At the beginning of October, over 27,000 women in technology convened in Orlando, Florida to attend the four-day Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) Conference — the world’s largest gathering for female technologists. The chance to conduct informational interviews with leading tech firms, attend private receptions with conference members, and network with other students in this space was too good of an opportunity for me to pass up. I had learned that the organization offered scholarships for graduate students (women and men), women of color, and faculty. A sponsored ticket from Anita B. Org’s Diversity and Inclusion Team made it possible for me to attend.
Upon arrival, I entered in a long, arduous registration line, where I encountered hundreds of women in a traditionally male-dominated space. The energy was wildly inspiring and left me invigorated to soak up as much information as possible.
I soon befriended a software engineer from Microsoft’s Vancouver office. After exchanging numbers, I hopped on over to the Hoppers First-Timer Orientation and snagged a t-shirt on my way in. Since there are a wide range of fields that encompass the technology space, GHC’s sessions are arranged into professional tracks. I selected artificial intelligence, digital transformation, and career guidance for my tracks to better curate my schedule from all of the available workshops and panels.
My chosen tracks were meant to complement my Booth concentration in Business Analytics. Not only is the concentration designated STEM-eligible for international graduates, but the courses have helped me develop transferable skills for my product manager internship this summer. One of my favorite courses, Data Science for Marketing and Decision Making, demonstrates how to predict the impact of marketing decisions by building machine learning models.
During the conference, session highlights included: How to Confront Sexists, Racists and Other Offenders Like a Boss; So, You Want to be a CEO?; and Building a Multi-domain Chatbot with Artificial Intelligence. The interactive sessions were presentation-led, followed by in-depth discussions and problem solving to reinforce attendees’ understanding.
GHC’s Career Fair Hall Crawl was the pinnacle of my experience. Sponsors and exhibitors transformed the largest conference room I’ve ever seen into elaborate, mini laboratories showcasing their latest products and innovations. Disney’s character-themed ‘store’ featured colorful signage and kiosks where Imagineers congregated to answer your job-related questions. Even grander, the IBM platform–decked in white tile– offered attendees who chose to wait in line an opportunity to visit Harry Potter World that same evening. I also stumbled upon Facebook’s mini Oculus Research Lab, where I explored the boundaries of augmented reality through immersive stories of courageous women from around the world.
I was having so much fun that I almost forgot my objective for the day: to connect with as many recruiters as possible. With nearly 400 companies in attendance, I narrowed my search to those specifically hiring for product manager roles. I further revised my list of companies to those I would not traditionally have access to through on-campus recruitment. Learning exactly what recruiters were looking for in MBA candidates at organizations like ClassPass, Reddit, TwoSigma, and Peloton enabled me to eliminate hours of unnecessary research and simultaneously build connections.
In turn, the ripple effect of my presence (along with other MBAs) may lead companies to reconsider their hiring strategies. Technology is now the third largest post-MBA career field at Chicago Booth, accounting for 18.7% of full-time job offers in 2017. Interest in technology is projected to grow even further across all MBA programs. If you hope to enter technology at some point in your career, I urge you to join thousands of brilliant women at Grace Hopper next fall for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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