Attending Grace Hopper 2014

Last week, I had the opportunity to fly to Phoenix, Arizona to attend the 14th annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) conference sponsored for me by Google. After two delayed flights, and countless hours at the airports in Toronto and Chicago, I arrived in Phoenix Tuesday night around 11:30pm. My roommate was a former intern at Google as well so we had met before already. 

It was my first time at this conference so I really didn't have any expectations of what it would be like. It was amazing to see 8000 attendees, with only 6% of them being male. I attended the opening keynotes and presentations on the first day but they actually weren't as relevant to me as I had hoped because what Shafi Goldwasser talked about was targeted more for people with an engineering background, which I didn't have. 

Throughout the conference days, I attended several leadership sessions, a helpful student opportunity lab, multiple presentations within the HCI track including a few that stood out such as "Everyday Extremes: Designing Mobile for Anyone, Anywhere", and "The Future of Wearable Technologies in Women's Fashion", and I also talked to tons of companies at the career fair. 

I was really interested in the leadership sessions because I found that it was a nice opportunity to learn interpersonal and leadership skills, instead of only focusing on technical presentations. The first leadership session I attended was called "Successful Leadership" presented by Kathryn McKinley, a researcher at Microsoft. It was an engaging session where everyone shared their tips on how to be a successful leader, lessons learned from leadership failures, when to say no, and certain challenges that we faced. 

  • Be an effective advocate for what you think is right and wrong

  • Speaking at meetings regardless of your position

  • Being an authentic leader, be true to yourself

"Everyday Extremes: Designing Mobile for Anyone, Anywhere" presented by Caitlin Colgrove, an engineer at Palantir Technologies was part of the HCI track, and one of my favourites. I found this talk to be the most relevant for me as a UX designer which was nice in the sea of engineer-based talks. Below are some key take-aways that I benefitted from her presentation. 

General framework to think about when designing for the extreme cases

  • What are the components of the system? (phone connected to smart watch etc)

  • What are the pressures on the components? Users will make mistakes, how can we help them make fewer ones? How can things go wrong?

  • How do we design the extreme scenario? How do we make it as least frustrating as possible?

  • Think about the extremes. They happen everyday.

Overall, I had a lot of fun throughout the conference and even got some spare time explore the city. I definitely recommend women in tech to attend this conference if they have the chance to next year! 

CareerFiona Yeung1 Comment