My experience at the Grace Hopper Celebration 2012

October 15, 2012 - 0 Comments

My first encounter with Anita Borg Institute (ABI) was hearing Telle Whitney, the CEO of ABI; speak about the need to empower women in technology at the Cisco Women in Technology Forum (WITF). I was impressed by her talk and the years of research and work in this important area. When I was invited to attend the ‘Women of Vision’ Awards by ABI, I was thrilled to reap dual benefits of getting inspired and charged by the award recipients and their stories and at the same time doing my bit of being a role model for graduate students eager to join Cisco. Attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), this year held in Baltimore, MD, seemed like a natural course of action for me.

The theme for GHC this year was “Are we there yet?” a question that everyone should ask themselves whether for personal goals or a larger cause.. GHC did a wonderful job to address this theme and spread it across many seminars and talks. There were multiple sessions aligning different tracks like Industry, Security, Academia, Early Career and Social Collaboration, happening at the same time, so the GHC app on my smartphone came in very handy to pick out the sessions of my interest. The app also provided details on schedule, location and bios of the speakers.

Here are my key takeaways:

Keynote Session – Nora Denzel, Intuit

Nora ignited young and old minds alike. The energy witnessed by 3600+ attendees of this year’s GHC was phenomenal, a 23% rise in attendance from the last year. She spoke about embracing gender diversity and using it to succeed in different industries across all generations.


 Leadership Workshop – Jo Miller

Jo is a very powerful speaker and kept me engaged throughout her 3-hour workshops. She focused on Office Politics and how to work around it. She gave savvy tools, quick win tips and followed with table discussion and Q&A. Here are her quick win tips:

  • Enlist senior-level sponsors and advocates.
  • Manage upward: understand your leader’s goals and challenges as well as how they make decisions, and anticipate their needs.
  • If you don’t like the rules of the game, become a game changer!
  • Build an influential coalition: it’s often quicker and easier to get great things done from the grass-roots.
  • In every organization, there is someone who is great at navigating.  Find them and ask them for tips!

“Secrets of Success in the style of Glee”  – Jennifer Marsman.

Jennifer was educating as well as entertaining when she told us about 10 secrets of success using a popular song to deliver the message. Here are few I would like to share.

  •  Speak NOW.

Song: Speak now – Taylor Swift
This constitutes three things: Demonstrate passion, ask questions, think out loud.

  • Let’s give them something to talk about.

Song: Let’s give them something to talk about – Bonnie Raitt
Half of your job is doing great things, and the other half is communicating them. If you don’t communicate your ideas and share them with your team- no one will ever know what you accomplished.

  • Respect

Song: Just a lil bit respect – Aretha Franklin
Diversity is much more than gender, sexual orientation or color. It is also having millennials and baby-boomers at the workforce and learning to respect one another.

  • Luck be a lady

Song: Frank Sinatra’s ‘Luck be a lady with me’
Jennifer saw the following formula at a conference she attended.
Success= Hard work + Intelligence + Luck
She says it made her really furious seeing luck in the equation for success.  But over the time she learnt that this is completely true! Luck is indeed an element for success.

The poster sessions, lunchtime table topics and speed mentoring provided multiple avenues to make new connections in the industry and academia.

Almost 1500 students attended the 3-day Career Fair that attracted more than 100 companies. Cisco booth was in a prime location, always full of enthusiastic recruiters and engineers from Engineering, Services, IT and Sales looking for top talent. I enjoyed recruiting young, bright women, fresh out of school to Cisco, and telling them about why I enjoy my work at Cisco and what makes Cisco an awesome place to start your career. Cisco had a huge success in finding talented candidates.

Still not convinced that you should attend GHC?

  • A great platform to network with other like-minded women from C-level executives, leaders to individual contributors
  • Enlightening talks and sessions covering cutting edge technology, career development, work – life balance and gender issues
  • Be inspired or inspire other women to succeed in field of technology

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing was truly inspiring and awesome. I would like to thank my manager and Wireless Networking Business Unit for supporting me to attend this conference and creating an environment conducive for women in technology. And I would love to do it all over again at next year’s GHC at Minneapolis!

Related Links:

Cisco at Grace Hopper 2012



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