Grace Hopper Conference, the world’s largest conference of women in tech, is very close to my heart. It is celebrated every year in the United States and India. I would urge you to attend or at least apply for a scholarship to attend if you are a student and can fly to either of these locations. I always go around saying GHC changed my life. For those of you who know me, know how passionate I am about diversity and inclusion of women in tech, and that’s what GHC is about! Moreover, the career fair is outstanding, I gave about 12–14 rounds of interviews for different companies in 4 days and walked out with 3 offers. The one on one connections you can have with recruiters and hiring managers is priceless and the opportunities to interview on the spot and get potential offers on the spot is unmatchable.
I have tried to include everything I wish I knew before I attended GHC.
- Scholarship deadlines —
Scholarships are important because getting a ticket to the conference by yourself is SO hard, I have heard tickets sell out in 20 minutes.
There are scholarships awarded by GHC to students based on a scholarship application on their website. The dates vary by region and year, but keep the dates in mind, and don’t forget to apply. You can check the dates on their website, and set reminders on your calendar.
If you missed the GHC scholarship application deadline or were not awarded a scholarship, you can apply for scholarships via your college or workplace too. Many colleges have scholarships for helping their students attend GHC, and the University of Maryland is one of them. Shoutout to Maryland Center for Women in Computing(MCWIC) and Iribe Initiative for funding over 60 women, including me, from the University of Maryland to attend GHC. I also know several companies fund their employees because I met many such women at GHC last year.
Scholarships generally include your entry fee, flight tickets, and hotel accommodations. They also include visa processing fees for international students, and some extra cash for traveling to and from the airport, baggage fees etc.
UMD Scholarship info:
These scholarships are only open for UMD enrolled students. They open up around May every year, you’ll read about it in CMNS Undergrad Newsletter if you are subscribed to it(if you are not, I highly recommend it) and also on the Instagram and Facebook handle of MCWIC. You can also contact Kate Atchinson around may if you are unable to get any info, but you should see it if you follow MCWIC or I4C, or hang out in the Dice Lounge since our marketing staff does a great job at ensuring everyone is aware of different events that are constantly organized to ensure everyone feels included, especially in the COVID times :)
You should aim to apply for a scholarship at the GHC website directly as well as the company you are interning for in the given summer to see if you can get a scholarship from them. If not, aim for the MCWIC scholarship, they fund about 60 women and try to make sure all women applying for the first time receive a scholarship.
2. Submitting your resume to the resume database—
Once the resume database opens, you’ll be notified if you have bought tickets, and the announcement will also be made on their website. It is open for everyone, so even if you don’t know whether you’ll be attending for sure or not, submit your resume to the portal.
Submit your resume EARLY. Submit it as soon as the portal opens, I can’t stress this enough. Why? I submitted it very late, about 2 days before the conference, and I suffered. Most of my friends had interview offers before they even attended the conference because companies go through the portal and start picking out students to interview. I did not have a single interview offer when I stepped in, and that was disheartening. Moreover, all companies have parties and events, and most of them were invite-only with most invitations sent out to students before the conference started based on the resume portal. The students invited to Disney’s party went to Disney World in Orlando, for free, and I was not invited :( I really kicked myself for not applying early, so I wanted to put this out there. If you do not get interview offers before the conference though, do not stress, you still have a solid shot at landing an amazing offer at the career fair.
3. Exploit the career fair- GHC has amazing tech talks, meetups, workshops, etc. but I’ll be honest, I haven’t experienced any of those because I spent every minute I had at the career fair. I went around company booths and talked to recruiters (disclaimer: The lines are huge, it can be really tiring sometimes) and tried to “sell myself”. I wrote another blog about marketing yourself at conferences, you can check that out here. If the recruiter is interested in you, they book an interview slot for you, and you go to another interview hall, where there are hundreds of interview booths. I have several videos of the career fair, the interview booths, the GHC parties, and the overall GHC vibe on my Instagram highlight called GHC 2019. Check it out for them feels!
After this, you give your interview and wait for your decision. Some companies get back to you with their decision immediately, and some get back to you days after the conference is over. Most companies have multiple rounds, which continue long after the conference is over, but sometimes you may give 3–4 rounds in those 3 days at GHC, and walk out with an offer letter! If you are invited to an interview, you will be invited to their after-party where you can network.
4. Speaker events and workshops — Except for the opening and closing ceremony, all I did was talk to recruiters and submit resumes. It was definitely worth it considering the interview experiences I had, but I wish I had attended at least some of the workshops. The speakers invited are inspiring and just like the resume database, signing up for sessions happens online before the conference. Again, by the time I checked it out, most of the sessions were full :(. GHC has an insane pace, and I would urge you all to stay up to date with everything that’s happening and check the website every other day to get the best experience. The whole reason I wrote this blog was to ensure nobody makes the same mistakes that I did.
5. Network- I made some amazing friends at GHC, who are still in touch with me today. The diversity is amazing, and I’ll keep it short — networking is always useful, don’t just exchange business cards, there is a lot to learn from everyone’s experiences, so talk, network, make friends and have fun!
6. Party hard! — Several companies throw huge parties, especially on day 4, and there’s dancing, food, and free goodies! The career fair also had companies handing out free stuff, I got a bag full of swag, so I’d recommend having an extra bag with you if you a huge fan of free stuff.
7.Online Best Practices:
- There is no dress code but dress to impress!
- Cameras on, and mic off unless you are talking.
- Wear headphones to ensure clear audio
- Prepare an elevator pitch, and practice it. It should be short, precise, and contain everything that you are most proud of. If you need more help here, check out the “marketing yourself at conferences” blog here.
- Keep a written copy of the elevator pitch as well so that you can paste it in group chats.
- Stay patient, especially at the career fair! There are a ton of women attending it, and a small number of recruiters, so chances are you’ll get to speak one to one with very few recruiters. Know which companies you prioritize and aim for, and start by joining their queue or group chat and waiting for your turn. The bigger/more popular the company, the longer the wait. So don’t just aim for the Big 5, try to also target other smaller companies or startups for a better chance at talking 1:1.
- Lastly, connect with the people you met on LinkedIn to maintain a professional relationship with them!
That’s about it! GHC will be online this year, so the experiences will definitely be different this time, but I hope this was useful! If you have any other questions, let me know.