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GHC 2015 Day 1: Kicking Off a Record-Breaking Celebration in Houston

The atmosphere at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston was electric Wednesday morning — more than 12,000 attendees of the 2015 Grace Hopper Celebration congregated for the first session of the day, featuring remarks from AnitaB.org CEO Telle Whitney and Hilary Mason, founder of Fast Forward Labs, a machine intelligence research company.

Hilary’s keynote touched on some of the incredible things you can do with open data — from predicting global weather patterns to mapping local traffic jams.

“The best data products are the ones you use with no idea of the technology behind them,” Hilary said.

As the first keynote speaker at GHC 2015, Hilary had some memorable advice for the next generation of women technologists.

“Careers in tech are hard to plan because we don’t know what our field is going to look like in two years, five years, 10 years or 20 years,” she said. “It’s much more helpful to just head in this direction and focus on building the world you want to live in.”

Wednesday morning also brought the announcement that AnitaB.org has launched ABI.Local, a network of locally organized communities that bring women technologists together in cities around the world. Learn all about the ABI.Local launch here.

As the day progressed, one of the most fascinating sessions taking place was Open Source Day: Code-A-Thon for Humanity, in which women technologists spent their day applying Free and Open Source Software to developing a variety of humanitarian projects.

The programmers coding for Microsoft’s Disaster Response project, which aims to find missing people in the event of a humanitarian crisis, got a surprise visit from Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. Satya spent time chatting with Open Source Day participants and learning about the different humanitarian projects they were working on – and taking selfies with just about anyone who asked!

While the Open Source Day programmers were busy coding, Wednesday’s afternoon plenary session commenced with an inspiring lineup of speakers. First, Clara Shih, founder and CEO of Hearsay Social, a social media marketing management platform, recalled her first experience at the Grace Hopper Celebration 11 years ago, when she attended as a GHC scholar.

“I sat where you sat,” Clara said. “It is such an honor for me to come back and address this group, because I am one of you.”

Clara shared the lessons she’s learned over the past decade, including the importance of listening carefully, embracing your differences and investing in the relationships in your life.

Next, GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving dove into the hard steps his company has taken to turn around a difficult reputation and help support women technologists throughout the organization. Blake also shared a touching personal story about his sister, whose own struggles inspired Blake to become a champion for women in technology.

Blake shared GoDaddy’s recent compensation analysis, which showed impressive progress in salary parity. According to GoDaddy’s analysis, women across the company are paid .28 percent more than men.

Finally, United States Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith wrapped up the afternoon session, discussing the importance of diverse ideas in government. She also introduced several of her colleagues at the U.S. Digital Service who are using technology to solve problems that affect great numbers of people, including providing healthcare for veterans and a building more user-friendly immigration website.

Following the afternoon plenary session, the doors to the much-anticipated Career and Community Fair opened, and attendees spent the rest of the afternoon and evening checking out the seemingly endless array of booths from technology companies, academic institutions, government agencies, non-profits and AnitaB.org communities.

Without a doubt, day one of GHC 2015 was a hit, with inspiring speakers, informative technical sessions and the first day of the industry’s largest career fair for women in computing. If you missed any of the main stage sessions, check out the GHC Livestream to catch the keynote and plenary speeches. And stay tuned for more recaps following each day of this record-breaking conference!