GHC12: Keynote Speaker Nora Denzel

Nora Denzel: What an amazing speaker! I loved how she coupled some really valuable career advice along with her amazing sense of humor.

Starting off on a light note, she shared her story of the TRS 80 computer and how it motivated her and enabled her to decide at the age of 16 that computing is what she wanted to do in her career. Touching upon the theme of the conference – ‘Are we there yet?’, she mentioned how she felt that we were not there yet, also evident through statistics. I was astonished to learn that women make 57% of the workforce, however, only represent 25% of the technical jobs worldwide. This puts the case forward for the need for more women in computer science.

She then provoked some thoughts by asking “Why is it that we need more women in computer science? Why can’t we let girls decide what major they want to take, without trying to attract them towards computing?” The answer: simply that diverse teams make better decisions, in turn leading to a better society as evidently men and women think differently. She emphasized through examples that when women are better represented on teams, the success rate of the project generally increased. I liked how she spoke about ‘reversing the reverse revolution’ (of the % of technical women not moving at a positive rate) by making sure that every single female in the room made a conscious effort of recruiting atleast 1 technical woman every year.

After putting her case forward for the need for more women in tech, Nora came down to 5 key points of career advice she had for everyone who wanted to stay very long in the tech industry:

1) It all starts with your attitude. Your attitude is like a flat tyre, if you don’t change it, you are not going anywhere.

2) For longevity, you have to feel very comfortable with being uncomfortable. Comfort and growth are ‘or’ bit and not an ‘and’ bit.

3) Act as if you are courageous. Courage means being able to act in spite of your fear.

4) Be your own PR agent. Every time you open your mouth, it is a press release. Be careful and deliberate.

5) It takes a village. Don’t be in your career alone. Maintain a group of people inside and outside of your office who you can reach out to when you need advice and who reach out to you when they need advice or are feeling low.

I loved her quote on the last point when she said: “It is not what you know or who you know, it is who knows what you know!”

Moving into the last part of her speech, she bulleted 5 points on how to convince girls to get into tech. I am going to give you all 5 points here below, but my favorite is the last one.

1) You get to wear what you want.

2) They feed you all the time.

3) You get awesome swag.

4) The money is good (but don’t get in if that is the only reason why you want to get in!)

5) You have the power to change the world – change people’s lives so profoundly that they cannot think of going back. I got goosebumps when I heard about a project at Intuit that using simple phone messaging and doing real-time search, led to 30% more wages for farmers on a daily basis. I have a personal favorite quote from Margaret Mead which goes – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” And when Nora mentioned about being able to have this massive impact through your work, I found it extremely exciting and inspiring!

She ended her speech by re-quoting one of her favorite quotes, which enabled her to get through her hard times: “Ships in the court are safe. But that is not what ships are made for.”

I left the room inspired by Nora’s words. And completely amazed by her candidness and light-hearted nature. Also, her ability to weave memorable stories made her a great speaker and I am going to work on developing that skill during my next Toastmasters project speech!


GHC12: How to optimize your job search

Moderator: Carolyn Strobel (Anita Borg Institute)

Panelists: Dawn Carter (NetApp), Stephenie Harp (CA Technologies), Ivo Lukas (24Notion and Girls in Tech), Kendra Arimoto (Facebook)

1) Tell about a time of successful job search

Helped to see what I needed to improve on, investigate the companies you want to work for. Contacts came from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – please tell others that I am looking, send me some contacts.

Seeing where your friendly people are working at, reached out to people I knew or ask friends to introduce you to someone, or reach out on your own.

If you using a blog for looking for a job, be specific and use it for that.

2) Networking is key. Connections should remain intact, don’t burn bridges in personal and professional lives. Connect with people on any tools. Go back to university and check out for events that are happening there. Volunteer and you will meet new people.

3) What if you don’t have a network?

You do have a network. Put your resume online – you need to exist online, build your online presence. Have a blog – helps to make a network. Don’t be afraid to ping people and just say hi or pick someone’s brain over a coffee.

4) Career fairs – what to do?

Meet the exhibitors. Stop by every booth you can. Find out what the companies are about. Ask them if there are people at the booth who are doing what you want to do. Try to get some follow-up action/email/contact info of somebody. Have an elevator pitch to get the recruiter to notice you.

What is it about those companies is why you are passionate about that company?

5) What information you want to know about someone when she comes to your booth?

Your presence (how you carry yourself), speaking clearly, articulating your thoughts, smile/handshake, who you are/what you like/what drives you/what cool projects you working on/what do you want to do? Think about things what you will be doing when you join the job the first day (ask those questions at the end of the interview).

