Love of robots? Check. Fascination with Artificial Intelligence and the mind-boggling opportunities of technology-driven world? Check again.
It drives Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering student Stuti Dewan, who joined 19 other Luddy students at the 2023 Grace Hopper Celebration seeking inspiration and motivation.
They found that, and a lot more.
The over-riding celebration message, says Dewan, a junior majoring in computer science, was, ‘Your time will come. It’s a tough world and a huge process, but you will get there.’”
That was important for Dewan, who says she’s been passionate about technology, specifically about AI and robotics, since the third or fourth grade.
“They emphasized to be positive. Even if things aren’t working out as you expected or hoped, don’t be negative. Be positive about it.”
The Grace Hopper Celebration, founded in 1994, is an annual event named after the former U.S. Navy rear admiral (serving from 1943-86), computer scientist pioneer and Presidential Medal of Freedom award winner. It’s the world’s largest gathering of women in computing and offers sessions such as artificial intelligence, data science, human computer interaction and computer system engineering. This year’s theme was, The Way Forward.
Luddy students were among the more than 30,000 participants and 400 speakers at the late-September event at the Orange County Convention Center at Orlando, Fla.
Tiana Iruoje, Luddy director of student engagement and success, says the Grace Hopper event was a great opportunity for students to interact with other women from other colleges they would otherwise have never met, including Carnegie Mellon and MIT.
“It was rewarding to see how our students landed internships, mentors and interviews for full-time offers,” Iruoje said. “Students took the skills they have gained at the Luddy School from employer visits, career service preps, and conversations with faculty and staff to fulfill their personal and professional goals.”
Speakers included AnitaB.org president and CEO Brenda Darden Wilkerson, STEMBoard and Lingo founder and CEO Aisha Bowe and best-selling author and Peloton instructor Tunde Oyeneyin.
Hearing success stories, and the challenges women overcame to achieve them, provided critical inspiration, especially in these often-difficult times.
“The knowledge and experience shared were motivating and educational,” says Agness Lungu, an Intelligent Systems Engineering senior.
Networking with accomplished women in technology, as well as fellow students, provided invaluable insight, advice and opportunity. Luddy students established professional and personal connections, as well as learning about career growth, empowerment and the importance of mentoring each other.
Erin Seliger, a senior majoring in intelligent systems engineering, says she was inspired by a diversity, equity and inclusion panel of women.
“They had inspiring stories,” she says. “They’d started their own businesses and made foundations for women. That was cool to hear.”
So was an impromptu session with a Visa representative, who pulled Dewan and some friends off to the side to explain her role in the company and offer advice on the job process and how to pull themselves up as women.
“That meant a lot that she took the time to do that,” Dewan says.
Lungu calls the conference “an incredible and enriching experience.” One highlight was her interview with Ford Motor Company.
“The chance to interview with a reputable company at such a renowned event was exciting,” she said. “It underlines the value the conference holds in the tech industry.”
Lungu is from the African country of Zambia. She connected with a Zambian tech professional as part of the African Women in Tech Networking experience.
“It reinforced the sense of community and shared identity,” she says. “Most significantly, she agreed to be my mentor. Her guidance will undoubtably shape my future in tech.”
Lungu says the Grace Hopper Conference deepened her commitment to a tech career and solidified her belief in the power of women in tech field.
“I look forward to applying the knowledge gained, forge lasting connections and realize the promising opportunities that emerged from this experience.”
Dewan says she was invited to a couple of after-hour socials and met with some employers. She interviewed with a supervisor from a small company that works on automating drones. She called the supervisor’s story “amazing” and “inspirational.”
Dewan applied to multiple companies and hopes to land an internship next summer.
“I realized how much tougher the job market was for women,” she says, “and learned how I can tone myself into a more professional human being, not only in front of peers, but also in front of employers and people around Luddy, as well.”
Iruoje says she and Luddy representatives Akesha Horton, director of curriculum and instruction, and Nelda Montemayor, director of graduate recruitment and admissions, attended the Grace Hopper event for the first time.
“We interacted with colleagues from other colleges who were recruiting for graduate school,” she says. “It was great to heard from employers about their experiences in working in technology and how to best prepare our students.”