Fifteen UB female technologists attend memorable and inspiring Grace Hopper Celebration

Top: Rimi Das, Mugdha Ansarwadekar, Jayashree Chandrasekharan, Harshita Girase, Doris Kwan, Sada Haider, Liesel Vaidya. Bottom: Lu Meng, Neeti Narayan, Aishani Bhalla, Chinmayee Rane, Wendy Shi, Kunwoo Cho.

by Emily Sugarman

Published February 1, 2018

“To be surrounded by like-minded, driven women was awe-inspiring. It was thrilling to recognize that, unlike what the statistics say, there are definitely women in computer science,” said Doris Kwan, co-director of UB’s Scientista.

“Walking into a room filled with 18,000 women technologists made me feel like I was a part of something bigger and the work I was doing mattered.”
Jayashree Chandrasekharan, computer science student
UB Scientista

Kwan attended the Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando, Florida with fourteen other UB students in early October. 18,000 female technologists attended the three-day event, which proved to be an enriching and formative experience for UB’s students.

At the event, the attendees listened to keynote speeches by inspirational female leaders in the tech industry. 

“Walking into a room filled with 18,000 women technologists made me feel like I was a part of something bigger and the work I was doing mattered,” said Jayashree Chandrasekharan.

Speakers included Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Dr. Fei-Fei Li, professor and director of Stanford University’s AI Lab;  Megan Smith, CTO of the United States; and Diane Greene, founder and CEO of VMWARE.

“Witnessing such inspirational keynotes by such powerful speakers made me feel special and at the same time made me realize that everyone’s journey has been a tough one in one way or other,” said Rimi Das. “If today they could achieve the position that the world respects them for, we too can hope to fulfill our dreams if only we are determined to carry this baton of ‘women in science’ forward.” 

UB Scientista’s other co-director, Harshita Girase, revealed her enthusiasm in hearing Melinda Gates speak. “Like every technologist entering the industry at that time, she faced multiple failures too. She pioneered the team behind the now-defunct, Microsoft Bob, which was supposed to turn your desktop into a virtual world. I loved the fact that Melinda stressed that ‘not every great idea comes wrapped in a hoodie’ which is an important message to convey,” said Girase. 

UB’s students also participated in a large-scale career fair, engaging with many companies and university representatives that emphasize inclusive and diverse work environments. 

“At the career fair, I met so many great women from all sorts of backgrounds, industries and countries who were very supportive, encouraging, and shared their expertise. There was tangible energy when I talked to them and learned about their journeys,” said Lu Meng.

Sravnika Doddi spoke about the enjoyable parties companies hosted that gave students insight into their social environments. “I had the opportunity to meet recruiters in person and talk about my computer science experience and my research interests. This led me to interviewing with five companies at the conference and even getting an offer from one company,” said Doddi.

Doris Kwan with one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Sue Black OBE.

UB’s attendees expressed how amazing it was to share this memorable experience with each other. In the process, they became wonderful friends — and valuable resources of support for each other as they continue to work toward their degrees.

Ten of the students were fully or partially funded by the Engineering Partnership Program, UB Scientista, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and/or the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. 

“UB Scientista was generous enough to sponsor for registration and stay during the conference. I am grateful to AnitaB and the Engineering Partnership Program at UB for giving me an opportunity to attend inspiring sessions, learn new skills, and make new friends and connections,” said Neeti Narayan.

The Scientista Foundation is a national organization that empowers pre-professional women in STEM through content, communities, and conferences. Currently the largest network of campus women across STEM disciplines, Scientista serves to connect all communities of women in STEM at campuses across the nation, giving such important organizations more visibility and resources, and building a strong, cohesive network of women in science that can act as one voice. UB’s branch focuses on women in technology, which is increasingly becoming the intersection of STEM fields, but all majors are welcome.

The Engineering Partnership Program strengthens UB's relationships with local and national companies, both for their benefit and the benefit of students and their employment futures. If a club is interested in receiving funding, the club president and treasurer can apply through the SEAS portal.

See the Grace Hopper Celebration, the world's largest gathering of women technologists, through the eyes of ten of the participants, all students in UB's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.