6) Online job searching

Start early (6-7 months in advance). LinkedIn jobs page. Attach yourself to a recruiter and then you get into their networks. Search for recruiters on LinkedIn (make sure you add details to your profile so that they know what you working on – reverse search). Find out from Alumni, see where they working on, reach out to them. Mostly its a referral in today’s job search. When you ask people to introduce you, send them a bio so that they can forward that to that person to give a background. Volunteer for your passion areas.

GHC 12: How to Market Yourself with a Strong Technical Resume

Presenters: Erica Lockheimer (LinkedIn), Wendy Gustafson (Cisco)

Technical Branding and Networking:

How to strengthen your LinkedIn profile/resume to stand out

How to land a job: networking tools and strategies, on and offline.

– Your web presence + Resume (complete your profile at LinkedIn)

Look for passion, fit, articulate your interests and show your personality.

Be comfortable with writing on the board, your thought process, interactive, articulate your ideas.

Look at similar profiles to figure out what others have done.

Describe projects you worked on, with links. If impacted a group/improved metrics, state it.

Ways to network:

– Keep contacts up to date.

– Alumni pages.

– Friends’ friend (2nd degree connections)

– Keep strong relationships.

Pick couple of group pages, Company pages

Referrals work. Take on as many interviews as you can.

Now over to resume writing:

– Can include your LinkedIn profile link.

– Organized and consistent formatting

– When specifying projects – show what YOU did (not we, team) – creative problem solving, improvising, your ideas

– Convey your efforts in terms of the problem that was solved, the value added, the positive result, and what you learned from it. Demonstrate the ability to tie in your efforts to the bigger picture and overall value add.

– Don’t make it a task list.

– Call examples of where you applied your skills

– Quantify (lines of code, #test cases, $$ value of project)

– Highlight areas where you stood as a leader (filled an opportunity gap, took initiative, went above what was asked, motivator?, community service, negotiated a win)

Resume should convey your personal brand (key points flow from your resume – execution person, e.g.)

– Third party review your resume and get feedback. Have them summarize in 2 sentences what kind of person they see in the resume.

– Tailoring your resume to the job you applying for. What lights you up? Does my resume tell someone what I really enjoy?

GHC 12: Here I come!

I am super excited that GHC is coming nearer and nearer!

Last few days have been crazy with things to do for GHC and work and vacation, all at the same time. Here are the ‘things to do/prepare for GHC’ that some of you might find helpful.

– Pack a sweater/cardigan as it might be a little chilly

– If you are considering career change or are going to enter workforce soon, get copies of your resume

– Get your name cards ready

– Setup a blog/twitter account to learn and share amazing GHC experiences

– Download the GHC app on your mobile

– Go through the schedule and see what sessions you would like to attend

– And then during the conference, make sure to drop by the ABI booth and learn how you can help/get involved.

I am excited about the career fair, social and collaboration track, career development track, some sessions on security and mobile computing and then the open source hackathon!! Also I gather that some familiar faces will be there from GHC 2008 and I am looking forward to seeing those folks again.

Keep an eye on this blog for interesting updates live from the conference.

Grace Hopper Conference: Rewind and Retune!

Grace Hopper conference (GHC) is the gathering of women I idealize; the women in whose shoes I want to be 5-10 years from now. Having been part of this awesome conference in 2008 as a Google scholar, I had the opportunity to present a BOF session on student computing groups with girls from Canada, India and Mexico. Being in my final year, I was initially perplexed whether I should go to graduate school or choose an industry career. Talking to various women at GHC and learning from their experiences enabled me to decide and gave me a head start in my professional career. This empowered me to exceed my own expectations on joining the workforce and subsequently led to my selection for an accelerated career path at my current firm. GHC 2008 was the first instance when I had seen so many amazing technical women in one place and had left the conference with immense inspiration.

This year, I am most excited to be part of GHC because of my accepted submission on perspectives of junior women in technology. Sharing the stage with two other super women and talking about my experiences over the past 3 years, I see this as a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community, as several other attendees will be taking their first steps into a technical career. Moreover, this is also a time when I am keen to learn more about the amazing work being done in the software industry and GHC provides the avenue where all the best tech companies congregate, so I am looking forward to learning more about various opportunities out there. In addition, I am excited to have been chosen as an official blogger for the conference! I remember these few years when I could not attend GHC, the wiki, blogs and tweets were my best learning materials from the conference. So I am very happy that I will be reaching out to many more folks other than the attendees and sharing the awesomeness of GHC 2012. So do look out for interesting coverage on some really exciting sessions here on my blog!!