Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of posts on diversity and inclusion in tech workplaces, coordinated by Lindsey Martin. Other posts can be found at this link.
In my four years at Lucid, I’ve been to multiple tech conferences and have loved each one, but the Grace Hopper Celebration was like no other. I’m grateful to Lucid for the opportunity to attend. Let me share with you some of my experiences and what I learned about the conference as a first-time attendee.
Preparing for the conference
It all started when I was in a weekly one-on-one with my manager. He encouraged me to look into attending the Grace Hopper Celebration, suggesting that Lucid would be willing to sponsor me. I really appreciate that my manager is always searching for cool opportunities to help me grow as a professional. Back in college, I had heard of fellow students going to Grace Hopper, but didn’t know what it was, beyond being a conference for women in tech. This was a great chance to experience the conference for myself. I decided I wanted to go—hoping to learn skills that would leverage my unique abilities as a woman to be a better leader and software engineer at Lucid.
I quickly got approval to attend, and was even more excited when I learned that Lucid was also sponsoring my colleague and good friend, Alyssa. I like trying new things, but it’s a cherry on top to do so with a friend! She and I looked through the myriad of courses offered by the three-day conference and pre-registered for ones we wanted to attend. I’ll be honest, the website listing for the courses wasn’t very helpful because there was no way to bookmark classes or easily see which ones overlapped with each other. So I ended up scraping the HTML, creating a CSV, and uploading it to Google Sheets. Then Alyssa and I used the sheet to filter and bookmark courses to our hearts’ content. I feel like it’s officially nerdy of me to do that with a tech conference’s website, but Alyssa and I had a good laugh over it.
The week finally came and we were off! On our flight to Orlando, Alyssa and I spent the entire time talking about our families, jobs, and experiences becoming engineering team leads at Lucid. This was my first glimpse into the support system we would quickly develop with each other over the course of the conference. We dropped off our bags at the hotel and then raced over to the Orange County Convention Center to get checked-in. I was already beginning to notice how many women from diverse backgrounds and cultures were walking around the area. It was incredible!
The next morning was the opening keynote for Grace Hopper. We heard from multiple accomplished women about their journeys in tech and the contributions they have made. It was empowering to see women making a difference in the world, and especially in a predominantly-male industry. My favorite part of the keynote was a performance about “reversing the narrative.” A woman recited a script with messages like “the world can’t change” and “women are stuck with the current biases we face.” Once she reached the end of the script, she started saying the sentences in reverse order and the message completely changed to one of hope for the future of women: we can make a difference and we will! But what was even more remarkable to me was leaving the keynote. The hallways were filled with women—each of us contributors to the tech world. I have never seen so many technical, female professionals in one place. It made me reflect: often as technical women, we are the only female in the room. It’s really easy to feel alone, to feel like you’re the only one. Yet, standing among those 26,000 women reminded me that I am not alone…and neither are you.
Learning and inspiration
The next three days of Grace Hopper were filled with workshops and classes. I was worried because I hadn’t pre-registered for some classes that I wanted to attend, but was pleasantly surprised when there were still many open seats for those who didn’t register. It was much smoother to get into classes than I was expecting. In addition, the variety of content and course structure was pleasant. In other conferences I’ve been to, all the classes are the same format—sit and listen. Grace Hopper was different. There were workshops, worksheets, interactive breakout periods, panels, Q&A sessions, and more. It was definitely engaging and, for me, easier to pay attention throughout the day even though each day was packed with content. As a result, I was able to learn and retain more.
Out of the hundreds of courses to choose from, I focused on ones centered around leadership, team building, living with imposter syndrome, and how to have difficult conversations. Here are a few nuggets of inspiration I took away from those classes:
- Communicate your needs: It is critical to communicate what you need to those around you. Your team, leaders, friends, and family naturally want to help you, but that doesn’t mean they know how to help you or what you need help with. That’s why open, honest, and regular communication is vital.
- Understand each individual on your team: As a leader of a team, you need to understand how individuals on your team work and what motivates them. A great way to do this is to have each team member create their own user manual and then share manuals with each other regularly. With this type of information available, it’s a lot easier for your team to work together.
- Be confident in your abilities: Confidence that comes from knowing you’ve done something a hundred times before becomes unstable when you mess up. Even worse, it’s useless when you’re facing a daunting new task or position. Instead, your confidence should stem from knowing that you can succeed in this thing. You are capable of success because you are YOU!
- Leverage imposter syndrome: You don’t need to eliminate imposter syndrome within yourself because it’s not a disease. Instead, it’s a natural feeling that you can leverage to improve yourself. If you take some time to consider which of your thoughts are objective and which aren’t, it makes it easier to tell which ones you can act upon and which ones aren’t true (or are blown out of proportion).
- Be brave: Bravery is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Short and sweet, but I love it!
- Don’t fall into the perfectionism trap: Perfectionism (having an impossibly high bar), procrastination (delaying, often to the point of not being able to do a task well), and imposter syndrome (feeling that your success isn’t deserved) are all related. Perfectionism can lead us to procrastinate and then we feel like an imposter who doesn’t deserve success. Recognizing this vicious cycle can help us push perfectionism aside and be realistic about what we can accomplish, which helps us stop procrastinating for fear of imperfection, in-turn making us even more successful and fulfilled.
These points, among many others, stood out to me because they are directly tied to my role as a leader and woman in tech. That said, I think many women can relate and learn from these lessons as well. It might be insightful to ask yourself: Do I struggle with the perfectionism, procrastination, imposter syndrome cycle? Do I regularly communicate my needs to my coworkers? Do I base my confidence in the fact that I can be successful? I asked myself these questions during Grace Hopper and have since made changes to the way I approach hard tasks and communicate with others. It has definitely helped me in the day-to-day of work!
Beyond the workshops and classes, it was really interesting to explore the Grace Hopper Expo Hall. I had no idea that Grace Hopper Conference was a major recruiting event until I stepped into the expo hall. There were spectacular booths from some of the top companies in the world. I have never seen such a big career fair. It was fun to walk around and see the brands of the companies shine through their recruiting booths. I wasn’t job searching, but if I had been, this would’ve been heaven!
Above all, I found a valuable chance to build my support network at Grace Hopper. It was so enjoyable to have time away from the day-to-day of work to connect with Alyssa and other women. We spent hours talking about a variety of things that mattered to us, from becoming a good leader to the struggles and advantages of being a working mom. It was therapeutic to talk through our emotions, stumblings, and successes and to realize we were going through many of the same things. What a boost of support to have somebody else who knows how you feel! I count the supportive relationship I developed with Alyssa as one of the coolest things I received from attending Grace Hopper. And I’d highly suggest that other women attending Grace Hopper use it as a time to step away from their normal work commitments and enjoy the chance to develop meaningful relationships with other women.
Overall, Grace Hopper was an incredible event. On the plane ride home, I reflected on what I had learned and the experiences that were shared by other women at the conference. It made me even more grateful to work at Lucid—where I constantly feel supported by my coworkers and am given opportunities to develop and grow in a safe environment. Grace Hopper taught me that I still have a lot to learn about myself and being a leader, but it’s comforting to know that Lucid has my back and will help me every step of the way.
I’m so glad Lucid provided me with the opportunity to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration and I’m looking forward to going again in the future. For any women out there who are considering going for their first time, I’d highly recommend it. It was truly like no other!