I had the opportunity to attend this year’s the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) in Houston last week. For those that don’t know, it’s the world’s largest celebration of women in computing, honoring Grace Hopper, an American computer scientist and pioneer in computer programming. The event is brilliant by design: to increase the visibility of and for the contributions of top technical women in computing. I was honored to be there, and it was a privilege to connect with key contributors, mentors, and innovators and highlight the extraordinary women changing the face of technology.

The most dangerous phrase in the language is “We’ve always done it this way”

Grace Hopper

GHC is also an incredibly effective recruiting forum for companies to connect with the best and brightest minds in technology and engineering today. Cisco was among many great companies with a robust presence focused on meeting with prospective job candidates. Talking with the these candidates gave me the opportunity to not only learn about their skills and career goals, but also to share more about my own experience and what we do at Cisco.

I presented a short session to prospective Cisco job candidates on “developing a growth mindset.” The core of my own growth mindset centered on a fundamental lesson I learned from my own mother: that when you put in the effort to learn, you get smarter. This is the essence of any growth mindset where putting in extra time and effort can lead to higher achievement and success.

During my talk, I shared a story about my mom, who —as a former programmer-turned-teacher— bought our family’s first computer to start programming her grading book. She thought it was crazy that she was writing in each student’s grade every time, averaging them to produce hand-written report cards. She bought a TRS-80 Model III from Radio Shack, with an impressive 4K RAM standard memory. We lugged that 30 pound computer and lap manuals home and—over the course of one summer—she wrote her own electronic grade book software in TRS-80 Basic.

Her decision to have a computer in the house impacted the trajectory of my career. As I watched her programming, I thought to my eight year-old self that that looked really cool, so I took the same lap manuals, taught myself Basic, and started writing software. This opened my mind to the endless possibilities of technology. I learned from her to build on anything that sparks my interest, put in the time to learn, and it will be well worth the effort.

Like many of the GHC18 conference attendees, I was inspired by the enthusiasm about technology as a whole. As I look back at how impressed I was by what that TRS-80 could do, my young brain could not have visualized where are today – using a tablet or my iPhone for everything from work, to ordering groceries, to adjusting the thermostat in my home.

I’m really glad to have had the opportunity to attend GHC18 and learn, network, and lean-in with some of the greatest minds in tech.