Have you ever come across something randomly and it happened to lead to something awesome. Well, that’s how I first discovered the Grace Hopper Celebration(GHC). I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw a post about complimentary registration for it and decided to apply. Fast forward to today, and GHC has had a huge impact on my career and was honestly one of the best experiences of my life so far. Since registration for it is coming up on July 17th, I decided to gather all of my knowledge and create this guide for anyone who wants to go or is interested in learning more.
What Is GHC?
The Grace Hopper Celebration is the largest women’s tech conference in the world. Every year female students, technologists, and recruiters gather in one space to try and promote diversity in STEM. There are awesome workshops, inspiring talks, and tons of swag. I’m serious, GHC is known for the insane amount of swag given out. Last year over 20,000 people (including myself) and 4,000 companies attended the conference in Houston, Texas. This year it will be from Oct 2nd – Oct 4th in Orlando, Florida.
Cost to Attend
I will admit, the tickets for GHC are an investment with prices ranging from $450 for students – $1150 for the general public. However, the great thing about this conference is that there are tons of scholarships available that you can apply to. Though some of the scholarships given by GHC are closed, the one that is still available is Women of Color in Technology Complimentary Registration. I was blessed to receive this last year and it was the only reason I was able to attend the conference. If you don’t happen to meet the requirements for this scholarship, here are some opportunities that you can apply to.
Planning the Trip
I never knew how much preparation went into attending a conference until I began planning my trip last year. If you seriously plan on attending GHC, there are three main points you need to focus on.
Taking Time Off
Since the conference this year takes place from Oct 2nd – Oct 4th, that means most of you guys(including myself) will be in school. If you for sure want to go to GHC, make sure you let your professors way ahead of time that you will be gone. Please do not just tell your professors you’ll be taking a couple of days off. They’re human just like you, which means that they will probably forget. I recommend emailing them a week or two after classes start for the semester. While that may sound really early, it will give you and your professors time to prep just in case you have to take a test a little bit early or a little bit late. Make sure you email them again a couple of days before you leave just as a reminder.
This is, in my opinion, the most important part about planning your trip to GHC. I won’t say it will make or break your experience, but it could. What’s really cool is that certain hotels work directly with the conference and allow attendees to stay there at a discounted price(while availability lasts). Not just this, but a shuttle comes directly to the hotel to pick up attendees and bring them back. Talk about a perk. Last year, I made the mistake of waiting too long to book a room and completely missed out on this. Make sure you book a room as soon as reservations open up on July 19th and while they do last until August 9th, there is no guarantee the availability will last.
If you happen to be at the conference without a car or the hotel shuttle, there are a couple of options for you. Option 1, Uber. This is the route I went with last year and while it was expensive to uber everywhere, it got the job done. Option 2, rent a car. Going down this route will give you the freedom to travel wherever you want in the city on your own schedule. Option 3, carpool. This option is probably the most cost effective even with pitching in for gas. There are plenty of carpooling apps out there like RideJoy and WazeCarpool if you’re having a hard time finding a group.
I remember how excited I was in the days leading up to the conference because it started to feel real. I started binge watching Youtube videos about Grace Hopper so I could figure out what to and not to do and even made a list of the companies I wanted to visit. While this did help prepare me for the conference, there are some other tips that I discovered along the way.
The Night Before Grace Hopper
Before you head over to GHC, there are a couple things you should have in order. First, make sure that you have a comfortable outfit and shoes to walk around in. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, so I would vote against wearing heels. You don’t really have to dress up either, but if you want to look a little professional when talking to companies, a nice shirt should be fine. Second, make sure you have enough copies of your resume. I printed off about thirty copies last year to bring with me and it was enough to last me the entire three days. If you haven’t updated your resume or portfolio in a while, check out this post to learn how to level it up.
And third, bring a bag/backpack. Remember how I said GHC is known for their swag? Well, I wasn’t lying. Last year, I had to buy a duffle bag during the conference, because I couldn’t fit all of my swag into my luggage. Carrying a decent sized bag with you will keep you from carrying swag around in your hands until you can find someone giving one away. This will keep your hands free just in case you need to shake someone’s hand or grab or resume.
The Day Of
I’m not going to lie. The first day of the conference, you may be slightly shocked at how many people are there. It’s one thing to imagine 20,000 people, but it’s another thing to see 20,000 people in real life. Once you get past that, it’ll be time to start visiting booths. Make sure you have a list of companies you want to visit and that have reached out to you and their location. This will make sure your resume is in the hands of the companies you’re interested in the most.
The Grace Hopper Celebration was the highlight of 2018 for me and I managed to get my current summer internship by going. Even if you don’t end up getting an internship from it, you’ll still have made tons of connections in the industry. I’m lucky enough to be going again this year and I can’t wait to see what’s in store. Comment down below and let me know if you’re going or want to go to GHC this year. If you happened to like this post, I would appreciate it if you could pin it and share it with your friends. Until then, see ya next time.