Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Grace Hopper conference reflections

Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Grace Hopper conference in Houston, Texas. I first attended this energizing, motivating event in 2010. I spent that week in Atlanta, Georgia with 3,000 technical women, and meeting so many outstanding female colleagues inspired me to further my education. Three years later, I earned my high tech MBA with high honors from the D'Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University.

2015's Grace Hopper event quadrupled in size to 12,000. It was a fast-paced event with many wonderful sessions and keynotes.

Leaving Boston, I smiled to see my neighborhood represented in this poster at Logan airport.

After I arrived in Houston, I checked into my hotel and ensured that I was organized and ready to go. The George Brown Convention Center is a quarter-mile long from end to end, and I walked it several times daily.
I hope I packed enough shoes!

The view of downtown Houston from the elevator of the Hyatt Regency, where I had dinner with EMC Distinguished Engineer and friend Helen Raizen

On Wednesday afternoon, October 14, I watched Clara Shih, founder of Hearsay Social, deliver an opening keynote. I admired her tenacity and composure in the face of discrimination. Here's an article summarizing her tech startup experiences.
Clara Shih, founder of Hearsay Social

I attended 2 interactive workshops on Wednesday, Showcase Your Work: How to Give Your First Lightning Talk and Build your brand as an emerging leader or technical expert. These sessions offered a fantastic opportunity to get to know some women working in tech and share my experiences. I mentioned my favorite way of sharing my personal brand with the world, a twesume: a 140-character version of your resume that you can tweet. 
I also had a chance to pop over to Helen Raizen's session. At an interactive student lab, she was sharing her 4 decades of experience in the tech industry to an eager crowd of students.

On Thursday, Hadi Partovi, founder of the Hour of Code, spoke to the crowd and encouraged all of us to participate. I do as well; it's a really amazing volunteer opportunity! Please read about my experiences here.

I attended a cool session, Driving Success Through Innovation & Change, that got you out of your technical mindset and into a problem solving way of thinking. I went with a new friend Jenny I met in the coffee line. She's an entrepreneur from Dallas. We became fast friends and have been keeping in touch after the conference via text. I love how a chance meeting at an event like this can present you with professional contacts or personal friends, or both!

Learning strategies for adapting to quickly changing circumstances
Not surprisingly, this tech conference came with an app. It integrated with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and allowed you to post status updates. I really enjoyed using it, and was able to connect to lots of attendees in this way.
A post with Ashley Trotman, also from Boston

Finally, what would Grace Hopper be without the parties?! I attended a reception Cisco hosted and landed the coolest swag, an LED fiber optic barrette that my 6 year-old daughter quickly absconded with.

At the EMC reception (photo credit Laura Tenney)

Google's TechMakers event had these cool, frequently changing lights they called sugarcubes

Sucarcubes from further away

Here are some photos from the ending reception held at Minute Maid Park.
With my new friend Lisa
With new friends Jenny, Alex, and Alon
Dance party

Here are some other memorable moments.

 Sheryl Sandberg's keynote (photo credit Laura Tenney)

Adding my contribution to the pride wall: "I am most proud of my daughter"
Shuttle selfie at the end of the conference
Please check out the Grace Hopper wiki for access to most of the conference material. The group Systers, a technical listserve, maintains it. Definitely sign up if you are a technical woman; they have many interesting discussions. Additionally,here is a link to download some PPT slides from the event

My heartfelt thanks goes to my manager Jay Chitnis for supporting my professional development and giving me the chance to share the unique qualities and culture of EMC with so many new colleagues and friends.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Loving Kindness Meditation

I've had a lot of changes in my life lately, so I've taken up regular meditation as a way to introduce some calm into the chaos. I found one ritual especially useful.

I swim once or twice a week in the amazing pool my company maintains. It's always a calming experience. This week, I decided to introduce a loving kindness meditation into my swim.

As I learned in the book Real Happiness, a loving kindness meditation focuses on the following mantra:

May you be safe
May you be loved
May you be happy
May you live with ease

First, you apply this to yourself. Then, you can focus on loved ones, family members, and friends, and the universe if you like. The book recommended that you test your compassion by directing your meditation at a challenging person in your life.

I was amazed by how much this small exercise calmed my brain and made me feel at peace. I had a brighter outlook and a calmer mindset that lasted for the rest of the day.

Next time I'm having a challenging day, I'm going to recall this feeling of goodwill, and pause to do a loving kindness meditation.