So you’re going to the Grace Hopper Celebration. Congratulations!
This post is here to help you make the most of your experience. Whether your goal is to attend the talks and workshops, meet professors and students in academia, network with other women in tech, or land a job/internships; we hope to guide you to that goal.
First things, first: packing.
Pack light for the conference.
You will bring home tons of swag! Last year, my bag was packed to the brim with water bottles, totes, t-shirts, puzzles, exercise bands, travel bottles, etc. Anything you can think of, I brought it home.
Since the trip is only three days, you can get away with bringing a large backpack or duffel. However, I would advise instead to pack a light backpack that’s comfortable to carry around with you at the conference.
Yes, you want something to wear on your back because you’ll be toting around resumes, business cards, possibly a scarf or sweater if it gets cold, and of course, your free conference swag. It’s going to get tiresome to carry all of that in your hands.
The second and last piece of luggage is a carry-on duffel or rolling suitcase/tote to bring on the plane. This should not be checked luggage. Avoid your luggage getting lost and your conference attire getting lost with it. Make sure the duffel or tote meet’s your airline’s requirements for carry-on baggage.
Next, bring a laptop and laptop charger with you. If you don’t have a laptop, that’s okay. The business center at your hotel should have computers available for you to access and print documents. If you’re staying at a popular hotel, you’ll want to get to the business center early in the morning.
Don’t forget your phone and email on it as well as 2 chargers! Yes, two. One to bring to the conference (which you may or may not lose) and one to leave in your hotel room. You can probably count on picking up a free charger from conference swag too!
Consider packing an e-reader or iPad for the plane ride. Whatever you prefer. Paper books are great too :)
The conference is pretty laid back in terms of dress and the attire I’ve seen ranges from business professional (usually speakers) to casual. You want to be somewhere in the middle of this.
If you are interviewing or expecting to interview at GHC, ask the company rep about interview attire so you can gauge what’s appropriate for the interview.
For bottoms, err on the side of caution and pack two semi-dressy pants (think chinos) or a flattering skirt (about knee-length), if you prefer. Dresses are perfectly fine too!
For tops, pack two blouses (or at least 1). Doesn’t have to be fancy in any way or overly dressy.
In general, you’ll find you can probably get away with a t-shirt and jeans the entire team but it really does depend on the company you’re interviewing with. Business casual is a good “in the middle” bet so you’re not overdressed or under-dressed.
Besides, you will have enough t-shirts from swag to wear throughout the conference! Just in case, have a t-shirt you can throw on and a pair of jeans to switch into for night events and dinners.
For shoes, one pair of nice flats that are comfortable to walk around in as well as a pair of sneakers is great. Socks as well for those sneakers.
For the airport, wear some shoes you can easily remove (ideally those sneakers just mentioned) and whatever clothes are comfortable to sit in for several hours.
Flip-flops for the shower. Thank me later.
This is the bare minimum. You should wear whatever you feel most comfortable in that represents you. Of course, you are welcomed to bring more clothing with you but leave some room for whatever you will be taking back with you.
For effective packing, roll, don’t fold your clothing. Saves a lot of space.
Bonus: your hotel may have a pool you can take a relaxing swim in later! Drop in a swimsuit for good measure.
Resumes and a nice padfolio. The 99 cent store usually has these for cheap. Otherwise, pick up a plastic and rigid folder to hold those resumes in. Count on bringing at least 40 copies just to be sure. Also check how many companies you’re interested in and bring enough to cover all of them. You will have some resumes left over and that’s okay.
Paper and pen (or two). You might find yourself taking notes during an interview or session. Alternatively, bring your laptop to take notes. However, I find using my phone or laptop to take notes makes it seem like I’m distracted and impolite.
Toiletries like toothpaste, toothbrush, lotion, and hair-care products in travel-sized containers.
Fellow curly haired gals, hotel toiletries will ruin your hair. I pack my Deva-Curl and Tahlia Waajid concoction in a small travel bottle. My hair usually lasts 3 days worn natural so I can get away with a small amount to wash and go.
Should you wear your hair natural? Heck yes! I did the entire conference last year. It’s hair, your hair. Wear it with pride.
If you wear your hair straight, pack your favorite hair styling tool because the hair dryer in your hotel bathroom probably won’t cut it.
Mints and mouthwash because you’ll be eating food throughout the conference and want to keep your breath fresh. You might forget you’re chewing gum and forget to spit out so refrain from gum.
Cracking the Coding Interview or other interview prep material so you can get a few study sessions in before interviews.
Water bottle because although you will probably get a free one, the one you bring from home is already cleaned and washed and the perfect size for you.
A small sewing kit is a good idea although not entirely necessary if you pack a back-up outfit.
