An interview with the Director of the Grace Hopper Celebration, Seema Gururaj
The Grace Hopper Celebration is celebrating its 20th anniversary. As part of our commitment to support the advancement of women in technology, the #GHC14 team has made some exciting changes to the Grace Hopper Open Source Day. Social Media Specialist, Brianne Huntsman, sat down with Seema Gururaj, the Director of the Grace Hopper Celebration, to learn about what’s new and what the attendees can look forward to.
BH: Hi Seema, we see that the Grace Hopper Open Source Day is back again for the fourth consecutive year. Any changes attendees should know about?
SG: Thanks Brianne. You are right, this is the fourth year that we are featuring the Grace Hopper Open Source Day. Every year this program gets better as we learn the different kinds of experiences our attendees are looking for. I am extremely excited about the program this year as we are opening the conference on Wednesday, Oct 8 with the Grace Hopper Open Source Day. We designed it to ensure that as many attendees as possible are offered the opportunity either to learn about certain open source platforms OR participate in a half-day code-a-thon on humanitarian projects. It’s an exciting vision for the program. In previous years, attendees had to stay back on the Saturday after GHC to participate. I am thrilled that featuring it on Wednesday allows for greater participation.
BH: You mentioned attendees learning about Open Source platforms, can you tell me a little bit more about that? What are the 101 Sessions?
SG: Yes, absolutely. The 101 sessions are a new component we are introducing. Any GHC attendee can participate in these sessions on a first come first serve basis. These are one hour presentations or tutorials for beginners who want to learn about a specific technology or platform. We have an exciting portfolio of platforms that we are featuring like GitHub, Chromium, Linux, OpenHatch, etc. We have a few sessions that will be repeated as well, to ensure that anyone who is interested gets an opportunity to attend. This component of the Grace Hopper Open Source Day will be held on Wednesday, from 12:30PM -4:30PM.
BH: What projects are you featuring for the Code-a-thon for Humanity for this year?
SG: The half day Code-a-thon for Humanity features projects from
Attendees interested in participating in the code-a-thon need to RSVP. This allows the project coordinators to ensure that the participant’s experience will be a rewarding and fruitful one. The code-a-thon will be held on Wednesday from 12:30 PM-6:30 PM.
BH: What is Open Source Day like? How does it work?
SG: Oh wow, it’s one of those experiences you have to see it to believe it. It’s one of my favorite places to be. Picture this: a room of over 200 women, everyone from undergraduate students to a VP from a big org or a professor. Everyone is sitting side by side collaborating, coding, high fiving each other when they fix a bug or solve a problem, and sometimes even working together across the globe. Last year one of the teams worked with women from Kenya and Haiti via the Women’s Peer-to-Peer Network project, which is back this year as well.
The portfolio of projects that participate are astounding as well. On this day we are able to unite Microsoft Disaster Response, Google Crisis, Sahana Foundation, Ushahidi and other humanitarian organizations, in the same room. In this male dominated field, the Grace Hopper Open Source Day stands out as a program that has the potential to change the status quo.
BH: That sounds amazing, Seema. Can attendees help for a few hours, instead of the full six?
To get the most out of this experience it is important that you commit to participating for the entire duration. The project coordinators come with actual problems, bugs, features that they need fixed or developed and the work that the women do actually goes live. Towards the end of the day there is a demo of the work that each project has accomplished. By participating the full day, you get the most out of the experience, including the mentoring.
BH: But wait — aren’t there sessions on Wednesday?
SG: Yes, that is correct Brianne. We have the Grace Hopper Student Opportunity Lab and some professional development related sessions happening in parallel on Wednesday.
At any time slot any attendee has a chance to create their perfect experience. For someone, it might be participating in the code-a-thon on Wednesday and attending technical sessions and career fair on Thursday/Friday. For some others, they may choose to do the 101 session, attend the SOL and attend a career related session. And many others, may choose to just attend the professional development sessions. The Schedule is available here -> http://bit.ly/GHC14program
We also work with our community to capture the content via blog posts, that are published on our Wiki.
BH: Okay, let me make sure I got the signup process right. If you want to participate in the Code-a-thon for Humanity, you need to RSVP and for the 101 sessions just show up, preferably early?
SG: Yes, correct. For the code-a-thon we require an RSVP to ensure we have attendees committed to giving back by participating and seeing the project through to completion. It also helps the project coordinators reach out and connect in advance, if needed to help prepare their environments and use their time at GHC effectively. You can RSVP from the OSD 2014 webpage. There are 215 spots available and attendees can choose a single project to work on.
101 Sessions are on a first come, first served basis. Just show up at the session room. I encourage everyone to bring a laptop, in case they are interested in working along with the speaker.
BH: Great, that’s all of my questions. Do you have anything to add?
SG: A huge thank you and shout-out to the OSD committee (Bithika, Aakriti, Vidya, Jaelle, Lynette, Sarah, Aubrey and Stuti) who have been working tirelessly for over 6 months to make sure that each and every attendee who participates in OSD, will leave inspired, learn something new and hopefully make some lasting connections. It takes a team of dedicated volunteers to realize this vision. I look forward to meeting you all at GHC14 in October!