GHC ’12 & Adventures in Baltimore

I had such an amazing time at GHC this past week in Baltimore. I was able to connect with so many technical women of various educational backgrounds and ethnical backgrounds, and be inspired by every one of them.

GHC is more than just a conference – for awhile I thought the C stood for Conference. No. It stands for Celebration. It’s a celebration for women in computing, to bring them together so that they can network, learn, and of course, have fun in an all-women environment. I mean it! ~3600 women. I think I saw a few men, most were recruiters or engineers at the career fair, but all of the speakers were female.

Now I’ll be honest, I didn’t attend many sessions due to my high interest in the career fair. However the few talks I did go to – most of them were interesting, especially those in the social collaboration track and the security tracks. The categorized tracks are actually very useful so that participants can understand the target audience that they are aimed towards. For example, I didn’t go to any academic track sessions since I’m not interested in grad school. Although there was a huge number of participants who are doing phDs, or are planning to in the future.

Actually, when I was at the conference, I was given a better perspective about grad school considering how many people i met who were in grad school – although I am still very uninterested in graduate studies. :P

I had a great time at the Career Fair. And I’m not saying this because I got a lot of free swag (pic below), I’m saying this because I got to see a spectrum of companies. I got to talk to their engineers, learn what they do, find out about their processes, etc. Many American companies to boot, and being a Canadian, it’s definitely a different feeling seeing how Americans do this type of stuff (esp. for internship roles). The cool thing about the career fair was that a lot of these companies were doing on-site interviews.

These companies are in high need of technical women. The typical 10-15 min phone screen can be done right at their booths. It was nice seeing how quick the process is compared to doing online applications on the company’s websites. And if they think you’re a great candidate, they’ll probably ask you for an on-site interview.

In the end I had 6 interviews at the conference, 4 of which were non-technical and 2 of which were technical. Wow, it felt like Jobmine all over again, but with less stress since I’m not on a school term. During the conference, I realized something – Interviews are fun. I seem to like the thrill of sharing my past experience and having options and opportunities. I mean, I’m sure everyone does, but the thing with me compared to other students is that I have 2 past internships, and 1 current on my belt. I haven’t been nervous for an interview in ages, and talking about my projects and relevant experience is a cinch. (This is why the career development track also wasn’t that useful to me, although I still went to a few of the sessions). Note that it became harder to get an on-site interview once Thurs afternoon hit, since available slots quickly fill up.

Other than that, many companies had invite-only parties and dinners and breakfasts. Being fed is a wonderful thing.

Beyond the career opportunities and the knowledge to be gained, there were the actual celebrations. There was a dance on Thurs night, filled with women. Dancing on a dance floor of all women is an interesting thing too, and it’s a lot of fun. No creepers asking for your number, definitely! Haha.

Friday night was the RockIt celebration, held at the Maryland Sci Centre. Unfortunately I didn’t actually play with any of the exhibitions, but I did have a lot of fun at the Google Photo Booth and ate some great desserts.

Saturday was Open Source day, which was sort of like a Hackathon, but it was non-competitive and the projects were all humanitarian (similar to RhoK). There were a handful of organizations and multiple projects going on. Luckily I was able to contribute.

After Open source day, I finally had the time to explore Baltimore. It’s a beautiful city, I must say! I didn’t end up going to any museums. Instead, I took the Water Taxi from Inner Harbour to Fel’s Point. There happened to be a festival going on, so I decided to do some exploring in the area. Then, I was planning to go back downtown to do some shopping, but I ended up taking the wrong boat. I had to sit there for 50 min going around to various other locations of baltimore (lol), it was truly a scenic route. (pics below).

Once I got to the airport, I was greeted by.. no one. The airport was extremely empty (I was there around 7pm on a Saturday). It’s a small airport I guess, but literally no one was in security with me.

So that was my week, I want to thank Facebook for bringing me to their NY office and to the conference. They have some really awesome recruiters and engineers, and know how to have fun ;)