High heels. Unless you’re keen on wearing them all day long and can comfortably wear them for long periods of time without wobbling, spare yourself the pain.
Anything that could trip security at the airport. I once brought 3-inch blunt scissors (forgot them in my pens container) and was stopped by security to search my bag. Seriously.
Your resume is the most important representation of yourself. This is the only thing sponsors will have to go off of in the beginning before they meet you in person.
Make sure it shines, represents the best possible you, and works for what you’re applying to.
You may want to consider having different versions of your resume especially if you’re considering different positions and have varying experience.
For example, if you’re applying for business analyst positions you want to highlight skills, accomplishments, and project aspects that emphasize skills necessary for a business analyst role.
If you’re applying for software engineering, make sure to include relevant skills and technologies you are comfortable speaking about.
Never add any project, language, or technology to your resume that you are not comfortable talking about or explaining as you will inevitably be asked a question about it.
However, if you ran a handful of SQL queries in MySQL Workbench before but are not entirely familiar with SQL, don’t add SQL to your list of languages and technologies. Instead, add what you used SQL for in the description of your project on your resume.
This is a way to say you’ve used the language or technology before but not completely familiar with the technology although you are capable of picking it up if given a more in-depth project.
Lastly, upload your revised resume to the GHC database a week and a few days before the conference.
Whether you’re there for the talks and workshops or to land a job or internship, you need a game plan.
You have three days and you want to get the most out of that time.
If you’re there for networking, take a look at the talks and sessions that are open and register for the ones that interest you and are in line with what you’re interested in learning more about. Chances are, the people you are looking to connect with will share similar interests and you can find them at those sessions.
The same applies if you’re there for talks and workshops. Find the sessions you want to attend and that are interesting to you and register for them.
Keep in mind that things come up and you may not be able to attend everything. In this case, take note of the sessions that will be recorded and consider skipping these as you can view them online later. You want to be in the sessions that are only available during GHC and won’t be recorded.
If you’re there for finding grad school opportunities or landing an interview/job, then you have several options.
Before you get to GHC, you want to do research on the companies/ schools/institutions you’re interested in and write down their booth number from the Career Fair map here: https://s23.a2zinc.net/Clients/abi/ghc2018/public/eventmap.aspx?thumbnail=1# (choose Career Fair and use the search on the left).
Write down a few important things to remember about each company so you know why you chose them. You’ll also want to make note of the programs and/or positions they have available that are of interest to you.
Don’t wait to apply or be found! Positions are open now for most companies so go to their career pages and apply with your best resume. They can look you up in the resume database afterward.
Find recruiters on LinkedIn from these companies and connect with them to see if they’ll be at the conference so you can meet them. Check out our Slack for a good template for this we pinned to the general channel.
Once you have a list of the companies you’re interested in, you have two options:
Alternatively, you can reverse this list and practice your elevator pitch with friends before the conference and then go to the companies that interest you the most first.
In the interest of time and accounting for the nature of a GHC career fair, it’s best to choose option 2 for career opportunities and option 1 for grad school opportunities.
The career fair (expo hall) runs from Wednesday to Friday.
On Wednesday it opens at 11:30 am and closes at 5:30 pm.
Thursday, runs from 9 am to 5:30 pm.
Friday, from 9 am to 2pm.
They keynote is Wednesday morning and then the career fair is open after. Many people may want to go to lunch soon after and then go to the career fair.
If you want to maximize your opportunities, take advantage of this time on Wednesday and go to the career fair right after the keynote. Because top company booths usually get pretty swamped, you may have to deal with lines.
This is the day you want to spend the most time at the career fair so you can schedule interviews appropriately. Make a goal to land at least one interview from the career hall (or any number that’s best for you) and pick up some swag along the way.
Take 20 minute breaks to decompress and relax.
If you already have a couple of interviews scheduled, try to spend only half your time at the career fair on Wednesday and enjoy some speaker sessions.
If possible, make note of when you see crowds dying down (like during lunch, for example, may not happen) so you can use those times on Thursday.
If you have an interview scheduled, make a point to introduce yourself to the people at the company booth you’re interviewing with and let them know you’re excited for the interview.
Pick up where you left off the day before and head to the career fair first if you haven’t landed as many interviews as you’d like. Make sure to grab some breakfast and leave time toward the end of the day to sit in on a workshop or speaker session of your choice.
If you feel you already have enough interviews scheduled, walk around the career fair and check out new companies you hadn’t considered. Use this time for casual talk. Alternatively, find friends you can chill with for a bit before studying for any of your interviews.
If you don’t have any interviews yet, don’t fret! Keep working your way through the career fair and learn more about what opportunities work for you. Consider companies on the outskirts and with smaller booths.
