My name is Lakshmi Narke, and I am a Master in Computer Science student at UC Irvine. This year marked my first-ever attendance at the annual Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC), a remarkable week-long conference hosted by that fervently celebrates and empowers women in the computing industry. The event took place from Tuesday, September 26th to Friday, September 29th, and it was an experience that left an indelible mark on my professional journey.

What made this experience even more special was the fact that I had the opportunity to attend the conference in person thanks to a scholarship offered by UC Irvine’s Office of Access and Inclusion (OAI) and Office of Information Technology (OIT). This scholarship not only made it financially feasible for me to be present at the event but also represented the commitment of both UC Irvine and GHC to fostering diversity and inclusion in the tech world. Orlando became the backdrop for my inspiring journey into the heart of the GHC, where I encountered a world of innovation, empowerment, and connection.

GHC is split into three major components: the Career Expo, the Connection Zone, and Sessions. These components offer a unique and enriching experience for attendees and make GHC a must-attend event for anyone looking to thrive in the tech industry.

  1. Career Expo: Where Opportunities Unfold

The Career Expo was the vibrant heart of the GHC, functioning as a tech-centric career fair that allows attendees to explore opportunities, engage with recruiters, and immerse themselves in the dynamic tech industry.

Technically, GHC’s first day was Wednesday, September 27th, but the Expo Preview meant that the Career Expo opened for about two hours on Tuesday, providing an early glimpse of the hall and the companies in attendance. As a UC Irvine scholarship recipient, I was granted early access and had the unique opportunity to walk around while the hall was still relatively empty.

The Career Expo offered a wide variety of job opportunities, internships, and invaluable interactions with representatives from leading tech companies. From pioneering startups to tech giants, the Expo was teeming with potential employers eager to connect with women and non-binary individuals in the industry. It was a humbling experience to witness the commitment that these organizations had to diversity and inclusion.

  1. Connection Zone: For Personal and Professional Growth

The Connection Zone is where the power of personal connections truly shined. It offered a space for one-on-one networking sessions, often pre-arranged, that allowed attendees to build meaningful professional relationships, seek mentorship, and explore potential collaborations.

In this zone, individuals came together with the shared goal of empowerment and growth. From seasoned professionals to students like myself, the Connection Zone provided the ideal environment for connecting with others with similar aspirations and challenges. The relationships forged in the Connection Zone transcended the event to become invaluable assets for all attendees..

  1. Sessions: A Wealth of Knowledge and Inspiration

The Sessions component of GHC was a treasure trove of knowledge and inspiration. It encompassed an array of sessions, from awe-inspiring speakers and panels to informative tech sessions and workshops aimed at expanding technical skills.

The speaker sessions were particularly powerful, featuring accomplished women and non-binary leaders in the tech industry. These talks covered a wide range of topics, from career development to emerging technologies, and they provided actionable takeaways that attendees could implement immediately. The insights gained from these sessions were nothing short of transformational, leaving attendees with a renewed sense of purpose and determination.

The panels were equally enlightening, often addressing critical issues in the tech world. Discussions on diversity and inclusion, overcoming challenges, and the future of technology provide a platform for open dialogue and the sharing of diverse perspectives.

For those seeking to deepen their technical skills, the level-up workshops were a fantastic resource. They offered hands-on learning experiences that enabled participants to acquire new skills and stay at the cutting edge of technology.

  1. Scholarships

In addition to the three major components, there was another aspect that makes GHC truly exceptional—scholarships. Attending GHC can be financially daunting, but scholarships like the one provided by UC Irvine made it possible for students like me to be part of this incredible experience. Scholarships not only ease the financial burden but also reflect the commitment to diversity and inclusion in the tech world.

The Grace Hopper Conference Scholarship is another vital resource that opens doors for individuals who may not have the financial means to attend. It goes beyond providing financial support; it ensures that the voices of a diverse group of attendees are heard and represented at the conference. The scholarship encapsulates the spirit of GHC, which is all about empowering and celebrating the contributions of women and non-binary individuals in technology.

In conclusion, the GHC ’23 was a transformative experience filled with inspiration and opportunities. The availability of scholarships, the anticipation of the Career Expo, the power of personal connections in the Connection Zone, and the wealth of knowledge in the Sessions component collectively make GHC a must-attend event for women and non-binary individuals in the tech industry.

GHC was a testament to the power of community and empowerment. The sense of belonging and support among attendees was palpable, making the conference more than just an event; it was a catalyst for personal and professional growth. GHC was not only a place to learn and network but also a platform for individual journeys in tech to become an integral part of a larger narrative.

My journey at GHC left me with a profound sense of community and empowerment. It reinforced my belief that diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords but the cornerstones of a thriving and innovative tech world. The GHC ’23 was more than just a conference; it was a call to action, a platform for change, and a testament to the limitless potential of women and non-binary individuals in technology.