“So Glad We Were There”: Raji Arasu Reflects on Grace Hopper Celebration 2018

Powering Prosperity Photo by Mariana Carvalho

We Are Here.

This was the theme of the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration in Houston last month. I was proud to say “we are here” with 117 other Intuit attendees, who came to the world’s largest annual gathering of technical women to present their expertise, recruit top tech talent, network with other technical women, and be inspired by the magic that happens when 20,000 of us get together.

Variations of the theme were apparent throughout the conference. We heard an incredible keynote talk from Jessica O. Matthews, founder and CEO of Uncharted Power, a company that harnesses energy from motion to power communities around the world. She founded the company at age 19, after she invented the SOCCKET – an energy-generating soccer ball – to power her family’s community in Nigeria. She was a psychology and economics major at Harvard, not a technologist, but she followed her passion and ended up on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. She said, “Just because it’s not your plan doesn’t mean it’s not your destiny.” For Jessica, the theme’s variation was, “Surprise – you are here!”

My Intuit colleagues Margret Schmidt and Apparna Ramadoss conducted a workshop on creating “journey lines” to build team trust. A packed room of 800 attendees each plotted the personal stories that shaped their lives and shared them with their table. It was awesome to see so many women describe the journey of how they became who they are today, declaring at the end of their journey line, “I am here.”

The history of women in tech got a massive journey line treatment with the “Our Time” gallery. This museum-quality exhibit included photos and stories of historic figures like Grace Hopper, Anita Borg, Ada Lovelace, and Hedy Lamarr, as well as those of current prominent women technologists. There were even hologram interviews with inspirational tech leaders. How far we’ve come to get here.

In another Intuit presentation, Tracy Stone, who leads the Tech Women @ Intuit initiative, talked about Intuit Again, our returnship program. It’s a unique way to reintroduce technical women back into the workforce after taking a break in their career for caregiving purposes. It can be a tough adjustment, both for the women in the program and the teams that take them in for a four-month trial. But by the end of the returnship, a majority of the women are hired into full-time roles at Intuit, where we’re happy to say, “They are here.”

In support of Intuit’s search for talent at the conference, we held four meetups to connect with attendees in early career, mid-career, data science and architecture. We rented a whole floor of Houston’s House of Blues and filled it with people enjoying panel discussions, puzzle and trivia contests, deejay dancing and karaoke. After the meetups ended, they all combined into one big dance party. It was a memorable evening that boldly stated, “Intuit was here!”

With such an inspiring Grace Hopper Celebration behind us, I’m already looking forward to GHC 2019 in Orlando. We’ll be there.

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