A Latinas Guide to the Grace Hopper Celebration (First-Timer)

Techqueria Networking Mixer at GHC. Huge thanks to Yanessa Lasley for organizing. (Amor Em Pedacos Bakery).

Where do I begin?

I must have asked myself this question hundreds of times as I speed-walked my way down long halls at the 2019 Grace Hopper Celebration. This year I was lucky to attend GHC as a first-timer and I’m here to share my takeaways so that you (amazing brilliant person you are) can also enjoy GHC — the biggest womxn in tech conference in the world.

First things first, what the heck happens at GHC?

I scoured the internet for a loong, long time searching for an answer but all I found were bits and pieces explaining interview prep, takeaways, schedule overviews, but…where is my mental map? Here:

  • Location: The Grace Hopper Celebration 2020 will take place in Orlando, Florida. The conference all takes place within a 1.5 mile radius— events, sessions, interviews, everything — all typically occurring between the Orange County Convention Center (the big one), the Rosen Centre Hotel (not to be confused with the Rosen Plaza Hotel), and the Hyatt Hotel.

Thriving at GHC as a first-timer really comes down to learning how to balance your time between attending sessions, interviewing or speaking with recruiters in the Expo Hall, making it out to the after-hours networking events, and checking in with yourself (physically, spiritually) at the end of every day.

That balance can look A LOT of different ways on any given day, but making sure to come in with a schedule that you’re 60% committed to, will help a lot. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of time once you’re at the conference to decide what’s most important to you. The three biggest portions of the conference are:

  • Sessions: The conference brings you some of the most stimulating sessions related to AI, HCI, Software Engineering, Data Science, Career Development and more. I recommend making the time to attend at least 15 of the sessions throughout the week…so worth it! Many of the “fun” sessions reach capacity only a few hours after becoming available in your registration portal, so try to reserve your spot EARLY. Look for the interactive sessions, the ones that make you feel excited to be a part of the industry and challenge you to think in new ways. My personal favorites were the Mentoring Circles, HCI and AI Sessions.

I absolutely loved meeting and learning from other Latinxs in Tech!

At the end of every day, make sure you are taking the time to check in with yourself and ask:

  • What were the peaks and pits of today?

Insider Tips

  • Fly in on Sunday or Monday, if you can. The extra “early time” can help you get acquainted with the conference spaces and register early to avoid waiting in long lines on Tuesday. Try doing a sampling of how you would get from a room in OCCC to a room in the Hyatt. Take note of room numbers and how long your traveling time was.

Is GHC right for me?

Absolutely. It is meant for those who have a desire to learn and uplift other womxn. But participating in this experience can be tough.

GHC can be prettty pricey. From conference tickets to a weeks worth of traveling costs, it can add up. I spent close to $600 on purchasing business casual outfits, food, traveling, etc. Scholarships help a lot and there is great opportunities hosted through AnitaB.Org, Google or perhaps your local company/organization. Carrie Mah has a list compiled here (and a plethora of other tips, thank you!).

I absolutely loved my time in Orlando, and I hope that you do too! I’m beyond grateful that AnitaB.org gave me the opportunity to be a part of their amazing conference and learn so, so much.

As a womxn of color, GHC can simultaneously be a wildly beautiful experience with a few tough moments. I can guarantee you that most womxn of color at GHC probably thought, for at least a split second —This isn’t for me. I wish I wasn’t here. For those moments, come back to this guide, call a friend back home and remind yourself that your journey is unique and valuable. Oh and also, do try a sanguich cubano.

Take away anything else that brings value to your life and career.

The Everglades ended up being close by, so I said — why not? (Everglades National Park).

Data Science Student and Latina Educator at UCLA. mitzibandera.com | @latinasindata_