In early October this year, 2100 (mostly) women in technology congregated in Atlanta for the 10th Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. 900 of those girls were students.
ThoughtWorks sent a small troupe of us ladies down to Atlanta for the week mostly for recruiting and networking but also to enjoy the many sessions that were happening throughout the week. I am really grateful for the opportunity to go and to become part of (what I now know) of the Grace Hopper phenomenon. We were a mixed bunch, Julie and Yewe from recruiting, fabulous Tarsha from HR, our CTO Rebecca who had specially come back for the week from her sabbatical in Uganda, that's how much she is a fan, Joanna, April, Smitha and myself. We had a super fun time and worked hard too of course!
Grace Hopper was a remarkable woman, She was a “mathematician, computer scientist, social scientist, corporate politician, marketing whiz, systems designer, and programmer,” and, always, a “visionary. [Howard Bromberg]. In 1953 she invented the compiler... yes you heard... she invented the compiler. This lead on to the development of COBOL. Hopper’s work also foreshadowed or embodied enormous numbers of developments that are still the very bones of digital computing: subroutines, formula translation, relative addressing, the linking loader, code optimization, and symbolic manipulation. [The Anita Borg Institute website] And if that wasn't enough in her spare (!) time she was a Rear Admiral in the Navy. The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is about celebrating the achievements of women in computing and to pledge ourselves to extend them. In computing more than other disciplines, women in the right place at the right time have made an enormous difference. If computing has led the way in making space for women’s participation on an equal basis, it is because the discipline was pioneered in large part by women like Grace Murray Hopper. What was true for Hopper is all the more true for women today because of her work. [From the Grace Hopper Celebration website]
Tuesday was mostly the career fair. We had a wee stand and were very busy... (admittedly lots of people thought we were Yahoo! who had the stand next to us, but we chatted to them and told them about ThoughtWorks anyway, whether they liked it or not!). We had had special t-shirts made up with a shoe logo that was made out of a tag cloud, initially we thought maybe this was even sexist, but turns out lots of the attendees spotted our advert and loved the shoe and wanted to come talk to us because of it and we were constantly getting stopped and asked who were were both because of our t-shirts and because we were having a lot of fun and people wanted in!
I have to say that before this career fair I hadn't really given much thought into how to explain what ThoughtWorks does. After the hundreds of times I explained it during the career fair, pretty sure it came out differently every time. How can you explain our special sauce in an elevator pitch without it just sounding like BS. Hard, it turns out, answers on a postcard please.
The career fair was actually probably my highlight of the whole week. It was so energizing to meet so many excited, enthusiastic and extraordinarily bright young ladies looking for a great place to start their careers. I was in their position just two years ago, and it really hit home home much I have grown since I became a ThoughtWorker, it was simply amazing to be in a position where I could give advice and put people at ease.
|Us at the ThoughtWorks booth during the Career Fair|
Two big things that I have been thinking a lot about recently are:
- I have been lucky enough to work with lots of amazing people at TW, who have been in the industry for 10/15/20 years. I have learnt an awful lot from these people but you naturally then compare yourself to them thinking "well if they are this good at blah, I should be too, I work alongside them after all", only to be supper frustrated because of course I can't know everything now that I will know when I've been doing this for 15 years. It's madness. What is perhaps just as important is having people who are 1 - 2 years further down the track than you that you can look up to and realistically look at and think "that is where I want to be in a year". For whatever reason I feel that TW are lacking in devs that are in the 2-3 year out of college mark. Being at that career fair it suddenly dawned on me that I could be that person for these girls, there were a standout few that made a great impression (we've since hired two...), and I offered my support to and we're still emailing. It's a great feeling and I'm excited about keeping in touch with them, whether they end up joining TW or not.
- The other is that women coming out of computer related degress still think that a career as a developer will mean you are locked in a basement with no windows or men that wash, not allowed to speak to the business or heavon forbid a customer. To be honest thats what I thought too at the time. As girl after girl told me they had a PHD in computer science but wanted to be an analyst (no offence), I always asked why, and they all described that they like coding but that it would lead to a life like I described above. Watching their faces and their excitment as I told them that at ThoughtWorks being a developer does NOT involve the above (unless of course you really want to I guess), as I told them about my role and what I did on a daily basis they all started changing their minds and wanted to submit their resumes as devs instead. I feel like the industry as a whole is really missing this education, but from a TW marketing perspective we could really play on that misconception. I was giving a quick lightening talk about our experience at Grace Hopper on Friday to ThoughtWorks and I was talking about this topic and one of my co-workers mentioned that he believes that it's Agile that's keeping women in technology. He said that many of the women he know wouldn't be in technology if it wasn't for the open communication and collaboration that is at the heart of Agile. I had never thought of it that way but can see that that definitely helps!
On Wednesday the sessions kicked off, getting into full swing on the Thursday and Friday. As a lot of the attendees at Grace Hopper were Academics, there was an interesting mix of content. I was expecting techy, QCon type content, but instead there were lots of topics that people were studying for their PHD's as well as industry tips and tricks for surviving as a women in the IT world. Each Grace Hopper celebration has a theme and this year it was "Collaboration Across Boundaries". I will follow up this blog post with two of the sessions that I particularly liked.
|Rebecca Parsons during her Panel Discussion|
I am super excited to say that recruiting have been amazing this year at following up with people that we met and loved. We have offers out to a few Hoppers already. We all felt like there wasn't much representation of Agile, or what it means to be a consultant so we are already plotting and planning on how we can make a bigger impact there at next year Grace Hopper Celebration and hopefully I can go again too!