30 September 2008

Off to Colorado

GHC08 - Wednesday, 1 October

Yesterday at a ridiculous hour of 5:30a, Adam and I headed to the airport. I was quite sad to part from him for what will total to four nights (possibly three = ), but the trip (the GHC, details in a moment) I was embarking on has already changed my life as a woman in a technical field. The trip to the Keystone Resort in Colorado was smooth, but long: to Indy airport, to Denver (no lay-overs!), shuttle to resort, shuttle to room (because the resort is enormous). The suite I am sharing with Jen Russo is extremely nice; I was particularly impressed with the well-equipped kitchenette (they even had salt and a dishwasher!

My networking started early on during my trip. At the airport while I was waiting for the shuttle I met a Sowmya (IBM, India), and Shanna (Ph.D. Candidate, Berkeley, CA). I was pleasantly reminded of Australia when Sowmya said "haytch" for the pronounciation of the letter "h" - that would be British English, which is spoken in India and Australia alike. I also met and chatted with three women from IU (woo hoo, Indiana folks). I explained my idea of the difference between CS and C&IT, shared my Study Abroad experience with them, and learned that IU was working towards making an abroad experience a requirement for degrees there.

(Photo of Rear Admiral Grace Hopper) For those who are unfamiliar with the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference (GHC), let me tell you about it: Grace Hopper was an extraordinary woman. She was a Rear Admiral in the US Navy, and was quite a spunky woman. Here is a clip of her that really expresses her wonderful personality. She worked on Mark 1 at Harvard, the first computer in the US. Grace once said, "it is much easier to apologize that to get permission." That is one of my favorite quotes, and it is very Grace Hopper. Another fascinating lady involved in the GHC is Anita Borg. She founded the Anita Borg Institute (ABI) with Telle Whitney. This not-for-profit organization works and succeeds at promoting women in Technology and connecting women to Technology. The ABI puts together the GHC, the first conference of which was held in Washington, DC in 1994 with 500 women attendees. The conference now caps off at 1400!

This year's conference is held in Keystone, Colorado at the Keystone Resort. The theme is "We Build a Better World." The word "we" was chosen specifically to demonstrate unity; and the focus is on women's contributions to a better world in all kinds of ways: psychologically, environmentally, and, of course, technologically. In fact, the reason Keystone Resort was chosen as the facility is because it's excellence in recycling and green efforts.

On the way to the resort I noticed some brilliant gold trees speckling the mountains. These trees are known as Quaking or Trembling Aspens. One of the IU ladies explained that the trees have great root systems that aid them in fire disaster recovery. Pretty cool, and very beautiful. Also on the mountain and among the Aspens are pine trees. It is very unfortunate that an insect known as the Mountain Pine Beetle has been sweeping through. The same lady informed me that in New Mexico the same pines have been wiped out entirely. I have witnessed the dead grey and dying brown pines in the Colorado mountains, and it's pretty sad, even with the sunny-hued Aspens sprinkled in.

(Top: Slope Side suite building that I'm staying in, Middle: a beautiful view outside my suite, Bottom: a view of the ski slopes behind the suite building) After I got settled in to the suite, I was planning on going for a run around the resort. Unfortunately it didn't happen, thank you, high altitude of almost 2 miles. I was winded after hauling my duffle bag up some stairs... hmph. So no run yesterday. And, no run today - what? I couldn't sleep last night - I tossed and turned more than ever since yearning for Christmas morning presents as a child. I think it's because I was dehydrated and my body was coping with a rather large change in atmosphere, so I didn't run this morning. There won't be time through the day either. I'm planning to run tomorrow morning, pending a decent night's rest.

After deciding against a run yesterday afternoon, I met up with Candice (a first-timer GHC attendee) and Julie (the professor who is taking me, Candice, Stephanie (second-timer), and Jen (also a first-timer). Stephanie was interviewing with Lockheed Martin (woot!) while Candice and Julie hit a grocery store for a few things, and I grabbed some tasty soup and a jalapeno bagel at a marvelous little coffee/book shop called Inxpot. I fell in love, and I really hope I have an opportunity to visit again before the trip concludes. Once Stephanie was finished interviewing, the three of us headed to Julie's suite to kill some time before the New Comer's meeting.

We shuttled to the conference center, checked in, and browsed the company booths, picking up gobs of SWAG (stuff we all get), and mingled with other women. This was my third New Comer's meeting, so I knew what was going to be said, but I always enjoy going because it keeps me focused on why I'm here, and that is to network with other women in Technology. And that's what makes the GHC so cool for me: it's all about socializing with people who know where you're coming from, who can support you, who can learn from you, who can grow with you. It's very cool.

Next up was the Poster Session. The first two years of coming to the conference I just looked around at the posters; maybe I stopped to hear about one or two. Not very effective, really. This year I took a different approach. The posters are outlined in the GHC booklet, and I looked through and made a list (complete with check boxes) of the posters I was interested in. They were all very cool to learn about. One lady from New Zealand (awesome!) spoke about "Engendering" Technology and how women perceive the challenges of being a woman in the field. For example, one group of women say it's not worth the effort - obviously they make no progress. A second group looks at it as a challenge and finds drive in that idea; these women also resist giving up and are very resilient. The final group prospered because they welcomed the challenge and had the best attitude, and that's what I took away from her poster: it's all about attitude. = )

When I was done browsing the posters and snacking on the delicious hors dourves, I shuttled back to my room, got ready for bed, had a lovely chat with Adam, and, like I mentioned earlier, tried to get a good night's rest. Check back for a post on Thursday's happenings!


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