I was taught to always have someone to look up to and for the vast majority of my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to have just that. There was a time though when I was an undergrad where that wasn’t exactly the case. I was having a difficult time keeping up with my fellow classmates who had been programming since their high school days when I was just learning. I remember my mother asked if I had found someone to look up to. I shook my head and reminded her there weren’t any female Computer Science professors at school or anyone else that I knew for that matter. I attended Grace Hopper Conference for the first time that year.
I recall meeting women who had been in industry for quite some time over dinner. They spoke about their experiences and offered advice to us. Some of the advice was heartfelt, some was funny and some was brutally honest.
A lot of people talk about how important networking is at a conference like Grace Hopper. Rightfully so as this conference brings together women of different paths, age groups and from different places. That’s the thing though…finding someone to look up to is one of the greatest things that can come out of networking while at Grace Hopper. As a matter of fact, these women will be all around you. They are the women who’ve been in industry for quite some time, the women who make the Top 35 under 35, the women who hold patents or those who are currently conducting research that may change our lives in 5,10 or even 15 years.
The women who will take the stage are amazing speakers and have done incredible things. Those who will host sessions (and sit on panels) will be some of the best and the brightest in industry and academia. The expertise, advice and wisdom they will offer is priceless. They are all women we can look up to. I want to remind you though of other women who will sit in these sessions with you. The women who will stand in lines, eat at the same tables and share their bean bags with you. They are also women we can look up to.
Some of us will come to Grace Hopper with a burning desire to achieve great things, some of us will come worried that we may not be cut out to finish our degrees and some of us may come concerned we may not fit in. How ever you come, I hope that you leave knowing you met someone to look up to.
I ask that when you come to Grace Hopper to seek out those who’ve been in industry and academia for a while. Ask them what it’s really like. Ask them for advice. Ask them silly questions or serious ones. Learn from them. These are the women that we should aspire to be like. These are the women we should look up to.