Kanika Modi

Nov 26, 2019

4 min read

My GHCI’19 Experience

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, India (GHCI), is Asia’s largest gathering of women in technology. It is organized by the Anita Borg Institute and ACM. Its 10th edition held in Bangalore from Nov 6–8, 2019 saw over 5000 women from industry, academia, and colleges. The conference enables women in tech in their professional, research and entrepreneurial pursuits by providing a platform for collaborative proposals, networking and mentoring.

The theme for this year was #WeWill. It focused on making 50–50 gender equality in tech a reality by 2025, lifting each other up and creating a diverse environment. The energy at the conference was electric. We were all asked to stand up and hug the person on our left and right and tell them they are doing amazing work and keep it up. The power of this small activity gave everyone goosebumps and smiles on their faces.

Imagine. Dream. Include. Rise.

It was my first time at the conference and it was inspiring for me to see women from all age groups who are so passionate about technology. I learned some new technologies and networked with some prominent leaders in tech from various organizations. The conference started with an enlightening keynote and went on to host sessions on various tracks on machine learning, scalable systems, cloud security, and emerging technology trends.

Along with the educational sessions led by women at the top of their fields, senior leaders mentored women on the importance of networking, community, and empowerment. Overall, I came back empowered and filled with positive energy from the conference.

Session Takeaways:

While all sessions were amazing and presented by dynamic speakers, there were some that stood out:

  1. Testing AI — Developing responsible AI

In this workshop, the challenges to ensure the quality of Deep Learning-based AI systems were discussed. Speakers talked about why traditional software testing techniques are ineffective against known pitfalls like adversarial attacks, bias, sensitivity, etc. The most exciting part of this workshop was a hands-on session on how to use different open-source toolkits like AI Fairness 360, Adversarial Robustness Toolbox (ART), etc. to expose AI model vulnerabilities.

2. Product Design for Indian Context

This panel discussion talked about different types of markets in India due to parity in affordability and difference in lifestyles. The panelists talked about their learnings of the various segments of India they serve, the processes and design methodologies they follow to design new digital products or to scale products to more than one market.

3. Creating products that scale through platforms and ecosystems

This session had two talks that gave examples of scaling up products by leveraging existing platforms and building relevant ecosystems. Speakers gave an overview of LinkedIn’s Data and AI ecosystem and shared a generic framework of a data-driven approach to build at scale. They also talked about how the triumph of iOS and Android is not through features and functions but through apps created by external developers on respective platforms.

4. AI for practical problem-solving

This track comprised of two talks. The first one was on a color recommendation system to help the designers to find a harmonious color pattern to attract more customers. The second one was on a tool that generates UI components from wireframes or mockups and developers just need to add the business logic.

Apart from these sessions, there were networking and mentoring circles. A networking circle is an informal gathering of professionals working in the same domain where they talked about the latest trends and technologies while in speed mentoring sessions, experienced women in tech provided career guidance.

Career Fair:

A throng of participants flocked to the career fair booths, took part in fun activities, engaged with representatives of various organizations and expressed interest in career opportunities. These inclusive booths invited the future women of technology to engage with the stories of existing women leaders who innovate for a better world.​ Companies showcased their smart technologies and curious participants were eager to learn about the complex technical problems they solve every day. Kudos to all the organizations that presented their tech innovations at this prestigious conference. The future of technology truly is accessible, flexible, and inclusive.

Conference Takeaways:

  1. Consciously try to create inclusive spaces for everyone to contribute and grow.
  2. Give back to the community and mentor those that are just starting out their careers or are newer in the journey.
  3. Take risks and ask for opportunities to try new/difficult things.
  4. Conquer your fears and barriers you set for yourself. Aspire to be like your role models and approach for mentorship.
  5. Choose the right support system. Invest in your network and build connections.
  6. Put to practice ideas and technologies presented at the conference.
  7. Use your energy to inspire and excite people about new ideas.

My action item list is so long that it will keep me busy all the way until next GHCI. This was my first GHCI and I am leaving with restored hope and optimism about the potential of the next generation of women in tech.

You might be the only woman in the room, but you are not the only woman in tech. Be bold, be confident. We are here; we are everywhere.