Students empowered at annual Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing

Delaney Peterman
October 14, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Empowerment, unity and opportunity are some of the words that can be used to describe the experience at the annual Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing, which took place from Oct. 1 to 4 in Orlando, Florida. Sixteen students from Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology were among the more than 25,000 individuals and 400 companies that came together at this year’s largest gathering of women technologists in the world.

“I felt empowered by seeing all the successful women who took charge of their life and found where they were meant to be,” said Dana Kim, junior in security and risk analysis. “Many women have been with the same company their whole career while some have changed and couldn’t be happier.”

Over the course of four days, the students were able to network with various companies, receive professional development advice and learn new skills in informational sessions.

“I attended a session about imposter syndrome, and I learned it’s okay to be unconfident when facing a new challenge,” Kim said. “The challenge might be daunting but it pushes you to learn, and your new knowledge helps you become confident. Challenges aren’t always fun, but they will help you grow.”

At the various networking events, each company had a booth with a unique set-up and a personal atmosphere. Sydney Wehn, junior in data sciences, said she was "blown away" by the opportunities to connect with the different companies.

“My networking experience was incredible,” she said. “It opened my eyes to new companies and opportunities that I can pursue with my goals. I did not know which companies were pursuing the technologies that I want to learn, but now I do.”

Cara Schwartz, junior in cybersecurity analytics and operations, also had a positive experience, which led to a job opportunity. After talking to PwC and earning an interview at the conference, she was quickly offered an internship position.

“Be passionate about what you do. It’s important to love what you do and do what you love,” she said. “One of the things recruiters kept remarking to me was how excited they were to see how passionate I was about cybersecurity.”

The conference featured an impressive list of keynote speakers who inspired and motivated the students. Among those were Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA; Jen Easterly, managing director of Morgan Stanley and head of the firm’s Cybersecurity Fusion Center; and Palak Shah, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and founding director of NDWA Labs. All of the speakers provided helpful insight to what it’s like being a woman in the tech industry and advice for the young attendees.

“Sitting in the keynote with thousands of other women in tech, and supporters of women in tech, was a little overwhelming,” Schwartz said. “Sometimes it’s easy to forget because you are a minority, but there are people out there supporting you and rooting for you.”

Wehn added, “My favorite part was the energy of powerful women who have had the same setbacks that stem from being female in such a male-dominated field. The passion and ideas that the women were able to project truly inspired me.”

The conference was full of inspiration and hope for the emerging women who said they were ready to dominate the field of technology.

“I think the biggest takeaway for me was that the future holds so much opportunity and positive change. I met a lot of recruiters who completely changed direction and were able to find their passion projects,” Kim said.

Founded in 1994, the conference is named after the influential tech pioneer U.S. Navy Adm. Grace Hopper.

Last Updated October 14, 2019