Mason group relishes conference for women in tech

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Break Through Tech George Mason sent a group to the Grace Hopper conference from September 20 to September 23. Students learned, networked, and even secured interviews for internships and jobs. 

“I couldn't have picked a better conference for my first!” says Nikita Alluri, a computer science major. “It was so inspiring to see so many women and nonbinary technologists of different backgrounds and identities gathered in one place to share a common interest: technology.” created the Grace Hopper Celebration in 1994. Named for Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, the conference “brings the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront.” 

As last year the conference was held virtually, Associate Professor of Computer Science Shahnaz Kamberi says attending in person this year made a world of difference. “The comradery and the connection was a great feeling. It was great to speak with other women and nonbinary members of the computer science industry, exchange ideas, connect via LinkedIn, etc.” 

The conference featured talks on technology and the workplace, hands-on workshops, and an expo hall filled with booths from various organizations. Mason too had a booth at the expo, which Kamberi says was a useful place for Mason attendees to gather, share what they learned in different sessions, and receive visits from companies and prospective students interested in Mason. 

Kamberi notes the utility of the in-person workshops. “These workshops were a great way to get some hands-on practice in areas that might not be my main field of research/experience. I was also able to take a lot away from the workshops to bring back to my students. I can replicate these workshops or bring what I learned from these workshops back to the classroom lecture; which is very beneficial to me since I can use these activities to further engage my students in the classroom.” 

At the expo, Alluri spent much of her time visiting healthcare and finance companies. In addition, she enjoyed meeting other college students with similar interests. 

“There was something for everyone,” she says, adding, “As a Junior, one of my main goals at this conference was to secure a summer internship. It was also extremely informative and exciting to learn what different companies are up to in terms of increasing accessibility and inclusivity.” 

Dhaksha Kannan, a computer science student and Break Through Tech peer leader, gained valuable networking experience at the conference. She says, “The biggest thing that I took away from this conference is that you can always network, no matter where you are, what resources you have, [or] what skills you have.” She explains, “I literally met a recruiter while eating breakfast, secured a job interview while talking about how passionate I am about Mason, and made a ton of cool friends that come from everywhere!”