Creating GHC India

By  Nanditha Iyer

Nanditha Iyer

Nanditha Iyer

When I heard about Grace Hopper Celebration US four years back, from a friend of mine, I was amazed at the amount of knowledge and networking one can gain through such a conference. She highly recommended me to attend one. It was then I wondered for the first time that why don’t we have such a conference in India, given the fact that there are amazing and huge crowd of technical women in India!

I was student then and I really didn’t have much idea on how to organize or bring GHC to India, so I couldn’t proceed with it at that time. I was planning to attend the conference in US the next year and started emailing several people on the mailing list asking how I should prepare my application to get scholarship to attend the conference. I was in India then so it would have been so expensive for me to fund my trip all on my own. I received an email from Kim McLeod with the necessary information and also told me that there are plans to organize one in India. You just can’t believe how excited I was that moment. I had the same thought and I was happy to know that many people had the same thought and it was actually going to happen! After couple of days, I met Deanna Kosaraju over email and Deanna emailed me asking if I’m interested to volunteer. I had thought about all these things in my dreams and now they are all coming true! I replied yes because this was the kind of opportunity that I had always waited for; a chance to deepen my understanding of my field and the unique position of women working in this field. We were 6 of us when the GHC India planning committee was first formed. That 6 has now evolved to more than 500 amazing technical women in a short span! I’m sure it is going to be evolved more and more.

It was a little challenging to make the first GHC in India such a successful event. It was different when compared to organizing similar conference in US. Technology hasn’t yet completely penetrated into the root of old prejudices and attitudes. India exhibits a wide range of cultural differences and they have to be addressed in such an event or a conference. We had to plan the content and sessions which were more appropriate to Indian technical women. Finding large number of speakers, deciding on tracks and, sessions were new to us. While working on the program content specifically for students and young women who are just starting out in their careers, I felt that I have become an important catalyst to a burgeoning young technical women’s community, the first of its kind in India.

When I was working with D.E.Shaw & Co., India, I also wanted to involve more women from the company to participate in the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, India. I was able to do it and was the first person to do the same. This initiative was appreciated from higher management and I was encouraged to continue the same. It had so much impact on my colleagues that they are continuing and extending the trend in the firm in my absence today. Though I’m not part of the firm now, I still interact and work with many them on submitting proposals to GHC India and participating on the panels.

I have been so privileged to be a part of such a wonderful committee since the day it was started. Through this I worked closely with some amazing women like Telle Whitney, Deanna Kosaraju, Caroline Simard and many great technologists and leaders. Being a part of such a planning committee is one of the best experiences one can ever get! You get to meet and interact personally with so many great leaders, CEOs of companies, managers and more. Having them in your network when you are in your early careers is just amazing!

What I learned from the amazing women, is to pursue your dream. Make your dreams happen. If you want something to happen in your life or the world, just make it happen. Don’t wait from someone else. Along with honing my leadership skills, I always carry a bit of pride with me for changing the world for some young girls or women! The sense of achievement of bringing difference in someone’s life is just amazing!

If you really want to get the same feeling, there are so many ways, big and small that you can get women together to learn and inspire each other. Anyone can get technical women together for tea or coffee and talk. Many universities and companies have technical women’s groups; join or get more involved. If your organization doesn’t have one, start one. Push your group to the next level; consider hosting a small local conference. Get involved with a large conference, or add a women’s get together at the next technical conference. You can also volunteer at a local conference and organize a women’s meetup. Ideas come to light when you bring technical women together and everyone contributes. The sky is the limit. Even organizing a GHC in your local community and pitch the idea to your company to sponsor! You will find many amazing women willing to join you. By the dedication that you show, passion that you have to change the world for women in your homeland and with your dreams, you will be amazed to see how you achieve great things! Along with this you will definitely learn a lot more things while helping others that will change your life too!

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