer and creation of one the first industry compilers, that eventually led to the development of COBOL, still a relevant programming language. Grace paved the way for many women to follow in technical careers.

The Grace Hopper Celebration convenes many thousands of women in computing in a single venue to discuss topics of interest, and share research related to women in technology. Students flood the halls to get exposure to tech companies and tech departments. Many engage in onsite career interviews. There are a variety of presentations, poster discussions, and meet-ups throughout the week. It is also an ideal gathering for veteran tech women, employed in the field, to present and listen to each other, while networking and meeting the next generation of upcoming tech women. This year’s conference boasted a record attendance of over 22,000.


If we want technology to serve society rather than enslave it, we have to build systems accessible to all people - be they male or female, young, old, disabled, computer wizards or technophobes.

-Anita Borg

While Grace is celebrated as a pioneer, it is appropriate that this conference is organized by the research-oriented Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology (https://anitab.org/) and Association for Computing Machinery (https://www.acm.org). The Anita Borg institute was founded by Anita Borg, PhD and Telle Whitney, PhD to recruit, retain, and advance women in technology. Anita Borg was also a significant contributor to technology history, innovating in Unix operating systems, analyzing computing memory, and doing extensive work in early email and messaging applications. Telle was a computer scientist by trade; significantly contributed to the microprocessor industry; and founded the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT.org), another non-profit focused on increasing meaningful participation of girls and women in technology.

The Diva Tech Talk team is so passionate about strengthening women in tech, we could clearly write a novel sharing the names and accomplishments of a multitude of women highlighted at this conference. Instead, we encourage our listening “divas” to visit the Grace Hopper Conference website here: ghc.anitab.org for event immersion, and to experience the wide range of speakers and featured talent. We also encourage our listeners to consider attending, starting now to get your company’s support for your attendance in the future.

Three primary keynotes dominated the 2018 GHC mainstage. Justine Cassell is the Associate Dean of Technology Strategy and Impact at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, and Director Emerita of the Human Computer Interaction Institute (https://hcii.cmu.edu/). Her work furthers the development of human and robot communication in addition to advancements in Artificial Intelligence. It was amazing to see her showcase innovations in this area, noting that we are living in a robot-embedded world.  Jessica O. Matthews was the first woman we ever witnessed jump rope in high heels during a keynote! She is the Founder and CEO of the unique Uncharted Power (https://www.u-pwr.co/).  Her company strives to leverage more energy in motion to derive a greater degree of innovative power solutions for the world, much like the light she powered from rope-jumping. There was one other keynote speaker, no stranger to the corporate side of technology. Padmasree Warrior is the CEO and Chief Development Officer for NIO U.S (https://www.nio.io/) developing innovative solutions surrounding the Connected Car. She previously worked as the Chief Technology Officer for Cisco Systems (www.cisco.com). This female triumvirate represented just some of the variety of opportunities available in three key areas for women in technology: research in academia, the fast-paced startup space, and the impact of a large, global technology corporation. Each of them vociferously voiced wisdom and inspiration during the conference. We hope to feature each of them in future Diva Tech Talk podcasts.

The Grace Hopper Conference also offers a variety of awards programs to highlight the achievements of individuals and organizations in technology. The individual series recognizes distinguished women, whose achievements and life stories demonstrate that all of us have the power to improve our world, individually and collectively. The Technical Leadership Abie Award and the Student of Vision Abie Award are granted every year at the conference. AnitaB.org also sponsors hundreds of student and faculty scholarships to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration each year as well.

Congratulations to two winners for this years Abie awards in 2018! The Technical Leadership Abie Award (the Conference’s most prestigious award)  celebrates a woman who led or developed a product, process, or innovation that made a notable impact on business or society. This year’s winner was Dr. Rebecca Parsons, ThoughtWorks’ (www.thoughtworks.com) Chief Technology Officer. For decades, Rebecca has used her knowledge and technical experience in applications development across a range of industries and systems. She led the creation of large-scale distributed object applications and the integration of disparate systems. Furthermore, she is a strong advocate for diversity in the technology industry. Committed to increasing the number of women in coding and STEM fields, Rebecca served on the board of CodeChix and acted as an advisor to Women Who Code.

