Key Takeaways From The Grace Hopper Celebration

November 16, 2017

Written by Jennifer Sherman, Senior Vice President, Product and Strategy at Kibo

I had the opportunity to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration produced by, the premier conference for women in tech. The conference had many different tracks, including computer systems engineering, data science, artificial intelligence, IoT/wearable technology, security and privacy, etc.  The days were filled with inspiration and insight, and these are my key takeaways from the conference:

1. Machine learning is quickly becoming required learning for computer scientists.
From the sheer volume of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence  (AI) sessions at the conference it was clear that not only are these popular topics for discussion, but also popular topics for application as key to the evolution and education of every programmer.  The conference provided classes on theory behind the technology, applications of AI at different companies, and where the space is going in terms of advancement of core data sciences as well as technology roadmaps that are incorporating AI into their platforms.  Here at Kibo we use machine learning to propel basic personalization platforms into individualization platforms. The conference gave further proof that retailers and manufacturers place a high importance on machine learning. This aligns well with the Kibo product offering, as we are providing these capabilities for our clients to really stand out in the crowded and competitive commerce space.

2. We all need growth and development at every phase of our career. 
I participated on a panel at the Senior Women’s Symposium at the Grace Hopper Celebration.  This was an invitation only special track at the conference for women who are further along in their career than most conference attendees.  My panel focused on navigating your career, job politics, and making big changes as a more senior leader.

While many of us may be jaded when it comes to conversations about the networking imperative, the importance of a mentor, and the job fair-like atmosphere of a big conference like Grace Hopper, I was reminded that no matter our career seniority, we all seek advice, we all still want to meet more women in roles similar to ours, and we all still wonder where our next big opportunity can come from and how we can prepare for it.

One of the general session keynote speakers, Mary Spio, had evolved her career from Air Force Servicewoman to Aeronautical Engineer to AR/VR entrepreneur and CEO.  If a background in engineering can serve a person through that extreme level of career transition and transformation, then we as an industry that relies on talent need to be ready to support women and men through massive changes at all levels of seniority.  This was the first conference I’ve attended that has run this sort of track and it really served their participants well.

3. Who run the world? Girls!
GraceHopper brought together thousands of women (and a good number of men) at all stages in their lives to talk about our careers, our technologies, our lives, our work, and our support systems.  Hundreds of recruiters were on hand to reach out to the attendees. Hundreds of meetups, meetings, parties, breakouts, and sessions gave women a chance to meet, network, and build plans.  Tens of thousands of new connections were made. The spirit of connecting and supporting was contagious, and  I personally volunteered to be a community leader for a local Dallas chapter of because I didn’t want that feeling to end.  Women and their supporters were organizing, collaborating, and having a great time doing it.  Technology companies were on hand to support, recruit, hire, or just meet and encourage.

Through and their annual celebration at Grace Hopper, thousands of women got a taste of what it feels like to be part of the army that is women in technology and, if they are anything like me, they left exhilarated, enthusiastic, and ready to take on the world.