Attend GHC with a Buddy

From GHC co-founders Anita Borg and Telle Whitney, to Katy and her daughter Jessica who annually attend GHC together, there’s plenty of proof that the Grace Hopper Celebration experience can be more rewarding with a buddy.

As you read about Katy’s GHC experience with her daughter, think of how you might partner with a friend, classmate, or online contact to create your own shared experience.  With more than 8000 attendees, having someone to reflect and follow up with can be quite valuable.

By Katy Dickinson

Katy Dickinson with daughter Jessie at GHC 2010

Katy Dickinson with daughter Jessie at GHC 2010

Jessica and I first traveled to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing as mother and daughter in 2007. Jessica was a member of a panel I moderated called “Girl Geeks in High School: Technical Experiences of Future Inventors”. She had just started her freshman year at Carnegie Mellon University. She and I worked on developing the Girl Geeks panel for over six months. It was one of the first, though not the last, time she and I would work together as professional women and friends, as well as family. Jessica and three High School girls from the Silicon Valley joined me on the GHC stage.
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Find a Lasting Community at GHC

The Grace Hopper Celebration is a place to find a community that supports your identity as a woman in tech.  With more than 8000 attendees this year, you can find almost any demographic you want.  There are some formal events where you can connect with women of color and LGBT communities.  You can also look for others that share your technical area, or open source interests, or career aspirations.  We all have multiple identities, and having support can dramatically increase our enjoyment of  the journey and ultimate success.

Here are excerpts from Patty and Valerie’s GHC stories on finding and nurturing their community.

Full stories: and

Patty Lopez

Patty Lopez

When I attended my first Grace Hopper Celebration in 2006, I was amazed at the number of technical women I met from so many different companies and institutions. I immediately realized what was missing in my workplace. As one of the few technical women still doing technical work and as a Latina, I felt isolated both by gender and ethnicity. By fate or serendipity, I attended a GHC Birds of a Feather session, Latinas in Engineering, moderated by Gilda Garreton, Dilma da Silva, and Cecilia Aragon. We pulled our chairs into a circle and shared our stories; I remember listening to Claris Castillo talk about the challenges she faced during her MS and PhD and being moved by her resilience and certainty when others doubted her abilities. Raquel Romano collected email addresses so that we could keep in touch. Post-conference, the six of us kept in touch as we looked for way to stay connected. The Anita Borg Institute graciously offered to host us under the Systers community. Thus, Latinas in Computing was born!

My road to finding the right supportive community was long and accidental. I encourage each of you to find your own supportive community. Look for mentors, find a birds-of-a-feather group, build your own group. A supportive group helps everyone in the group succeed. These groups can be focused anything that you personally identify with. Some possibilities are: technical, gender, cultural, location, and professional. Look for local meetups with a few people or attend GHC with several thousand women in computing.

by Valerie Taylor

Valerie Taylor

Valerie Taylor

I can recall meeting Anita Borg for the first time when I was in graduate school. Anita talked about her research in Operating Systems and the initiative to start the systers listserv. She told the story of how systers was started with all of the women at the conference meeting in the bathroom. After that lunch, I immediately joined systers.

In 1994, Anita invited me to lead a birds-of-a-feather session on women of color at the first Grace Hopper Celebration in Washington, DC that June. I accepted with great excitement. We had approximately 10 to 15 participants attend the BoF and the bonding was great. We launched the systers-of-color listserv with Anita’s public support for place to discuss issues unique to women of color.

The women of color in computing continued organizing BoF sessions at Hopper 1997, Hopper 2000, and Hopper 2002. The attendance at these sessions was growing with each conference. For Hopper 2004, which was held in Chicago, we held our first Women of Color luncheon. The attendance was approximately 200 participants. This was excellent. The Hopper Conference has continued having the Women of Color lunches each year. In 2007, the Latinas in Computing group was started. In 2011, the Black Women in Computing group was started. Then in 2012, the two groups, along with representatives from other women’s groups, with leadership from the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT), organized the first Women of Underrepresented Groups one-day track. Anita’s impact of supporting the systers-of-color listserv has had a major impact on many women from underrepresented groups.

The growth to the Women of Underrepresented Groups in Computing has paralleled my growth with the Grace Hopper Conference. As mentioned above, I started working with the Hopper Conference as a leader of the BoF on Women of Color for Hopper 1994, the first Hopper Conference. For the second Hopper Conference in 1997 in San Jose, I was asked to be a part of the program committee, for which I happily accepted. I was then asked to be the Program Chair for Hopper 2000 in Cape Code. I went on to be the General Chair of Hopper 2002 in Vancouver, the first Hopper outside of the United States. I then handled fundraising for Hopper 2004, which was held in Chicago.