The Student of Vision Abie Award honors a young woman, dedicated to creating a future where the people who imagine and build technology mirror the people and societies for which they build. This year’s winner is Chiara Amisola, an incoming college freshman at Yale University (www.yale.edu) from Manila, Philippines. She plans to major in computer science. First encountering technology at the age of seven — post-after school ballet practice and pre-Warcraft II gaming session — Chiara picked up web and basic game development before turning it into a long-time hobby, and later into a passion and vocation. After several years of international experience in competitions and research with the Philippine Robotics Team, she began to recognize the disparity in inclusiveness and accessibility within the technology sector, finding a gap where students with the most socially-conscious and transformative ideas towards innovation had no opportunity to even enter the tech landscape.

At the event, we spent some time with past winner of the Abie award to learn more about their experience. Here is a quick look at insight we gained from speaking with them.

  • Ashley Conard with Brown University (www.brown.edu) helped judge the Abie award and shares information about the video portion of the contest submission.

  • From 2016, Past Winner Canadian Alyssia Jovellanos won the award and continues to build for change.  She is a Computer Science student and undergraduate teaching assistant at McMaster University (https://www.mcmaster.ca/) , and Outreach Instructor in the program Software: Tool for Change, which exposes girls and other underrepresented minorities to computer science.She has built education tools for 10,000 disadvantaged students in Canada and gives dated technology to those students in need. She found out about the awards on Twitter and since winning in 2016, she has continued to find success.

    • “It was absolutely incredible. It was such an overwhelming experience in the best way.”

  • From 2015, Past Winner from Brazil Camila Fernandez Achuttiis is the Founder and CEO of Women in Computing, the biggest site, in Portuguese, to support and encourage female participation in technology. Camila also works as a software engineer at Iridescent Learning, (http://iridescentlearning.org/) a non-profit that creates and delivers powerful science, engineering and technology education to help underprivileged children develop curiosity, creativity and persistence. She went on to found and create a school that is now comprised 61% of girls.

    • “This award means everything. It was more than a boost of confidence. It was a message that you are on the right path, so just keep going. It was a wake-up call.”

There was one additional interview that will also be published, in full, at a later date.  But, we wanted to introduce you to Noramay Cadena, Founder and CEO, Make In LA.  A three time MIT graduate and now founder of a hardware accelerator, she will be featured as a future standalone podcast episode.  Noramay also co-founded a group called Latinas in STEM (latinasinstem.com). She spoke candidly about her challenges, not having as many role models and being a young mom. Her continued journey to success in education and career prove that you can do anything to which you put your mind.

Why are you HERE at Grace Hopper Conference?
We love all the people we met throughout the time at the conference. Many were featured in the podcast audio. We wanted to provide a bit more information on the projects featured in this section of the podcast:

  • We spoke with Jennifer Cloer who is working on an inspiring film project called Chasing Grace that highlights women in the technology field. More information is available here: http://www.chasinggracefilm.com

  • Trish Costella, CEO and Founder of Portfolia, stopped by to share her passion for backing tech women for things they require in the market.

  • We also ran into the Black Girls Code (www.blackgirlscode.com/) team, who shared their vision. They are a well-known and celebrated organization, that encourages black girls to become programmers/coders. More info: http://www.blackgirlscode.com/

  • Digital Undivided (https://www.digitalundivided.com/) was the main organization behind the first ever PitcHER Competition held at Grace Hopper to encourage female entrepreneurs, from all industries, leading early stage technology startups. They stopped by to share with us why they love the Grace Hopper Conference.

“Go to as many things like this as possible [like Grace Hopper] and surround yourself with a community of women that build each other up.”

-Anita Hill, inspiring Grace Hopper Conference 2018 speaker

Sincere thanks to Hotwire, the Anita Borg Institute, and Melissa  Iarocci, all amazing hosts who accommodated us at the conference, and support the work we do on the Diva Tech Talk podcast. We are so grateful to them, our featured guests, and listeners!  The Diva Tech Talk team left this experience feeling empowered and humbled. It further fuels our energy and resolve to continue our mission to inspire more women and girls in the field of technology with our podcast.

Interviewing these organizational and corporate change-makers was truly moving. In fact, we were so motivated from this event, that Diva Tech Talk will be announcing a special project next week to explain more an upcoming Diversity Leadership Series: We Lead Diversity.  Stay up to date on this special series and other upcoming episodes by visiting our website or following us on social media.

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Diva Tech Talk Team

Podcast Divas