Pre-Grace Hopper ’12 – Perspective from a Facebook Scholar

I’m very honoured to be a recipient of the Facebook Scholarship for Grace Hopper for this year. I have been told about the conference in the past from a handful of upper years and past coworkers. What truly appealed to me about the conference was the presence of thousands of technical women. So of course I wanted to attend.

Every day (whether it be at school or work) I am surrounded by a male majority.  At school, I’m with a more immature crowd, 100 males in their early 20’s with only 10 or less females in the classroom. To be completely honest, I’ve gotten used to it. But I do miss having female companions that I can work closely with.

Currently at work – my team is mostly male. At my previous co-op, I actually had a female team lead,and our Director of Eng was female, too. So I was a little more comfortable, and had people to relate to.

Cut to the chase, I am pretty excited for the conference. Facebook gave us a little excitement by giving us their own small sessions and gatherings in the past few days. I am with 24 other scholarship recipients and I believe 11 former interns – all female! We were given the chance to check out the Facebook NY office last night, hear a tech talk from Goranka Bjedov (a capacity planning engineer @ Facebook), do some small group chatting + technical interview prac., and explore NYC.

Facebook took us to see Mamma Mia on Sunday. It was my first broadway show, and I really enjoyed it. The lighting was beautiful and obviously well though out, the actors were great. The only issue I had was that any time they started singing, the background music overpowered their voices (maybe it’s only an issue for the balcony level audience).

The tech talk given to us on Monday was about scaling infrastructure. It was very interesting, considering the huge figures Facebook deals with in comparison to other big tech companies. With only ~1000 employees, it’s crazy how Fb can handle so much traffic.

The group chatting was informative, despite my large amount of interview experience from co-op. Went through a problem similar to Scrabble with Amy Platt (Eng @ Facebook Seattle). She briefly talked about her past experience @ MSoft & Google, and encouraged us to always negotiate salaries.

We talked briefly about how males boast about projects they’ve been on, claiming they’ve ‘lead’ projects even though they were just a developer; while females who have lead 1000s of engineers always used “the team”, or “we”, and basically was too shy to be proud. And then we have males vs. females on salaries – females are satisfied with what they are being paid or are not ambitious enough to negotiate, while males will go very far into negotiation.

Jocelyn Goldfein (Director of Eng @ Facebook) also said a few encouraging words. She feels that the purpose promoting women in computing is not because women have a difference in perspective, or whether women are better at creating technology for women. It’s about seeing the use cases of various types of people as an individual, and creating technology to be usable to a diverse groups of people. She also mentioned how we can promote women in computing. Obviously everyone in the room was confident with CS and where it would take them, but to encourage younger women – we need to overcome psychological-influenced thoughts and remove stereotypes as much as possible.

For example, it is a common stereotype that Asians are good at math. But it is another common stereotype that girls are not good at math. So is an Asian girl good at math? Jocelyn mentioned that if a study was done where 1 group of Asian women was given an article to read about Asians excelling in mathematics, another group given an article to read about statistics that women are less capable in the sciences and maths, and one group not given anything, then there’d be significant results. It’s just who we are as humans – we get psyched out easily by what we read and hear about.

Overall, I thought there were some very interesting and inspiring perspectives brought to us by females at Facebook, and with this being my first time attending GHC, I can’t wait to hear more of them at the conference.

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