“I decided it was time to read Eat, Pray, Love,” one of my travelling companions quipped while we spent some downtime together in between the hustle and bustle of the world’s largest conference for women in computing, the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC). A famous memoir of one woman’s journey of travelling the world to find herself, the book has an overwhelmingly female readership. It was just one small example of the kinds of conversations you don’t generally find yourself having in the male-dominated world of technology.
Ultimately, conferences are all about conversations. They offer a rare opportunity to interact with people outside of your usual purview. GHC provided such opportunities in spades. While the presentation sessions only skimmed the surface of a myriad of technical topics, spanning the full range of in-vogue abbreviations such as IoT, VR, ML, AI, and HCI, the real value of these sessions was identifying the women with whom you could follow up to learn more—whether that was the speaker herself, the ones who stood at the end of the session to ask their questions into the microphone, or the ones who lingered a few minutes longer after the room had emptied, hoping for a chance to talk with their confederates.
What made the conference unique was the openness of its participants. Because we already saw ourselves as allies and friends in supporting the cause of women in technology, it was easy to form connections. I met an electric-blue-haired security engineer with a passion for protocols, a machine-learning obsessed hyperparameter-optimization evangelist, an engineer-educator seeking inspiration for her students, and so many more amazing women.
And just as the heroine of Eat, Pray, Love had to travel to Italy, India and Bali to discover herself, it seems I had to travel to Orlando to discover the impact that Arm is having on the future of the industry. “Wait, you guys are Arm—like ‘Arm assembly’ Arm?” Face after young, female face brightened with realization five seconds into my usual “What is Arm?” career fair spiel at the GHC employment expo. Just as grade school children are shocked to learn that teachers do indeed exist outside of school, these students were struck by the realization that the Arm ARM was not handed down from the heavens. They proceeded to excitedly chat with me about all the ways in which Arm has become a part of their university’s curriculum. During the technical presentations, Arm was mentioned again and again as a key collaborator in groups such as the Open Fog Consortium (from a fog computing talk by Dr. Maria Gorlatova of Princeton University) and Thread Group (from an IoT talk by Nest engineer Smriti Narang). I also had the privilege of getting to know several Arm colleagues from different U.S. offices, including Deerfield, Boston, and San Jose, as well as spend time with fellow engineers from different groups in the Austin office.
GHC was three days of exhilarating interactions with women from every corner of the technology industry. We sent 10 engineers to the conference, attended dozens of talks, and interacted with over 500 potential hiring candidates at our booth. It was an amazing opportunity for networking, career growth, and promoting Arm as an employer of choice for women in technology. Tomorrow is Ada Lovelace Day, an international day for recognizing the achievements of women in STEM, and GHC has reminded me just how much we have to celebrate.