The 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing took place in Houston, Texas on October 19–21 and had approximately 15,000 attendees. This was quite a change from the first GHC I attended in 1994 as college student with only 500 attendees in a ballroom at a single hotel in Washington, DC. GHC is the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. The celebration is a combination of technical conference, career fair, mentoring session, diversity training, and dance party. This year, 27 Audible employees attended. We were there to recruit, learn, and experience GHC.
GHC hosted hundreds of talks across a vast array of topics spanning artificial intelligence, software engineering, data science, IoT/wearable tech, security, and gaming (to name just a few). Many of the talks were accessible to all technical levels, allowing everyone attending to learn something new. In addition, there were many talks about diversity in tech, career mentoring, and career growth. One interesting talk I attended was Measure What Matters: Using Data to Drive Change. This talk examined the results of a study that surveyed the diversity of 60 top tech companies; investigating a subset of the responses with the goal of exploring “the voice behind the numbers.” The presentation illuminated some of the reasons why there is a leaky pipeline for women in tech (i.e., why there are so few women in tech organizations, especially at the senior level). The findings illustrated reasons why women leave tech organizations, including limited mentors; unclearly defined opportunities for advancement and professional growth; and pay inequality between men and women. While I think these are important questions to investigate, I also thought the technical approach to performing the survey was equally interesting. Machine learning and natural language processing were used to allow free-form survey responses, eliminating the use of check boxes and radio buttons, which studies have shown do not capture the true voice of a survey.
I can’t really describe how lucky I feel to have been part of this event. It was quite an experience.
The keynotes were held at the Houston Rockets NBA venue, the Houston Toyota Center. Notable speakers opened and closed the conference and included amazing women like Ginni Rometty (chairwoman, president, and CEO of IBM), who described how Watson is contributing to better cancer treatments; Anna Patterson (vice president of engineering at Google) who received the technical leadership ABIE award; and Megan Smith (U.S. chief technology officer), who highlighted all that she has contributed to the US. The opening keynote was like a rock concert with 15,000 people cheering on women in tech. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce and a huge advocate for diversity in tech, was such a moving presence that I had to add his book, Behind the Cloud, to my Audible library. We also had the opportunity to preview the movie Hidden Figures, debuting in December, about the incredible untold story of the women mathematicians that made John Glenn’s orbit around Earth possible. (Go see this movie!) I can’t really describe how lucky I feel to have been part of this event. It was quite an experience.
I have never heard so many people say, “I love Audible!”
Audible recruiting also did a fabulous job of organizing and recruiting over 800 attendees at the Amazon booth during the Career Expo. The recruiting event at the GHC was a success for both Audible and the recruits who visited. The recruiting team was able to collect over 800 leads, and our Audible engineers in attendance interviewed over 300 attendees. SDEs, SDMs, and recruiters all worked together to provide a first-class reception to all the attendees that came by the Amazon booth. Many recruits were thrilled that Audible had reached out to them, some of them already being current customers. I have never heard so many people say, “I love Audible!”
The final night of GHC concluded with a party hosted by Audible, Google, and Citi. When the doors opened, the attendees rushed in to get free merchandise (imagine a Black Friday sale). Audible was handing out drawstring backpacks, baseball hats, and Audible downloads at an awesome Audible booth. Over 4,000 people attended the party which included flashing party lights, glow sticks, dancing, and our own Orlando Molina freestyle rapping about GHC. It was event I won’t forget for a long time. The Audible booth was amazing (great job events team!). We had glowing seats, a super-cool Audible photo booth, and a giant Audible billboard. It was an honor to attend and represent such a great company. Thank you, Audible! I look forward to continuing to help diversify Audible tech.