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We are Here: Celebrating Women in Tech at the Grace Hopper Conference

By: Pauline Burke, Head of Experimentation, eBay

eBay’s Head of Experimentation shares a look back at this year’s event.

When I started my career in computer science, I frequently attended conferences. As I spoke from the podium, I would look out into a sea of male faces and search the back of the hall for the one or two female attendees. Attending the 2018 Grace Hopper Conference (GHC) was like stepping into another dimension: the Toyota Center in Houston was filled by a crowd of predominantly women to hear this year’s keynote speakers. It is a positive, invigorating and astonishing experience.

GHC is the largest gathering of women technologists in the world. This year, the conference hosted roughly 20,000 attendees from across the globe, who had the opportunity to visit a large career fair, attend speeches, listen to a vast array of presentations and panels, and network with like-minded individuals in the tech field. Attendance skews young, with a strong presence of college-aged women.

The keynote speakers, Padmasree Warrior and Jessica O. Matthews, were both remarkable and painted dramatically different pictures of success. Padmasree has built her career within existing business structures, taking the plunge to walk through open doors and take chances. Jessica O. Matthews represents the new generation of women leaders who don’t wait for a door to open, or even appear, but have identified a need, broken barriers and leapt over fences to make a difference. These two courageous women technologists are leading the way for the generations to come.

As a Diamond Sponsor, eBay and StubHub had a strong presence at GHC, with a beautiful booth in the career fair and a presence in the panels and presentations. Our booth had some of the longest lines, composed of computer scientists, data scientists, product managers, and UI designers, with a dedicated group of eBay and StubHub employees making sure every visitor got to speak with an interviewer. We met with students, mature candidates, people returning to work, women and men, from lots of countries and backgrounds. 

On the conference side, Harita Yenisetty moderated a panel on opportunities and challenges in Machine Learning, which led to attendees discussing topics such as the the identification of fake news and eBay’s own recommendation engine. Our other presenters included Shilpa Vir on career and leadership, Xiaolin (Linsey) Pang onfast LRT implementation on parallel computer architectures, and Sophie Tan and Nikita Goel on machine learned spam detection in ecommerce.

What I took away from my experience is that there is a movement of young women technologists marching onto the scene. They are motivated to change the world, they exude confidence and they are being supported by a large network of influential women and men.

"The only phrase I've ever disliked is, 'Why, we've always done it that way.' I always tell young people, 'Go ahead and do it. You can always apologize later." - Grace Hopper

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