My growth with the Hopper Conference, in particular my close interactions with Anita Borg and Telle Whitney, helped me in many different ways. First, the leadership experiences with the Hopper conferences have been invaluable. Second, the personal interactions with Anita and Telle have been phenomenal. They are exceptional role models and inspirational leaders. Lastly, the exposure to senior women in academia and industry through the Hopper Conferences has been very rewarding. This exposure led to me becoming a Department Head and helping to co-found the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference Series. Now my role as Executive Director of CMD-IT, in addition to be a professor at Texas A&M University, is enhanced by my continued relationship with Telle.

I really miss Anita, especially her great support and significant encouragement to do bold things. As my way of continuing Anita’s spirit, I want to encourage and support you in your efforts to do bold things that will have a significant impact and inspire others.

Founding of the Grace Hopper Conference

As the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing conference approaches many of you are trying to decide if you should make major sacrifices to attend GHC14.

Attending GHC changed my life for the better, so I’m a big fan of the conference – there will be 4000+ women in computing in one place.  How can that not be wonderful!   But everyone is at a unique place in their lives and needs to figure out what they might gain for GHC at this point in time.

So, we are re-running some of the past GHC-centric stories to help you decide and get everyone excited about GHC and what it means for our community of women in tech!

Hope you enjoy this series.

-Kathy, Chief Quilter


By Telle Whitney

Telle Whitney

Telle Whitney

In 1992, one of my dearest friends, Anita Borg, came to me with an idea: a conference featuring women Computer Scientists. The conference would celebrate their contributions to the field and to the world.
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Have the Courage to be Fearless

by Jessica Murillo
IBM Vice President, Software Strategy & Partnerships, IBM Systems & Technology Group

Jessica Murillo

Jessica Murillo

Dear Jessica,
The most important advice I can give you is to have the courage to be fearless. Your life will be full of great opportunities and the only thing that could limit you will be you not believing fully in yourself.
You are a natural leader, playing team sports through high school and college will teach you valuable lessons about leadership, building trust, and the importance of how to team with others.
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You Already Have the Tenacity and Determination

by Raeleen Medrano
IBM Vice President, Finance

Raeleen Medrano

Raeleen Medrano

Dear Raeleen,
Congratulations on your first day at IBM… you made the right decision! Today you’ve started on an incredible journey that will carry you through many challenges, much hard work, and a great deal of fun. Your career will take you literally around the world, and you will meet so many different people and make fabulous friends along the way. You will learn so much about business and driving performance, and you will get tremendous satisfaction in teaching others how to do the same.
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Don’t Quit Because Something Seems Difficult

by Phong Taylor
IBM Vice President, Systems Technology Group, Competitive Sales

Phong Taylor

Phong Taylor

Dear Phong –
Life experiences are most memorable because they define who you are and give you the courage to face your future. You may not know it now, however, looking back you will see how some of those defining moments really built the foundation that shaped who you are.
The week before April 30th, 1975 as you, ba and Nguyen left our house to go to bac Tai’s for the night, never to think that we would ended up in United States of America.
Our intent was to stay at bac Tai’s until the war calms down a bit in our neighborhood then go home. Little did we know, we will never see our home again after that day. Do you remember leaving our dinner on the table rushing to pack all important school papers, birth certificate and any documents that were of value and one week worth of clothes and running to get to a taxi to bac Tai’s house?
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Seeing the Need

by M.C McBain
IBM Vice President, Global Business Development

Marycarol "MC" McBain

Marycarol “MC” McBain

Dear Marycarol,
I hope you get to accomplish everything on your checklist of life with some added bonuses that you might not have expected – after all those can be the most fun!!!
Here are some tips that I hope will help you along the way but don’t sue me if I left anything out.
First and foremost, figure out what YOU need to have a happy life not what someone else tells you it should be. Make sure you have a rock solid support system and don’t take your spouse, family or friends for granted. While work is important – love is even more important.
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Make Your Own Luck

by Laura M. Haas, IBM Fellow

Laura Haas

Laura Haas

I know right now you are struggling with some tough time-management issues, not to mention wondering for the 10,000th time what you want to be when you grow up. Although somewhere deep down you know you are a victim of your own success, and that all is going incredibly well, you are exhausted, stressed out, overweight, and torn. Success was supposed to be fun. And it will be, you’ll see. There’s just a lot of hard work and hard choices to get through first.
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