Nola + GHC: Grace Hopper

  1. Introduction
  2. SFO -> New Orleans
  3. Exploring Nallins
  4. SpringHill Suites Houston Downtown
  5. Grace Hopper
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Highlight: Excessive amounts of photo booth.

The actual conference and the amazing events outside of the conference are what Grace Hopper so rewarding and fun. Last year was my first time attending Grace Hopper, and it was incredible. But this year didn’t live up to my expectations. It’s hard to describe why, but this write-up by my friend Denzil describes it pretty well.

When I have mixed emotions about something, my first reaction is to untangle my feelings into a pro/con list. So here it goes:

Highlights

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  • Panel with women leaders from NASA: This should have had a more clickbait title, a lot of people didn’t realize how awesome it would be from its title.
  • Talk on virality of content from BuzzFeed: This had just the right amount of math to be mentally engaging but not too much as to overwhelm the audience
  • Keynote where Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay, said that you don’t have to pretend to be one of the guys. That really stuck with me, and I’ve stopped feigning interest in things that might be “stereotypically engineer”. Like Star Wars. DGAF
  • Tuesday night party featuring performance by Dessa hosted by Pandora
  • Amazing party hosted by Pinterest
  • Amazing Women Techmakers party hosted by Google
  • Intimate lunch (~30 people) with Jack Dorsey hosted by twitter

Lowlights

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Lowlights: lots of statistics like these.

  • Lots of talks repeatedly talking about women in tech “problems”. Hearing repeated negativity brought me down
  • A lot of talks couldn’t hit that sweet spot for me when it came to the technical level of the content. This is due to the scale of the conference: there are students, new grad engineers, industry professionals, academics. How can you create content that everyone will understand and follow?
  • The rooms allocated for certain talks (for example: AI lightning talks) were way too small, so many people (including myself) couldn’t get in
  • Twitter negativity: This isn’t just a problem with the conference. It seems like any event or action will cause someone on twitter to tweet something mean at or about you. I saw this on twitter during Brianna Wu’s talk and during the keynote where the GoDaddy CEO spoke.
  • Temperature: no but really, it was REALLY cold in some of the convention center rooms

I hope that 2015 is just a blip for me, and that GHC 2016 will be the best one yet.

NoLa + GHC: SpringHill Suites Houston Downtown

  1. Introduction
  2. SFO -> New Orleans
  3. Exploring Nallins
  4. SpringHill Suites Houston Downtown
  5. Grace Hopper

After our short flight from New Orleans to Houston, my friend Elisabeth and I took a cab to the newly opened SpringHill Suites Houston Downtown. The conference was from Oct 14-16, and I booked this hotel in May because it was the closest one available (a twelve minute walk to the convention center). 

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Last year, the conference was in Phoenix, and there were many hotels a stone’s throw away from the convention center. My friend Barbara wasn’t sold on this hotel – she wanted something even closer. But she was too busy to look into hotels on her own time. So I ended up booking three rooms at this hotel, but I made sure our reservation was free cancellation just in case something better showed up.

Of course, the months flew by and October was upon us. And we were very happy that we had booked rooms in advance, while everyone around us was scrambling around at the last minute. And I was happy, because all three rooms were under my Marriott account which was registered with Marriott’s MegaBonus promotion.

  • Stay at participating properties between September 15, 2015 and January, 15 2016
  • Earn double points on every paid stay*, starting with your second stay, up to 20,000 bonus points

The three rooms bumped me up to Silver status in one fell swoop, which was a pleasant surprise since I hadn’t even given any thought to how many points I’d earn:

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I didn’t have high expectations for the hotel, but it turned out to be an awesome choice. I had originally booked three King Bed Suite rooms, but Barbara had called just days before to request her room have two beds. They ended up applying that change to all rooms in the reservation, so we all ended up with Double Queen Suites.

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The rooms very new and spacious. My room had a living area with sofa bed and TV, a bedroom area with two queen beds and another TV, and a clean and bright bathroom. I particularly liked the color palette of wood with blues, greens, and whites. 

It turns out that 12 minutes is a sweet spot when it comes to distance to the convention center. Though the Hilton is attached to the convention center, it was extremely loud and crowded. As we walked towards the conference, we noticed every Starbucks in the morning had a longer line the closer it was to the conference. Luckily, our hotel had a Starbucks downstairs and the line was always of reasonable length.

I tried to book this hotel for next year’s conference, but it’s all booked up. I assume that the conference reserved blocks of rooms at all the nearby hotels. Hopefully space opens up soon!

NoLa + GHC: Introduction

A trip report in five installments covering my recent trip to New Orleans for fun and Houston for Grace Hopper – the largest conference for women in computing.

  1. Introduction
  2. SFO -> New Orleans
  3. Exploring Nallins
  4. SpringHill Suites Houston Downtown 
  5. Grace Hopper

Introduction

This year was my second year attending Grace Hopper Conference, which typically runs from Wednesday-Friday with attendees flying in on Tuesday evening. Last year my friend and I took Monday and Tuesday as PTO and squeezed in a trip to Chicago before the conference. 

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Maybe our path to GHC was a bit indirect…

It was a great success: I got to experience Chicago for the first time, our SFO-CHI-PHX-SFO was only slightly more expensive than SFO-PHX-SFO, and we had a nice vacation without burning too many days of PTO.

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Left: The famous Chicago bean. Right: Just hanging out at the Google office in Chicago. Also free lunch 😉

After purchasing our conference passes, we again wanted to include a trip before the conference – this time with even more of our #squad that was attending Grace Hopper. 

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The NoLa squad, a subset of the #squad of intelligent, fun, beautiful women that I’m friends with.

The conference was in Houston, so we decided on New Orleans as our vacation destination. It was pretty close to Houston and none of us had ever been there before. So this was our path to GHC:

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Next post: some interesting things happened on our flight to NoLa.