Attending GHC for the first time? Here are some useful tips!

It is October! It is the time when the Grace Hopper Celebration is started 🙂

In this blog post, I will be talking about my experience attending the Grace Hopper Celebration, and how you can make the most out of these three days, which are going to be for sure one of the best days of your life, especially if you are attending this celebration for the first time of your life!

I got the chance to attend the GHC in October 2015 , It was at Houston, TX at that time, and of course hosted at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which is a huge convention center to host all these women in computing (12,000 women at my time), who will be attending lectures, sessions and main keynotes during the event.

I was honored to get Arab Women in Computing scholarship to attend the GHC, with sponsorship of Qatar Computing Research Institute, which granted 6 Arab women to attend the GHC in fields of industry, academic, entrepreneurship and students.

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ArabWIC Reception at GHC 2015

Attending this event was one of the best things happened in my life, it was the most diverse and huge event I had seen. I met huge number of women, from different backgrounds, where were there in one place, sharing same passion in technology.

If you are attending the GHC this year, and it is your first time, you are probably asking yourself how this experience is going to be different than previous conferences and events? But trust me , it is different. Therefore, I summarized few advises from my experience to help you make the most out of the event 😀

  1. You are registered officially now for the event, so you have your registration info printed, and you know where you’re going to stay, and of course you have your flight tickets reserved. I advise you to take a look at your hotel accommodation and check the distance from the event location to the hotel. However, because you will be spending all the days in the GHC halls, you won’t probably need to go around the event halls during the day, but for any reason you need to walk from the hotel to the event, there should be buses waiting for the attendees in front of the hotels taking you to the event location all days long, and the same on the way back from the event location to the hotels.
  2. When packing for the trip, I advise you pack light. Houston’s weather is hot and humid in October. However, it may get cold at night or inside the event halls, so bring a jacket. Other than that I suggest to bring light clothes and some layers. The dress code is formal or semi-formal, be ready to meet women from different backgrounds and sometimes you will get introduced to important people. Wear comfortable shoes, because you will walk a lot.
  3. Conference agenda: believe me it is huge! Therefore, you need to install the GHC app, which should be sent to your email as soon as the conference is going to start, install it, login, and start checking schedule. Also you can check other attendees and speakers profiles. In addition, it is time to customize your own event agenda. In the app, you can choose the sessions you want to attend, and add them to your own customized agenda, so you can access them easily from the phone, receive updates, find the room locations for these sessions and more information about them.
  4. Because the event sessions are so many, make sure to write down or follow the sessions you want to attend in the app. Also, always have additional alternative session to attend in case the first session you want to join is full. Believe me this happens a lot, especially if you are a student and you want to attend the speed mentoring tables.
  5. Main Keynotes: awesome place to be. On all the three days of the event, there are main keynotes, in the morning and in the afternoon. Make sure you go to most of the keynotes, unless there is an important session to attend.  It is inspiring, changing  experience and amazing. In the keynotes main room, you will meet thousands of women all in one main hall, and there are giant screens every few rows showing the main speakers talks, so don’t miss it. From 2015 year, I liked the most Megan Smith, Susan Wojcicki, and Sheryl Sandberg talks.
  6. Print out copies of your resume and bring your business cards.
  7. One of the best things to check at the GHC, is the Career Booth. It is useful in general , but be careful not to waste all your time there!In this place you have the chance to meet with high tech companies, so it is a great chance to meet recruiters if you are willing to find a great job at international company, such as FB, Google, Cisco, Twitter, Amazon, LinkedIn etc.
  8. Upload your resume! In order to have onsite interviews during the event, some companies look at the attendees resumes before the event, and they start sending emails including coding challenges, or potential initial interviews at the career booth. Therefore, make sure to upload your updated resume to the GHC database, once you finished the registration.
  9. Practice for the job interviews before the event! If you are willing to have an onsite job interview, you need to be prepared. Therefore, you need to review data structures and algorithms concepts, practice problem solving skills, and write code in your preferred language. You can check HackerRank and InterviewBits , these are useful websites.
  10. Note that, not all the interviews happens onsite in the event, however you can build connections and networks, and this will keep your resume in the companies email list, and they will continue to send information about jobs interviews and offers even after the GHC event.
  11. If you are interested in graduate studies, you can also find universities which promotes their technical graduate programs. Therefore, if you are looking into this opportunity, go to their place in the career booth and check what programs or scholarships they offer.
  12. Community events during GHC! I was honored to attend the community gathering event for ArabWIC (Arab Women in Computing) – ArabWIC Reception, where we had a chance to meet, discuss ways to improve Arab women skills and technical expertise, and to network and learn more about ArabWIC organization and activities. There were similar events for other communities within the GHC. Therefore, make sure to attend one based on your interest, you will find inspiring women to network with and to share same interests.
  13. Volunteering at the ArabWIC booth was very nice experience, I talked to many Arab women who attended the GHC, and we managed to have speed mentoring tables at the career booth, focused on industry, entrepreneurship and students helping whoever attended to find better answers to their questions.

Finally, thanks for all the inspiring amazing women I met at the GHC and at ArabWIC, they are all amazing friends and colleagues. 🙂 Special thanks to Sana’ Odeh, Kaoutar El Maghraoui, Eman Fituri, Manar Abu Talib, Houda Chakiri, Houda Bouamor, Farah Shammout, Soumow Atitallah, Soumia Djoudjou, Bouchra Bouqata, Yasmin Anwar and Balsam Alkouz.

I hope you find my information helpful and useful for you. If you attended the GHC before, or if you’re attending it this year, I would love to hear your experiences and adventure there. Come check more information about ArabWIC online and if you like to hang out with us, don’t forget to join ArabWIC FB group.

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