Below is a personal blog is written by UT Dallas CS Graduate student, Kruthika Vishwanath, about her experiences attending the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) Conference over the past few years and how others can prepare themselves before attending the conference.
Via Medium.com – Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) is the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. It is produced by AnitaB.org and presented in partnership with Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). This conference is comprised of tech talks and career fair. Career fair at GHC is one of the best and largest. Most of the Fortune 500 companies, along with leading startups across the world, attend the conference, with intention, to hire top-notch women technologists. GHC happens twice in a year. One in the United States of America and other in Bangalore, India.
When I attended GHC for the first time …
Back in 2013, during my undergrad, I was fortunate to have been part of the Google Student Ambassador (GSA) Program in India and get funded to attend GHC India. The GSA is a program for students from Google wherein we act as a liaison between Google and the University. In my first attendance, I had no clue as to how the conference worked and how to make the best use of it. I was interviewed by Facebook and Google on the spot and had screwed it badly due to lack of preparation. We all do know that PREPARATION is very important and needed for any kind of task. I believe it applies to cracking Software Engineer interviews, as it has a set a syllabus.
Getting tickets to attend GHC
My first experience attending GHC with no preparation helped me carefully prepare for Grace Hopper Conference 2017, which took place in Orlando, Florida. This time, I was once again, fortunate enough to get funded by my graduate school, the University of Texas at Dallas. Getting tickets to attend GHC has become something like a lottery system. This year, all 18,000 tickets sold out in 10 minutes. But not to worry, there are many organizations, willing to fund students and professionals. I recommend to watch out for scholarships from different organizations who open their application from March until August, every year. In this blog, I describe the ways I utilized social media prior to the conference to connect with the industry folks.
Preparation to attend GHC
GHC usually takes place during September-October in the US and October-November in Bangalore, India. Keeping these months in mind, it would be ideal for any candidate, looking for a job in the technology field, to start preparation from May-June for the conference. For those, who are looking for a job in Software Engineer field, major preparation is needed in Data Structures & Algorithms. I have noticed, many students/professionals ask recruiters, “Will technical questions be asked in the interview?” After taking numerous interviews and having spoken with many Software Engineers and recruiters, I believe any candidate attending a Software Engineer interview, should be prepared (even in their sleep) for ANY kind of technical question focusing on Data Structures and Algorithms, Database, Object Oriented Concepts.
From May to August, time can be invested in improving knowledge in Data Structure & Algorithms, Database, Object Oriented Concepts. I believe Leetcode is the best platform for improving knowledge on Data Structures & Algorithms. Practicing medium and hard level questions is important to crack interviews with top companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Cisco etc. Most of these companies ask medium and hard level problems ONLY, not the easy ones. Hence, getting into the habit of doing medium and hard level problems is important to get jobs in top five technology companies.
Uploading your resume to GHC Database
Once you are in the month of August, the companies will gain access to the resumes you uploaded into the resume database of GHC. GHC offers an option to upload your resume to their database. This database is accessible to many top companies which attend GHC who aim to hire candidates to some of the most coveted roles in Engineering. Hence, it is important to upload your resume as early as possible (around the first week of August) in order for the companies to get to your resume.
The Role of Social Media…
By August, ideally, one should have been well versed with many medium & hard level problems on leetcode and have uploaded your resume to GHC resume database. After which, you will need to spend most of your time networking with the company folks who will be attending Grace Hopper Conference. So, how would one know who will be attending the conference? This is where the social media can be put to use.
Updating your bio on social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) to include, for example, “Let’s catch up in #GHC17”, “See you at #GHC17” would give the audience for your social media profiles knowledge that you are attending GHC prior to the conference date. When a person searches for #GHC17, your profile is bound to pop up and be viewed either by a job seeker or a recruiter. When you are nearing the conference, updating statuses with #GHC17 will also provide viewers a chance to get to know you and learn about you prior to the conference. This way, if they are interested about knowing about a project you did previously or are interested in interviewing you or maybe even to casually catch up, your social media presence will be make it an easy way to be contacted by them.
Posting such statuses, helped me get additional profile views and eventually, onsite interview calls from companies. More importantly, I was able to meet some enthusiastic women like the one in the picture below
For an ambivert like me, being extra social on social media is like, walking naked on the streets. However, the experience I gained from Google Student Ambassador Program through organizing events for University students, during my undergrad years, helped me gain the confidence to learn to talk to strangers without any hesitation. Like Christie, I met several other people through other social media like Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, GHC Slack Channel & Systers and made many amazing friends. Being a final year graduate student, my main goal from GHC17 was to land a job. But, after having experienced the guidance that one gets from the tech community, you will not realize as to how many friends you tend to make at the end of the conference. There will be strangers who go out of the way to help you even an hour before your interview.
Hence, connecting with folks online, prior to the conference is more important than the time during the conference. Hunting for posts with #GHC17 and having a small chat with them would help in making new contacts. This is time-consuming and would not be effective if you do not meet the same people at the conference. I have made this conclusion is from my personal experience. I made a list of people whom I connected online and had a small chat. However, when I was at the conference, I also made sure to meet most of them. Visiting the industry folks (whom I connected online) at the booths in the career fair, helped me establish better relationships with them. If it was a recruiter, I would end up getting on the spot interview calls. One such example was with Viasat (shown in the picture below).
I did meet Carminia at Viasat booth and fetched an interview for Data Scientist role at Viasat, after resume screening which took place on the spot.
I understand, I have shared a lot, which takes time to digest as to how much of time and energy is needed to do all of this, prior to the conference and during the conference. But, what keeps one going? I believe its the ENTHUSIASM to meet new people and learn the stuff even without any food in your belly (the conference is huge and you got to walk a lot).
As it gets important to connect with people, prior to the conference and during the conference. It is equally important to connect after the conference and say a thank you for the time they gave to connect with you. This definitely helps in making building better relationship. One of the attendees at GHC shared a wonderful relationship she built during previous GHC. She was able to find her company’s co-founder while standing in the line for a coffee during the conference. So, you never know how these contacts will be of great help in near future. Both for you & them.
From my personal experience, these tips and techniques helped me connect with industry folks to get interview calls and more importantly make new friends. Once an interview in hand, skills learnt from previous experience & solving problems on Leetcode is the way to crack software engineering interviews to land a job from the Grace Hopper Conference. Please find the timeline below which is needed to prepare for GHC in 2018.
Source | Kruthika Vishwanath Medium Blog
Photo Credit – AnitaB.org & Nikki Ritcher Photography
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