Clearing a path for women in tech: IST students attend Grace Hopper conference

“The next Bill Gates won’t look like him!” declared Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

It was a powerful moment for College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) students Angela DeMarco and Kim Saira Sarte, who were among the crowd listening to the presentation. To them, and the six other IST students in attendance, it was a clear message the next technology magnate could – and should – be female.

This inspiration was served up at the Grace Hopper for Women in Computing conference, the world’s largest gathering of women in computing. Drawing influence from its namesake, a computer scientist and pioneer in the field, the program has encouraged and supported women pursuing academic and professional careers in technology since its inception in 1994.

“Some of these women persevered through so much struggle to be where they are today,” said Rita Griffith, the assistant director of student professional development in IST’s Office of Career Solutions and Corporate Engagement. “It cleared the path for these students who will follow.”

DeMarco and Sarte, along with fellow IST students Dominique Arroyo, Emma Dodoo, Isabel Harman, Maria George, Nicole Generose and Shannon Gearshot, attended the week-long event which was made possible through a scholarship offered by the college.

When first arriving at the conference in Houston, Texas, DeMarco, a sophomore majoring in IST said, “It was very intimidating, but it ended up being empowering!”

“My experience amplified my initial impressions of the event,” agreed Sarte, a junior majoring in IST.

The event featured notable speakers, professional development sessions, and a career fair. And though she found the career fair to be helpful in securing several internship interviews, DeMarco reflected on how she made her biggest connection unexpectedly.

“I was sitting in a robotics seminar, and I happened to turn to the woman next to me, who works at Microsoft,” she said. As fate would have it, DeMarco had an interview scheduled with Microsoft the following week.

“She said she would help me and gave me a ton of information about how to nail the interview!” she said.

Thanks to her fellow attendee’s help during the chance encounter, DeMarco received an offer to intern with Microsoft in the summer of 2018. She will be joining the Explore Microsoft program, where she will be gaining experience in both program management and software engineering in Redmond, Washington.

Griffith believes opportunities like these not only illuminate career options but also allow the students to get a head start on networking.

“It is amazing to find community and connection with so many other women in the field,” she said. “They are so eager to help other women be successful in their careers.”

Sarte said the conference was inspiring and made her look forward to her future in the field.

“It’s given me such a purpose in my major and introduced me to so many career opportunities that I honestly didn’t even know were possible!”

Last Updated November 15, 2017