If you’re maxed out on interviews, and you’ve landed an offer you are strongly considering accepting, then enjoy the last day of the conference! Or not, up to you. :D
Avoid scheduling interviews back-to-back. This will likely drain you and leave you exhausted and wanting to go back to your room.
Leave at least 2 hours in between interviews so you can eat and relax before the next one.
Avoid scheduling more than 2 or 3 interviews a day. 3 is a lot for anyone as it could potentially be 3 hours all together of exercising your brain. However, you know yourself best and should understand your limits. Do the most you can and make time to decompress.
Ideally, it is best to interview on-site as offers are usually given same-day or the day after. If you find yourself overwhelmed with interviews, let the rep know and ask if it can be moved to a later date.
If you have not or are currently taking data structures, let your interviewer know at, not before the interview so they can set their own expectations of what questions you should be able to answer completely.
Study your resume really well and be prepared to be asked any question about what’s on your resume. Here are questions I’ve been asked:
Once you’ve mastered your resume, review prep packages sent to you by companies you’re interviewing with and check out interview reports on Glassdoor to get a sense of what type of questions you’ll be asked.
If you are doing a technical interview, and short on time, prepare for data structures and algorithms questions by reviewing Strings & Arrays in Hackerrank and be comfortable with at least two other data structures (Stacks, HashMaps, ArrayLists) that can be implemented efficiently to solve a variety of problems.
If you have at least a month left before GHC (at this point, you only have a week) try to do at least 2 easy and 2 medium hackerranks per day and throw in a couple of hard ones throughout the week if you can.
Understand OOP principles and be able to explain them to a non-technical user.
Additionally, brush up on basic syntax using the language you are most comfortable with. Not knowing a specific method in a class is fine but not ending a Java statement with a colon is harder to let slide.
That said, try to stick to one programming language so you avoid crossing and confusing yourself during interviews.
Cracking The Coding Interview is the best book to narrow down specific questions to review.
If you’re doing a behavioral interview, understand they are geared toward learning more about you and how you communicate, as well as how you would fit in with their team or company.
Do your research and know how to answer the “Why this company?” question. Know what the company does and go to their careers site to learn about their culture. Pick out the things you most connect with and share them as reasons you would like to work there.
Be genuine with your answers.
The dreaded “Tell me about yourself?” question is an opportunity to share things that aren’t on your resume like interesting hobbies and accomplishments as well as how your skills fit into the role you’re applying to. In general this question really means “What’s interesting about you and why should we hire you?”
It’s OK to be nervous.
You don’t have to answer question right away. You can always say, “hmm, let me think on this for a few seconds”. Collect your thoughts and thoughtfully respond. You don’t want to rush an answer you’re not ready to give.
If you need clarification, ask for it. Ask for a question to be repeated or better yet, repeat the question back to them in the way you understood it.
For example, “Do you mean, X?”
This allows the interviewer to review your understanding of the question and rephrase it if needed.
You also want to treat this as a conversation. Smile. Chuckle if the interviewer is funny. These are people just like you. They want to be connected in some way and find something to latch on to to make it easier to move you forward.
Ask thoughtful questions like:
This is not the ideal time to ask about compensation, relocation, etc.
However, you do, want to ask questions that are important for you to learn about the company (typically also asked during an HR screening call).
If you’re interested in continued learning opportunities, ask about what their culture around continued learning is and what resources (if any) are available to employees looking to increase their technical knowledge.
If you’re interested in mentoring, ask if they have a mentoring structure in place or how interns/full-times get on-boarded.
Essentially, you want to ask questions that benefit you as well as questions that connect with the interviewer as a person.
Avoid sarcasm, jokes in poor taste, or anything you are doubtful about mentioning or saying that may seem inappropriate.
GHC can be a overwhelming experiences. It’s a large conference with 10,000+ people and although everyone will be spread out, it’s perfectly normal to feel lost.
If you start getting overwhelmed, take some time to regenerate and relax. Sit down and watch some funny videos, go through Instagram, do something mindless. Read a chapter of your favorite book. Call you mom to catch up during the conference. Take a nap. Eat a snack.
Anything to get your energy back up.
You don’t want to be drained halfway into the day so taking breaks is important to stay alert and focused.
Keep your goals for the day in mind and drown out everything else.
Create a chat group with friends at the conference so you all can meet up during breaks and talk about your experience so far.
Share tips! Make more friends.
Finally, if you’re there (partly) for the free stuff, this is for you. If you wait until the last day (Friday) an hour or so before the career fair closes, sponsors usually want to get rid of any swag they’ve brought with them.
Take them up on the offer! This is also a cool opportunity to make last minute connections.