Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing 2019

What is the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing?

Every year,, a non-profit organization that aims to help women make significant contributions in technology, hosts the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing (or simply, GHC), the largest gathering of women technologists. For 2019, 25,000 expected attendees are ranging from students, academics, and professionals from all career levels, among others. The event is a conference made up of more than 300 sessions spanning from 30 minutes to an entire day. The sessions comprise of talks, workshops, networking opportunities, mentoring sessions, and hackathons. These cover topics in technology, organizational transformation, and career management, among others.

How did I get there?

I was able to attend the event through a scholarship that was offered to 950 students and faculty members. The said scholarship covered all costs related to the event, including airfare, accommodation, registration, and per diem allowance.

This is the first scholarship that I applied for that required me to actively promote myself and not just merely list down my achievements. I feel that for one to be selected for a competitive scholarship, one should not only focus on making yourself stand out because with tens of thousands of applicants, standing out is almost impossible. You should also spend some effort to convince the people in charge of the scholarships that you are worth their investment, mostly by explaining how not just you but also other people around you can benefit by granting the scholarship to you.

Applications for GHC 2020 scholarship is open until March 4, 2020.

Before the event

General advice for people traveling long distances (especially in my case where Tokyo and Orlando have a half-day time difference) is to arrive early before an important event to allow the body to acclimatize to the new time zone. Since it is my first time visiting Florida, I took this as an opportunity for sightseeing before the GHC. I had the chance to visit the Kennedy Space Center, see the alligators while riding an airboat in the Florida everglades, swim with the manatees, walk up and down the International Drive, and take a peek at the outskirts of Disney. I guess my pre-event activities alone are more than enough to make the trip memorable.

The event

Personally, my goal for attending the event is to be exposed to the tech scene from a much broader perspective. To be able to achieve my goal, I attended sessions in three main tracks that I personally designed: (1) professional development, (2) technology discussions, and (3) community development. The event consisted of more or less 400 sessions (some are duplicates) lasting for as short as 30 minutes to a half-day, and I attended 17 of those. I also visited the career fair, which is also one of the largest career fairs in tech but is very US-centric, and I attended various luncheons, dinners, and meetups.

For my professional development track, what stood out the most are the sessions on developing a professional persona and on how to do technical storytelling. The speakers in these sessions gave actionable tips on how to establish and maintain a professional image and how to deliver compelling stories for persuading technical managers.

For my technical discussions track, I liked the sessions on data visualization and AI monitoring the best. The data visualization is a workshop session using Javascript libraries for visuals. While I have other go-to tools for visualization (Excel, R, Python), it is still good to learn something new (e.g., when I need to add dynamic visuals on websites). The AI monitoring was a demonstration of a tool that is actually being used in LinkedIn and something that I would not have thought of doing before but appears to be actually very doable.

For my community track, I enjoyed listening to the director of Stanford University’s Human-Centered AI Institute and’s Technical Leadership Abie Award, Professor Fei Fei Li, or her work and aspirations relating to “AI for Good” and “AI for All.” I also had a chance to sign-up for and mingle with the Filipinas in Computing group.

While the event is tiring since it is packed with my fatigue compounded by jet lag, I am lucky to have had the chance to attend and spend some time seeing Florida.


I decided to present the results of my activities at GHC at the student workshop in my university department. One student asked if attending women's promotion events had made a significant change in my attitude and outlook about the tech industry. I would like to think that that is indeed the case. However, one-off events are not enough to overcome systemic concerns. For instance, personally, I still feel intimidated to join coding competitions even though I know those will be useful for future job hunting because I think that my skill might not be enough. This is a cyclical problem since the competitions that I try to avoid due to my perceived lack of ability are the same competitions that will hone my algorithmic skills, which are essential if I want to move to a more challenging career in tech. One of the professors gave his thought on this dilemma. He thinks that the gravity of the problem will differ from person-to-person. For instance, one of his students is on the opposite end of the spectrum: the student tends to push through even though they are ill-prepared for the challenges, which may or may not be an issue in the long run.

Look Back

As you may know, COVID-19 happened just a few months after GHC 2019. This ended up being my last trip during my doctoral career.