In fall 2022, Luddy IUPUI students Iyonna Brooks, Megan Castrataro, Mariam Khan, Yukta Karkera, Iqra Syed, Varesha Durrani, Sarah Nikkhah, Hinal Kiri, and Aditi Shukla attended the Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando, Florida.
AnitaB.org produces Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) in collaboration with the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). GHC is the world’s largest gathering of women and non-binary technologists. According to the GHC website, those who attend GHC “gain access to career and academic workshops, networking opportunities, inspirational role models, and memories that will last a lifetime.”
Several of the students shared their thoughts and experiences.
Iqra Syed, undergraduate, Informatics
“Having the opportunity to attend the Grace Hopper conference was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Being able to network with Fortune 500 companies and meet people from all over the world really opened my eyes. The conference made me value my education and even think about all the different career paths I can take. It was also an honor to represent the School as a woman in STEM,” Syed said.
Iyonna Brooks, undergraduate, Informatics
“My time at Grace Hopper was amazing. I was able to make connections and talk to different fortune 500 companies. I wouldn’t be able to connect if I hadn’t taken this opportunity. The experience showed me that there are opportunities in tech for everyone. I’ve made connections with others I can reach out to after the event. I gained confidence that helped me realize I picked the right career. I was able to have so many options within tech that are endless to grow and learn from. I received offers from world-renowned companies to work for. If I go back I will do it all again. I will forever remember Grace Hopper Conference,” Brooks said.
Yukta Karkera, master’s student, HCI
“As a Woman in Tech, I have followed the Grace Hopper conference for the last four years. Its mission and implementation are beyond inspiring and truly keeps the spirit of supporting my fellow women in tech alive,” Karkera said.
During the conference Karkera attended a few panels, talks, workshops and the Career Expo. Each of these events gave her something to take back home with her. The panels, workshops and talks gave her an insight into the inner working of some of the top companies, their working strategies, and skills that they value, which facilitated me to analyze and choose the skills that she would want to develop before she entered the industry.
Karkera said the Expo was a whole different experience altogether. The representative at some of the stalls provided a review session where they reviewed resumes and portfolios and some of the other representatives helped attendees understand what skills were valued by each of the companies.
“In the start, the magnitude of the conference was a little overwhelming but having the IUPUI student group together helped make the experience, as the Orlando Kingpin Disney would say, magical!,” Karkera said.
Hinal Kiri, M.S., HCI
Kiri noted that the Grace Hopper Conference is one of the most popular events among women in technology and is known for its networking and learning opportunities—be it the field of Product Management, Interactive Media and Arts, Software development, or UX Design. She said attending the conference in person at Orlando rightfully delivered on all these expectations, if not more. Not only did she meet people from very diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, but she also learned how women in technology can support each other for a lasting, revolutionary impact.
“It was enlightening to hear about the ongoing industrial, political, and academic reforms in creating empowering workspaces for women that help echo the voice from the margins to the global platforms—as that of GHC. The experiences and positivity of the event were surreal,” Kiri said.
Sarah Nikkhah, PhD candidate, HCI
Nikkhah shared that having the opportunity to attend GHC helped her learn from some of the brightest women in her field. It also provided her a chance to network and share her work with her peers and help better define her role as a woman in computing. Nikkhah attended VGHC in 2020 as well as a GHC scholar from Luddy IUPUI. She also attended Women & Hi Tech and the Indiana Celebration of Women In Computing. “These experiences showed me the importance of women supporting each other and sharing their experiences and challenges with each other. Attending GHC gave me the opportunity to meet, network, and learn from my peers and share my work and experiences as a woman in computing in a way that no other event could due to the scale of the conference. It helped me build long-term friendships and initiate future collaborations that will help make strengthen the bond between us as women in computing,” she said.
Nikkhah said that building long-lasting relationships, collaborations and sharing and learning about other women’s challenges and solutions in this field are things that she takes every opportunity to do. “As a fifth-year PhD student at Luddy IUPUI, I am fortunate that I get to work with many professors, undergraduate and graduate students and people from my community, many of them women. I worked as a Graduate representative and Graduate Ambassador for Luddy that provided me the opportunity to give back to our school. This high level of interaction and collaboration, along with an event like GHC, which fosters the opportunity to learn and grow from some of the best minds in our field, gives me the ability to teach what I’ve learned to many other people,” she said.
Nikkhah got her job offer from Eli Lilly and Company during the GHC conference, and she plans to join Lilly after graduation. She also got the opportunity to meet many talented people from the largest companies and expand her network. “As a group of HCI students from Luddy, we had a messaging group, and we shared exciting events with each other that helped a lot in finding events related to User experience and attending related networking events and talks. One of the wonderful people I met at GHC was working at LinkedIn and with generosity provided me with a 6-month LinkedIn premium. We got invited to receptions and private events held by big companies such as Google and Amazon to help expand our network and learn about the company culture,” she added. “GHC in person was a wonderful opportunity, and I appreciate our school and GHC for supporting me in attending.”
Aditi Shukla, master’s student, HCI
Shukla came across Grace Hopper Celebration while in conversation with an alumnus in the 2nd semester of her master’s degree, and the spirit of the conference intrigued her to such an extent that she applied for both the official AnitaB.org scholarship as well as the one offered by Luddy, receiving both and getting the opportunity to attend GHC’22 in person.
“GHC was a dream opportunity for me where I got the chance to connect with professionals and interact with Product Managers and Designers working in organizations of the likes of Google, Amazon, Disney, etcetera, and attend talks, workshops, and presentations on topics ranging from professional development to industry trends and more,” Shukla said. “A particular highlight was during one such workshop, I ended up sitting at a table with the team of Rec Room, a social virtual reality application. Incidentally, I had been working on a few VR-related projects, one of which was centered around social VR applications, and this came as an unexpected moment where I got to connect and speak with the creators of such a product. I feel immensely grateful to the university for sponsoring my attendance and giving me the opportunity to be in the presence of truly awe-inspiring people and hearing their inspirational stories.”