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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The Best of: TechWomen 2015

Writing about life experiences is something very interesting. Before anything else, it proves to myself what I’m capable of, this is something brings happiness to my heart and shows self respect. Moreover, as I’m considering now my passion in life “Learning and Giving”, I’m working entirely to bring this into life!

Today I’m writing about “Best talks and sessions I attended during the TechWomen” program in the Bay Area, CA.

TechWomen program is an Initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is an exchange professional mentoring program to help inspire and empower next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia.

I finished TechWomen program early of November 2015, after an amazing 35 days of professional mentoring at Mozilla Company, and attending lots of interesting talks and sessions hosted by Silicon Valley tech companies.

Here, I will mention two main sessions we had a chance to attend, hosted by two special companies. And in the coming blogs, I will write more about other sessions and events.

Program Orientation at Symantec

It was my first time ever visiting Symantec Headquarter in Mountain View, CA, and we met there with two awesome speakers who inspired us all with their wisdom and stories.

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Sheila Jordan, the Senior Vice President and the Chief Information Officer for Symantec. Sheila spoke to us about Personal Branding. Through her professional experience and her life journey, she was an inspiration to all the TechWomen group, giving us tips about how to work on our personal branding, and marketing plan, how to find our skills combination and how to be different and unique.

Rushton Hurley, gave us a special inspiring talk about Education and Educational Technologies. One of the best talks I ever attended. If you are in Education sector and looking forward to learn more about this, check the following website: Next Vista for Learning which provides resources and tools for teachers to look into.

One of the inspiring stories which Rushton mentioned is the Austin’s Butterfly story, which I believe is an important story in the learning process that the teachers should listen to, and then explain it to their students.

The other inspiring story he mentioned is called Heart Houses, and it tells the story of school kids trying to make a difference through their art!

Finally, Sue Austin: Deep sea diving … in a wheelchair.

Action Plan Workshop at Theranos.

We had been very lucky this year in the TechWomen program to be hosted by Theranos, for an action plan workshop.

Theranos, is a health-technology and medical-laboratory-services company based in Palo Alto, California. Founded by Elizabeth Holmes, who is the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire, who is working in field of high tech and health. We had a great chance to meet with her, hear from her startup experience, hear more about her passion and what steps took her to make the health information easily accessible for everyone by simple blood test that you can actually take at home with simple blood tests tools. More about Theranos.

The first session was about Brand Marketing and Social Media, given by Patrick O’Neill Chief Creative Officer at Theranos, and Jodi Shelley Director of Consumer Insights and Planning at Theranos. This one was focused on creating brand love, and reaching to customers by creating a caring product, engage with customers and understand their needs. After that, when designing a brand, to understand what is your message and how to communicate it effectively. A powerful brand has purpose, memorability and relevance.

Two famous brands stories had been discussed, Apple brand story and Unilever brand new video which touches the hearts, “Why bring a Child into this World?”.

The next session was about Agile Methodology, given by Cathy Simpson, who is a Scrum Trainer and Coach at Agile Learning Labs.

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Finally we had a chance to had a session about Making an Effective Pitch given by Andrea Barrica, Venture Partner at 500 Startups. In the following, some summarized tips to help making an effective pitch:

  1. Know your goal, know your audience. Hint: prepare more than one pitch.
  2. Tell a strategic story. Takes from 30 – 90 seconds. Taking into consideration this question: how does my story help me achieve my goal?
  3. Less is more! Be selective about details, it is about the other person.
  4. Know your special Sauce ! (Your team, your cause, your technology, etc).
  5. 20:1 rule! Practice 20 minutes loud for each 1 minute you want to present.
  6. You should have an authentic presence, yet quite powerful.