Team Sectumsempra at GHCI 2018!

Posted on by Avneet Kaur

Categories: blog and student posts

We are so thankful to the RGSoC organizers for giving us the opportunity to attend Grace Hopper Celebration India 2018, which was held in Bengaluru, India from November 14 - November 16th 2018. With the ever so encouraging keynotes, life transforming stories of prominent women paving their way in technology, the much celebrated career fair, it was definitely an experience of a lifetime and I couldn’t miss it for the world. Unfortunately my teammate Rupal was unable to attend due to personal reasons. The 3 days of the conference were full of learning, networking, and some fun and games too! There was so much to take back and to realize that there is so much more to learn as we tread forward in our journey in tech. And as I put this down in my words, I feel so elated to cherish the experience yet again, with the dewy memories of time well spent. So here goes how my days at the conference were spent.

Day 1: Inspiring Keynotes, Envisioning the future, Mottos to live by and much more…

As I arrived at the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre, the first thing that caught my eye was the huge queue in front of all the registration booths. So many women from varied technological backgrounds and at different levels in their career paths had gathered for the Grace Hopper India rightly termed as a ‘Celebration’. More so because, it was a celebration of the amazing journeys each and every attendee their had gone through, and how proud it made them feel to be there at that time. The excitement from their cheery voices, planning on how they are going to spend the much awaited three days, surrounded the conference ground.

While standing in the queue, I was amazed to see how some of us could bond over the the simplest of things such as when they would commence the registration. Uponreceiving the badge, all the women, with their smiles as wide and eyes as bright as they could ever be, swarmed towards the main hall. And that itself was a sight to behold.

After finally gathering in the main hall, all of us eagerly waited for the keynotes to begin. As the welcome presentation by Geetha Kanan, the organizer of the conference commenced, all of us cheered and hooted with excitement while she walked us through the beautiful journey of GHCI through the years, as well as the women behind it all. We all were so thrilled to see an all women team behind such a reputed and well-appraised conference. Soon after, the first keynote by Lori Beer took place, and she gave us such important lessons while undertaking our journey in technology. She emphasized how its so essential to dream big. With her talk, we all envisioned to carry forward the dream of achieving the “Fifty Fifty ratio in tech by 2025”.i As I write this down, I reminisce her words, which ring repeatedly loud and clear, in my head: “Be bold, be brave, be yourself, be unstoppable.”

One of the talks that stood out, and for me, it definitely was the highlight of the day was by Vaishali Kasture,one of the keynote speakers. She educated us on the importance of the art of selling, and how crucial it is to be able to put yourself out there, to be able to derive the best for yourself, your company as well as your clientele. Citing her own example, she mentioned proudly and just as casually , that she came from a non-tech background herself but was in the tech business for quite long now, and to top it all, she was addressing a gathering of 5000 female engineers, which was quite unconventional, thereby highlighting the essential need for all of us to learn how to negotiate well, and to sell as well. While talking about unconscious bias, she pointed out how it is common for us it is to assume that selling and negotiating are associated with masculinity its time to eliminate that. Moreover, she engaged the audience through interesting anecdotes from her experience so far. An interesting thought she provoked, stuck with me. “Out west they say the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but here we say that the nail that sticks out gets the hammer.” And that was one of the key takeaways for me, that is, mastering the art of ethics, as well as negotiation, and doing it with a lot of empathy and ethics.

All the speakers shared their experiences from their tech journeys, and left us with thought provoking words and all the more encouragement to be engaged with tech as a career, and do things right. Their words, energy, conviction and most importantly, the motivation with which they spoke, spread infectiously and so quickly among the crowds and while young girls quickly soaked their minds with all that was pouring in, I too, not falling behind gathered it all to take back home with me, not only to cherish, but to carry it forward in my journey in tech. As the day concluded, with happy hearts and craving minds, and we looked forward to know what’s in store for the upcoming days.

GHCI 2018

GHCI conference 2018 (source: Avneet Kaur)

Day 2 and Day3:

It marked the beginning of the career fair, and so many women joined the conference on the second day.There was a great lineup of speakers everything ranging from Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, to talks on Career advice, Emerging technologies, Using Tech for Social Development and Innovation, and so much more.

I was really intrigued by one particular talk on “Analyzing Gender Stereotypes in Bollywood movies” by Nishtha Madaan, who is a researcher at IBM. It was interesting to know about the prevalent bias in AI, because of the kind of data that is fed into systems, and what the outcome is. The talk was based on the study of bollywood movies data and images data from wikipedia and analyzed the differences between the appearances, introduction, role portrayal, dialogues, actions of the male vs female actors and highlighted the much prevalent bias.The goal of this study was to methodologically analyze this and find ways to remove this kind of bias. The talk concluded with a well deserved applause roaring through the entire audience. I too enjoyed the talk thoroughly.

Next up I attended various talks centred around various applicationsof deep learning. One of them was about Fake Article Detection from Multilingual Documents using deep learning, which was again quite engaging. Another interesting talk was on Vision Based Railway Track Monitoring Using Deep Learning. Both these talks opened up my horizon of knowledge on things, applications that deep learning plays and possibly can play an essential role in, and how it is being used as an extensive tool in research.

Apart from attending various talks, I also attended the career fair, which was definitely the highlight of the day. Unlike the quiet conference halls, the career fair hall, was brimming with cheery noises, fun and games at various booths, people networking in groups near booths, and ofcourse, girls gathering up to solve quizzes and puzzles to win goodies was a common sight to behold. On both the days, I visited the various booths in the career fair, which had interesting opportunities for all women.

All in all, GHCI18 turned out to be a great experience, full of learning, exploring new things, learning about new tools and technology and most importantly their applications. The highlight of the event was definitely the keynotes on the first day, which filled within us great waves of enthusiasm and encouragement to not only carry forward, but to lead our journey in technology with pride.