When was the last time you were in a room with roughly 20,000 of your peers? Well, I can happily say that my answer is “earlier this fall,” when I attended the 2019 Grace Hopper Celebration with 10 of my colleagues.
Along with my Course Hero teammates, I traveled to Orlando, Florida, at the end of September to be a part of the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. Produced each year by AnitaB.org in partnership with the Association for Computing Machinery, the event features lectures and sessions on career development and innovations in the field of computing—with an eye toward women’s interests, as well as the specific issues and challenges they face in a male-dominated industry.
While the gender disparity has improved since the festival was cofounded in 1994 by Dr. Anita Borg and Dr. Telle Whitney (and named to honor the legacy of computer science pioneer Grace Hopper), AnitaB.org continues to strive for 50/50 intersectional tech equity in the workforce by 2025—a goal proudly stated during the opening keynote of the conference.
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It was my first time attending GHC, and I was instantly taken by the way the venue vibrated with excitement as it filled with so many smart and talented women holding the singular goal of empowering one another! The team’s purpose for attending was twofold: first, to attend and participate in sessions and reflect on our own roles as women in tech; and second, as ambassadors of the Course Hero brand.
Although it was my first GHC event, our company was returning for a third year—this time in a new capacity, as a sponsor of the 2019 PitcHER contest. PitcHER provides $100,000 in prize money to women-led, early-stage tech startups, split between the top 4 pitches—3 selected by the judging panel and one by the audience. The audience (including me), along with the panel of judges, watched each of the top 11 finalists deliver a 3-minute pitch on their innovations and the impact their startup could provide.
It was beyond inspiring to see so many women at different points in their lives and careers working so hard to bring their passions to life in the fields of health, education, and finance, to name just a few. Given my background in teaching and my current work with Course Hero, I was most drawn to startups that centered around education. My favorite pitch came from Asha Owens for her app BestFit, created to help students select a college best suited to both their education and career goals. My honorable mention goes to the Forefront startup, whose app provides mini HR lessons on diversity and inclusion. It’s a gamified platform that awards points and badges when employees complete each educational exercise.
The Grace Hopper Celebration also provided a chance to network with amazing people outside of the PitcHER competition. Armed with swag including T-shirts made specially for the event and postcards listing Course Hero’s current job openings, I was able to interface with many conference attendees while manning the Course Hero table.
An unexpected delight were the large numbers of student and recent graduate attendees who approached us, letting us know how our product helped them get through their most challenging classes. And while I was hearing from our users about what a great resource Course Hero is, and extolling the benefits of joining the Course Hero team, my colleagues attended several of the professional development sessions at the conference. These covered seemingly everything, with titles ranging from Empower the Next Generation: Supporting K–12 Education as an Industry Professional to Creating an Inclusive Code Review Culture.
Another personal highlight of GHC was how it brought our Course Hero team together. Prior to the trip, I knew all my colleagues, but the conference environment (along with being away from the daily demands of the office) fostered deeper bonding.
Despite our varied daytime schedules, each night we were able to come together for a group dinner, talking and sharing long after the meal had ended. Our group, which included recruiters (like myself), marketers, and machine learning and software engineers, found common ground and shared insights not only about work but also about our lives and ourselves. My biggest takeaway from attending GHC was a greater understanding of how we can empower others, even if in the smallest way, through sharing our experiences.
I’m proud that Course Hero is invested in our empowerment as women in tech, both within the Course Hero community and also in the tech world at large.