Recently my conversations have been going somewhat like this:
"Hey, how you doing, haven't seen you in a while…"
"Yeah I know I went to America"
"OMG really why?"
Well those of you who read one of my previous posts, follow me on other social media, or who know me personally know why, but for those who don't I had an amazing opportunity to attend this year's Grace Hopper Celebration of women in computing in Houston Texas.
After explaining that I normally get a:
“Ahhh really, what did you do?”
You do a lot. I know I was tired throughout the whole trip lol. One because I took ages to adjust to the different time zone*, and two because there's so much to do. Before the event started Anne-Marie, described the Grace Hopper Event as "London Fashion week, but the tech version", but if you are like me, someone who had a vague idea of how London Fashion Week actually works, the GHC is a large expo with A LOT of tech companies who are looking to recruit young females interested in tech which is great for someone like myself in uni always looking to network. There are also various talks from women in industry giving valuable advice based on experience, networking lunches and mock interviews along with CV advice from the various companies like Deutsche Bank.
We were also invited to have dinner with Deutsche Bank, breakfast with Accenture, Microsoft and Avanade, and attended a party where Salesforce rented out an entire arcade and bar for us and their employees. If Laiba hadn’t already had fun at the expo strategically gathering the multitude of freebies the companies gave out and playing giant snakes and ladders during the day -which she did- she definitely had fun at the Salesforce party; she was like a child walking into a candy store only but only this store was more Foosball, Pacman and various other arcade games. I must admit it was pretty sweet though.
The three days ended with a closing keynote which was is a presentation with speakers like the CEO of Salesforce and the CTO of the United States, a very lively atmosphere with freebies being shot from the stage – literally- followed by a “ball” which was a disco with all the attendees just having fun.
Before we left, we made a trip to NASA, as in THE NASA and got to see THE mission control as well as facilities used today . I must say that even though I’m not the biggest space nerd I was honestly amazed at the history and the technology and the facilities. One of the space shuttles was so big I literally took off my sunglasses in amazement, I couldn’t get the shuttle in one shot on my camera.
Before I knew it, we were back in the UK, back in London, back at home and at uni the next day almost like nothing happened. But it did. I know that one of my biggest fears was not just going on a plane - which I’ve always hated - but actually being in America where you don’t always necessarily hear the best when it comes to Muslims or black people. I sort of feared the prospect of people disliking/discriminating because of those two factors but my experience was quite the opposite. Everyone was welcoming, everyone had a mutual sense of being interested in technology which was probably the best thing about being there. Being in an environment and amidst an atmosphere of people where you have a mutual interest of something, seeing so many females from so many backgrounds still puts a smile on my face whilst I type this. One of the first things I said on the first day when I walked in was “ I have to come again” because that feeling hits you as soon as you walk in.
“Wow that’s so cool!”, is what people say when I explain a little more.
And it was. I didn’t just have the best time at one of the best conferences in the world but I had fun as part of the FabFive as we’ve been named. I was also concerned about going on a trip with people I barely knew but at the end of the trip I felt like I knew the other girls for as much longer than I do. Laiba and I were basically an “old married couple”, arguing about us being late all the time which she denies being part of even though we were in the same room and came down together! Anne-Marie, Yasmin and Emma Ashley were pretty cool too, just really fun to be around and weren’t too angry about me coming down last sometimes, sorry about that guys! I totally blame the jet lag though…
All in all the trip was truly great. I also want to thank the STEMettes for the opportunity- it was better than I expected, and to shoutout to the four other members of the FabFive, thanks for the great trip and memories!
Watch snippets of my experience here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mO2bzOpDZg
Read Laiba's experience here: