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SBCC Students Inspired by Women in Computing Confab

Fourteen female students and five faculty members from Santa Barbara City College were among some 18,000 technology professionals from around the world who attended the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference in Orlando, Fla., Oct. 4-6.

The Grace Hopper Celebration was founded in 1994 with the goal of inspiring and connecting women in technology from leading academic institutions and Fortune 500 companies. It is now the world’s largest annual gathering of women technologists.

For three days, the SBCC women attended talks by keynote speakers, participated in learning workshops, had a chance to talk with recruiters and submit their resumes at the career fair, all the while networking with other students and working professionals.

“It is inspiring to be able to see successful, intelligent, very cool women in computer science. It helps me feel like I can make my dreams a reality” said Michelle Sandstrom.

That sentiment was echoed by several other students when they spoke of their experience afterward. They were in agreement that being a woman in the still male-dominated field of computer science and technology can feel lonely and isolating at times.

“The Grace Hopper Conference showed us there is a whole community out there, there’s a place for us,” said Selah Argent.

Hearing the speakers talk about the obstacles they encountered earlier in their careers served as motivation for the students to persevere toward their own goals.

“Sometimes I still struggle with math and think maybe this isn’t for me,” said Olivia Mora. “But these role models convinced me that with hard work and dedication I can succeed.”

The conference provided a glimpse into the latest technological advances in such areas as cyber security, artificial intelligence and robotics.

The SBCC contingent wasn’t on the receiving end of learning in every case, however. Sandstrom and Argent demonstrated their work on wearable technology to university students and professionals from Microsoft, Twitter and Dell.

Asked whether attending the conference had influenced their plans for the future, the students were unanimous in their answers — absolutely.

“Before attending GHC in 2016, I was unsure if I’d be able to find a job in tech," Argent said. "Going to the conference inspired me to stick with it, and now I’ll be interning at a company that has a $9.5 billion annual tech budget and is working with cutting-edge technology.”

The trip to Florida and conference attendance would not have been possible without student enthusiasm, faculty support and grant funding, said Bronwen Moore, mathematics professor.

— Luz Reyes-Martin for SBCC.

 
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