Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) is the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. It is produced by AnitaB.org and presented in partnership with Association for Computing Machinery. This Celebration comprises of tech talks and a career fair. The career fair at GHC is one of the best and largest. Most of the Fortune 500 companies, along with leading startups across the world, attend GHC with the intention to hire top notch women technologists. GHC happens twice a year: once in United States and once in Bangalore, India.
When I Attended GHC for the First Time
Back in 2013, when I was a undergraduate, I was fortunate to have been part of the Google Student Ambassador (GSA) Program in India and received funding to attend GHC India. GSA is a program for students from Google wherein we act as liaison between Google and our university. When I attended GHC 13, I had no clue as to how the Celebration works or how to make the best use of it. I was interviewed by Facebook and Google on the spot, and had screwed up badly due to lack of preparation. We all know that PREPARATION is very important and needed for any kind of task. I believe it applies to cracking Software Engineer interviews as it has a set syllabus.
Getting Tickets to Attend GHC
My first experience of attending GHC with no preparation helped me carefully prepare for the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration, which took place in Orlando, Florida in the U.S. This time, I was once again fortunate enough to get funded by my graduate school, University of Texas at Dallas. Getting tickets to attend GHC has become like a lottery system. 18,000 tickets get sold out in 10 minutes. But not to worry — there are many organizations willing to fund students and professionals. Keep an eye out for scholarships from different organizations who open applications from March until August, every year. In this blog, I’ll describe the way I used social media prior to GHC to connect with the industry folks.
Preparation to Attend GHC
GHC usually takes place during September or October in the U.S. and October or November in Bangalore, India. Keeping these months in mind, it would be ideal for any candidate who is looking for a job in the technology field to start preparing from May to June for GHC. For those who are looking for jobs in the Software Engineer field, major preparation is needed on the topic of Data Structures & Algorithms. I have noticed that many students and professionals ask recruiters, “Will technical questions be asked in the interview?” After going through numerous interviews and haven spoken with many Software Engineers and recruiters, I believe any candidate attending a Software Engineer interview should be prepared for ANY kind of technical question focusing on Data Structures & Algorithms, Database, or Object Oriented Concepts.
May through August can be invested in improving your knowledge in Data Structure & Algorithms, Database, and Object Oriented Concepts. I believe Leetcode is the best platform for improving knowledge on Data Structures & Algorithms. Practicing medium and hard level questions is important to crack interviews from top companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Cisco, etc. Most of these companies ask medium and hard level problems ONLY, not the easy ones. Hence, getting into the habit of doing medium and hard level problems is important to get jobs in the top technology companies.
Uploading Your Resume to the GHC Database
In August, companies will get access to the resumes you uploaded into the resume database for GHC. Every year, people have the opportunity to upload their resumes to the AnitaB.org resume database. This database is accessible to many top companies which attend GHC to hire candidates to some of the coveted roles in Engineering. Hence, it is important to upload your resume as early as possible (around the first week of August) for the companies to get to your resume.
Role of Social Media
By August, ideally one should have been well versed with many medium and hard level problems on leetcode and have uploaded a resume to GHC resume database. After which, you will need to spend most of your time networking with the company folks who will be attending Grace Hopper Celebration. So, how would one know who will be attending GHC? This is where social media can be put to use.
Update your bio on social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin). For example, “Let’s catch up at #GHC17,” or “See you at #GHC17” would give audience for your social media profiles prior to the Celebration. When one searches for #GHC17, your profile is bound pop up and get viewed either by a job seeker or a recruiter. When you are nearing the Celebration, updating statuses with #GHC17 would also give viewers a chance to know you and learn about you prior to the Celebration. This way, if they are interested to know about a project you did previously or are interested to interview you or maybe even casually catch up with you, they have an easy way to be contact you.
Posting such statuses, helped me get profile views and eventually, onsite interview calls from companies. More importantly, got to meet some enthusiastic women like the one in the picture below.
For an ambivert like me, being extra social on social media is like walking naked on the streets. But the experience I gained from the Google Student Ambassador Program of organizing events for university students during my undergraduate year helped me talk to strangers without hesitation. Like Christie, I met several others on other social media platforms like Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, the GHC Slack Channel, and Systers, and made many amazing friends. Being a final year graduate student, my main goal from GHC 17 was to grab a job. But after having experienced the guidance one gets from the tech community, I also realized just how many friends I made by the end of Celebration. Strangers will go out of the way to help you even an hour before your interview.
Hence, connecting with folks online prior to the Celebration is more important than the time during GHC. Hunting for posts with #GHC17 and having a small chat with them will help in making new contacts. This is time consuming and would not be effective if you do not meet the same people at the Celebration. This conclusion is from my personal experience. I made a list of people whom I connected with online and had a small chat. But, when at GHC, I also made sure to meet most of them. Visiting the industry folks (whom I connected with online) at the booths in the career fair helped me establish a better relation with them. If that person was a recruiter, I would end up getting on-the-spot interview calls. One such example was with Viasat (shown in the picture below).
I did meet Carminia at the Viasat booth and fetched an interview for a Data Scientist role at Viasat after resume screening, which took place on the spot.
I understand I have shared a lot, and that it takes time to digest just how much of time and energy is needed to do all of this, prior to and during GHC. But what keeps one going? I believe it’s the ENTHUSIASM to meet new people and learn the stuff even without any food in your belly (GHC is huge and you got to walk a lot).
It is important to connect with people prior to and during the Celebration. It is equally important to connect after GHC and say thank you for the time they gave to connect with you. This definitely helps in making building better relations. One of the attendees at GHC shared a wonderful relationship she built during a previous GHC. She was able to find her company’s co-founder while standing in the line for a coffee during the Celebration. So you never know how these contacts will be of great help in the near future… both for you and them.
From my personal experience, these tips and techniques helped me connect with industry folks to get interview calls and more importantly to make new friends. Once an interview is in hand, skills learned from previous experience and solving problems on Leetcode is the way to crack Software Engineering interviews and land a job at the Grace Hopper Celebration. Please find the timeline below which is needed to prepare for GHC in 2018.
Timeline to prepare for GHC 18.