How to get the most out of the Grace Hopper Conference

What to expect?

If you are a woman pursuing a degree related to computer science, you most certainly have heard about the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC). Maybe you’ve heard that it’s one of the inspirational weeks you could ever have, or that it will give you one of the biggest headaches of your life. Although these are drastic, contrasting opinions, there’s no need to worry because as previous attendees of GHC and current undergraduate CS students, we are here to clear away most (if not all) of your inquires about this amazing conference!

  1. Make connections! You will walk in and immediately see crowds of well-educated, inspiring women. Each of them are there to share their stories and connect with other determined women, so make use of this opportunity and mingle!
  2. Find the balance between job hunting and career building. There is a large difference between going after a position and growing your career-based skills. Both are equally important, but be sure to make time for the career fair speaker talks.
  3. Don’t be overwhelmed! You will see on the first day a large group of people “camping” out in front of the career fair conference room. Do not think you have to be one of them! Remember, this is almost a week-long conference and you do not want to burn out too quickly.
  4. Last, but not least, have fun! Grace Hopper is a wonderful way to meet like-minded individuals with similar goals in life. Don’t hesitate to reach out to others to hangout outside of the conference. There is also a fun party at the very end of the conference and a perfect way to chill out with a group of new friends!
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Illinois WCS officers and members at GHC 2019 in Orlando, Florida

How to ace registration?

Grace Hopper registration is one hectic time! I’m not quite sure I have found the secret formula on how to make registration a smooth process — so if you have, feel free to leave tips below the article! For those of you who haven’t done this before, be aware that there are lots of people trying to access registration at the same time and the server will most likely crash, so be patient. Here is a checklist that you can follow to make sure that you secure your registration:

1. The Grace Hopper website will release all the dates and times for registration and hotel reservation well in advance. Make sure that you set a reminder for these times as you DO NOT want to forget. Tickets sell out.

2. Check out the different hotels that they have partnered with in advanced (a full list of these plus a list of shuttles to and from the conference is also posted) and select a few that you have found and are within your budget/options

3. For the day of registration, make sure that you have a credit card in hand, and you have a good internet connection.If that is not the case at home, go to a café or a local library. All the other information they ask for is basic contact information, so you should be good here!

4. Like I mentioned before: the server will crash. There are thousands of people all around the world trying to register for this amazing conference, so here is a pro tip: be patient and follow their Twitter page (chances are they are going to post all the updates there and maybe even a magic link that takes you straight to the registration page ;). Their Twitter page is the one you should be refreshing every 2 seconds.

5. Finally, once you have made your way into registering, make sure that you enter all the right information. You are in now so there is no need to rush, so take your time and double check every single box you are entering information in. Make sure to confirm your email, as that is something that you cannot change later on and where you will receive a lot of important information regarding the conference!

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Instagram’s booth at the career fair expo at GHC 2018 in Houston, Texas

How to prep?

You’ve booked your flight and hotel! Now what? Here are some things to keep in mind for prepping for the conference.

  • The first thing you want to do is prep for classes that you will be missing. Try and get your work done beforehand. Although there will be WiFi at the conference, it usually is inconsistent and weak because of the amount of people trying to use it.
  • Because of the timing of GHC, you’ll likely be missing almost a full week of school (Tuesday — Friday). The dates of GHC are fixed, so check your midterm schedules and notify your professors as soon as possible about your absence so that you can have a plan for making up work or exams.
  • When packing, keep in mind that it will be hot!! Next year’s GHC (2020) will be in Florida, and I would recommend packing light clothing and layers so that you can be prepared for outside weather as well as and the crazy air conditioning inside the conference center and shuttles.
  • Although you’ll want to dress well for career fair, there’s no need to wear business casual/formal for days that you only plan to attend sessions.
  • Bring comfortable shoes! Even your most comfortable flats and heels will hurt after a full day on your feet. Sneakers or sandals will be fine (and preferable) for most of the conference.
  • Leave empty room in your suitcase for all the swag you’ll get at the conference!
  • Think about what you want to get out of the experience! Do you want to mostly go to the career fair crawl, go to sessions (workshops or pep talks), or network with other attendees?
  • If you’re focused on sessions, plan ahead to register for ones that you consider the most interesting.
  • If you’re interested in networking or career fair, go to the conference with plenty or resumes and get ready to meet many people and talk to lots of recruiters.
  • Look up the companies coming beforehand and know what you want to talk about about once you meet them to make the most of your time. Grace Hopper is such a unique experience with lots of cool sessions and interviews happening. You can meet companies and get interviews instantly!
  • Submit resume to database regardless of if you are going or not. Companies will look at the resume database and recruit even before the conference!
  • Lastly, be a blank slate! If you come in with too many expectations, you might not be as open to opportunities you will get at GHC.
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The Grace Hopper Conference is probably one of the best ways to interact with so many determined women with similar career goals and a great way to get inspired by others. The week may sound overwhelming, but as long as you know what you personally want to gain out of it, the conference will be a fantastic opportunity to grow your skills!

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The official Medium account for Women in Computer Science at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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