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April/May 2010

Diversity/Careers April/May 2010 Issue




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On the Road

MinneWIC: first upper Midwest conference for women in computing

The Grace Hopper Regional Consortium brings together three associations to stage conferences across the country


Sun Microsystems’ Gilda Garreton, left, spoke on collaboration between designers.About 130 women in computing, from undergrads to seasoned professionals and faculty, came together at the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus in February for the second conference of the Grace Hopper Regional Consortium. The consortium, made up of the Association for Computing Machinery Women’s Council (ACM-W), the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI), and the National Center for Women & IT (NCWIT), was formed this year to sponsor regional conferences across the country.

A very popular venue: IBM’s Steve Faas checks out resumes, hands out good advice.The conferences are modeled on the national Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, which will hold its tenth conference in October. The first three regionals for 2010 were in Illinois, Minnesota and Kentucky; several more will be held in the fall. The regional concept was developed by ACM-W in 2004, and a major grant from the National Science Foundation enabled the formation of the consortium and supports the 2010 conferences.

The two-day MinneWIC (Minnesota Women in Computing), like the other regional conferences, included a poster session, dinner, keynote address and two session tracks: research and social/ethical/cultural issues. Jessica Hodges, CS professor at Carnegie Mellon University, gave the keynote address on advances and careers in robotics; Jerri Barrett, ABI’s VP of marketing, led a session on the “impostor syndrome:” the all-too-common feeling among technical women that they don’t really belong in the field. Additional sessions brought together “birds of a feather:” students and pros from a variety of backgrounds who shared similar experiences as women in computing and technology.

A career and grad school panel includes, from left, Jessica Hodgins of CMU, Gilda Garreton of Sun Microsystems, Lara Rubbelke of Microsoft, Denise Morrow of Target and grad student Katie Panciera. Carleton College prof Amy Czizmar Dalal moderated.

The conference wound up with a lively career fair, where national and local companies set up tables and talked to attendees about internships and jobs. Attending companies included Accenture, BI Worldwide, IBM, Medtronic, PTC and Vital Images. Tech pros from Fingerhut, Sun Microsystems/Oracle, Target and Microsoft also participated as speakers, and worked individually with students to help them polish their resumes.

Lara Rubbelke of Microsoft, left, with conference co-chair Amy Czizmar Dalal.Students and faculty from more than a dozen Minnesota colleges and universities attended the conference and, since Diversity/Careers is an ABI media partner, so did editor in chief Kate Colborn. As at the national Grace Hopper conference, Colborn found that networking between sessions and at breakfast, lunch and dinner was an important part of the event.

As the conference came to a close, the husband of an attendee, also a technical pro, commented that the two days had been full of really useful career information. “I’ve been to lots of technical conferences, but these discussions were by far the most pragmatic,” he observed.

For more information, plus dates and locations for the fall conferences, check out ghregionalconsortium.org.

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