The Grace Hopper Conference is a conference where 15,000 women meet to share their passion for technology. There are many sessions, receptions, and a career fair of 300+ companies. As a first time attendee, I thought I’d bring together a list of the top ten things I learned and experienced:
1. I’m glad I planned beforehand.
I was ALWAYS on my feet. Whether I was walking around from booth to booth, to my next interview, to the next talk, or from the metro to our hotel, I was on the move for most of the day. With so much going on, it could have been easy to get overwhelmed. Figuring out my schedule before coming to the conference was a huge lifesaver.
2. For always being on my feet, I’m even happier I wore comfortable shoes.
My one line of advice: do not wear heels. I say that as one who loves wearing heels to work. The amount of walking there is from your hotel/shuttle, around the career fair, upstairs, and trips to the bathroom, it’s a must to pack shoes that won’t hurt your feet.
3. It was smart to print many resumes.
Even though I didn’t use all 50, I didn’t have to worry about running out. All I had to worry about was who I was going to talk to next. With 300+ companies looking for summer interns, it’s important to come prepared.
4. Business cards were a smart idea.
I couldn’t tell you how many inspiring women I met in less than a week. While sitting and taking a break throughout the day, I would strike up a conversation with another attendee. Before leaving, I would make sure to hand over a business card. The idea of making connections from across the world was the most exciting part of the conference.
5. Don’t be afraid to make conversation with a stranger.
Going off of being excited to make connections, I had to first make conversation. Everyone was there sharing one common passion: technology. I would ask about their favorite talk, what they’re doing back at home, etc. I wasn’t afraid to go up to people and that’s something everyone should work towards.
6. Be early to talks.
It’s sad to say, but we didn’t make it to a talk we really wanted to attend. We arrived 15 minutes early but there was still a massive line outside of the room. Advice for future Grace Hopper Conference attendees: if you have a talk you are dying to go to, go extra early to make sure you get a seat.
7. Practicing the elevator speech is so important.
This is important whether you’re going to the career fair or quickly meeting someone. Being able to introduce yourself and explain your passions in a short period of time is a valuable skill to have. I practiced this multiple times before leaving.
8. Take time to rest.
This is crucial. If I hadn’t sat down and relaxed every few hours, I would have burned myself out. Even though I was very exhausted each night, I rested enough throughout the day to get to each night. It was such an exciting week but I had to sit down and take it all in every once in awhile.
9. Take in every moment.
I knew it would go by so quickly, so I did take in every moment. Whether it was my first time or fourth time, I would have wanted to absorb everything.
10. What will I take back from this week?
I was thinking about this question on the plane ride home. What can I bring back to my school?
My answer to that question is the excitement of it all. Sometimes we get put down by all of the stress. We may get a bad grade, burn out, or just get discouraged. After attending this conference, I’m energized by all of the opportunities and ready to bring that back to my community. I can’t wait to share all of my experiences and encourage others to apply for next year’s Grace Hopper Conference.