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Grace Hopper 09 bids to be bigger and brighter than ever

The conference combines latest technology with a wonderful chance to network and maybe polish your professional persona

At last year’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, from left: Dr Telle Whitney, Anita Borg Institute CEO and president, with change award winners Reyyan Ayfer, Zahara Khan and Dorcas Muthoni, and Robin Jeffries of Google.Women from around the world will convene in Tucson, AZ from September 30 through October 2 for the ninth annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (www.gracehopper.org). This year’s theme, “Creating technology for social good,” will explore the application of computing to green technology, and its role in a variety of other areas.

The conference combines cutting-edge technology with a wonderful chance to network and even polish one’s professional persona. Sessions for students and professionals open connections toward their next career steps. Plus, as always, plenty of technology companies and academic institutions will be there to interview and extend offers.

This is one of the largest technical conferences for women in the world. It was launched in 1994 under the auspices of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (www.anitaborg.org) by the late Dr Anita Borg and Dr Telle Whitney, current Anita Borg Institute CEO and president.

Building networks
Anita Borg staffer Jerri Barrett remembers one memorable conference day when she joined a group of women at lunch, and learned that although they were all from the same company, none of them had ever met before. “They created an informal network right at the conference,” Barrett says.

Huge attendance expected
The celebration is expected to at least match last year’s attendance of nearly 1,500 participants from twenty-three countries, representing 131 corporations and 199 schools. Additional networking sessions have been added, anticipating the bruising effects of economic recession, and Jo Miller, CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc (San Jose, CA), will lead a session on “becoming a person of influence,” directed at mid-level professional women.

Platinum sponsors include Amazon, Computer Associates, Google, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems. SAP and Intuit have signed up at the Silver level.

Plenty of active recruiting
Corporate sponsors are interested in talking with professionals in established careers as well as students seeking internships or their first jobs. The companies set up recruiting booths, and conference-goers are even offered a chance to submit their resumes when they register. Barrett notes that one company held twenty-one interviews in the course of the 2008 conference and extended twenty job offers.

“Attendees get to look over a choice of companies, some of which they may not have considered. Students can check out a number of grad schools and weigh their advantages against entering the professional world,” Barrett says. She also notes that “Our attendees are top technical talent, giving industry sponsors an advantage in attracting the best.”

Recruiters will be present at a workshop where they’ll offer direct feedback on resumes. Barrett recalls one young techie at last year’s workshop. She got advice at the workshop, went to her room, revised her resume, and snagged a good job offer the next day.

Tribal CS teachers
New at the meeting will be a day-long workshop sponsored by the Computer Science Teachers Association and the University of Arizona. Some hundred CS teachers from local tribal schools and other underserved communities will participate in the program, enjoying support and training with their peers.

A brilliant cluster of speakers
One keynote speaker for the event is Megan Smith, VP for new business development and general manager of Google, Inc. She led Google’s acquisitions of Keyhole (now Google Earth), Where2Tech (now Google Maps), and Picasa. She also helped lead the company’s early work with publishers for Google Book Search.

The other keynote speaker is Fran Berman, new VP of research for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Berman was previously the director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center and a professor at UC San Diego.

Another speaker is Josephine Cheng, IBM Fellow and VP of its Almaden Research Center (San Jose, CA), who has been at the forefront of relational database technology for more than twenty years. Cheng oversees more than 400 researchers in various hardware, software and service areas like nanotechnology, materials science, storage systems, data management and Web technologies. She was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 2006.

Also featured
A panel at last year’s Grace Hopper. From left: Kate Greene of MIT Technology Review, moderator; Sophie Vandebroek of Xerox, Nan Mattai of Rockwell Collins, Greg Papadapoulous of Sun Microsystems and Justin Rattner of Intel.Many other women of note will lead sessions and workshops.

M. Bernardine Dias is an assistant research professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute (Pittsburgh, PA). Her research focuses on advancing the science of technology for developing communities. “My goal is to build technology that empowers these underserved communities in a manner that is culturally relevant and locally sustainable,” she says. She’s done work on robotics relating to disaster response and relief in the developing world, and is founder of TechBridgeWorld (www.techbridgeworld.org).

Chat Garcia is global coordinator of the Association for Progressive Communications’ women’s networking support program. For the last nine years she has worked from her native Philippines on gender, information and communication technology and women’s electronic networking; for the past three years she has managed the Association for Progressive Computing/Women’s Networking Programme gender evaluation methodology project. She has also consulted for the United Nations Development Fund for Women, the World Bank and other organizations.

Susan Landau, distinguished engineer at Sun Microsystems, concentrates on the connection between security and public policy. She’s currently focusing on surveillance issues, and has worked on digital rights management, privacy, security and identity management, cryptography and export control. She is an associate editor of IEEE’s Security and Privacy and a section board member of communications at the ACM (www.acm.org).

Dr Brenda Laurel is a designer, researcher and writer, and chair of the new graduate program in design at California College of the Arts. In the course of her twenty-five-year career she has focused on human-computer interaction, starting with her PhD dissertation, which proposed a comprehensive architecture for computer-based interactive fantasy and fiction.

Jen Mankof is an associate professor in the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Her work is being applied to assistive technology as well as health and safety. She was awarded the Sloan fellowship in 2007 and the IBM faculty fellowship in 2004 and 2006.

Martha Pollack is a dean and professor at the University of Michigan school of information, working on the interaction between people, information and technology. Her special interest is in computer-based technology to help people with cognitive impairment. She and her students focus on aspects of artificial intelligence and other enabling technologies for assistive technology.

Window Snyder is a former chief security officer for Mozilla Corp.

About Grace Hopper
The conference is named for the late Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, a computer pioneer who began her work in the 1930s and continued active teaching and research into the 1980s. The USS Hopper, a guided missile destroyer, was named in her honor in 1996. At last year’s conference, two female crew members gave a poster presentation on the extensive technology used aboard the ship.

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