Paola Garcia Cardenas

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: Baltimore, MD

This year, I was fortunate once again, to be a NSF Scholarship recipient to attend the Grace Hopper Women in Computing conference in Baltimore, MD. Out of over 3600 attendees, only 320 students received scholarships. I was one of them. Even though it was my second year, it was a totally new and life-changing experience.

I was determined to take full advantage of the entire conference… My days were 12-hour days full of tech talks and gatherings with some of the most wonderful technical women in the world.

Wednesday was a busy day. When I arrived at the Baltimore Conference Center at around 7:15 a.m the lines were short, so I was able to register quick and grab my cup of tea at the Starbucks next to the registration booths (to be honest, I was not planning on getting there so early, but I needed to get work done and the Internet connection at my hotel was slow). In less than half hour, the registration line was soooo long, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was right there that I knew the conference was going to be amazing. In fact, this year it was a sold-out conference, breaking attendance records of over 3600 people. That is about 20% increase, in comparison to last year’s conference.

On Wednesday, I attended the PhD Forums: HCI, Healthcare, and Security. Then, scholarships recipients were invited to a special lunch sponsored by Lockheed Martin, in which I had the opportunity to meet other scholarship recipients and talk about Grad school. I was not able to attend the afternoon sessions due to work I had to get done, but I did attend the Career Fair and the Latinas in Computing Reception.

Thursday sessions could not have started any better than with an opening ceremony with keynote speaker, Nora Denzel. It was truly an inspirational keynote that I will never forget. I hope everyone can take the time to watch and enjoy this keynote just as much as I did:

I chose to attend most of the Social Collaboration tracks on Thursday and Friday, which were very interesting and full of so many new and cool topics. I also attended a couple of Birds of a Feather sessions, and the Conference culminated at the Baltimore Science Center, with an amazing party sponsored by Google & Microsoft.

If I had to pick a “rewarding and memorable day”, I can easily say that every day of this conference was memorable, but the most rewarding day was about to begin. The last day of the Conference, Sat. October 6th, was Open Source Day and I was one out of about 200 other participants that volunteered to participate in this code-a-thon day. We coded, reviewed API’s, and brainstormed ideas for Non-For-Profit Organizations. This was my very first open source coding experience, and my first code-a-thon. I was actually coding for a cause! And it felt very good!

Paola Garcia Cardenas, Open Source Day at 2012 Grace Hopper Conference

I left Baltimore that day, thinking about all the great things I had done, and planning on new and innovative ways to use the tools and resources from the Grace Hopper Conference in my every-day life.