Last week I was at Grace Hopper in Keystone, CO. I had an amazing time. I'll get to the cool talks I went to in a different post, this one's about what I did while not going to talks.
It turns out that all of these women in cs/theory networking and career advice conferences I've been going to actually work. I now have a group of friends assembled from the CRA-W Grad Cohort, Grace Hopper, AT&T Labs, and the Women in Theory workshop. We meet up yearly at Grace Hopper and in subsets at other events. For me, it's a regular dose of sanity. I always return from these events refreshed and more excited about my research, though there's always the sadness of having to leave such an amazing group of people.
So what is it we're doing while encouraging each other to do research, transfer grad schools instead of dropping out, spreading the word about fellowships, etc? Well, this year I spent some time hiking, sitting in a hot tub looking at a rainbow over the mountains, and of course watching the VP debates. The debate party was especially fun and included lots of yelling at the screen and asking for the inside information from our friend from Wasilla.
Now, you may be reading this wondering why it's worth sending us to somewhere so we can hang out together. Perhaps you're someone who will be convinced when I get to the post about all the technical talks I went to - maybe if I say "Fran Allen" and "Turing Award" enough you'll believe that there might even be technically competent people there. But I maintain that even if there were no talks at all (which would be sad), it would be worth it. These events are the only times when I feel fully a part of the CS community. And that's necessary for me to stay in the field - it might not be necessary for everyone, but it definitely is for me. It's important to know that there are other women out there struggling through the same or different parts of grad school. And it's important to know that they're fun people to hang out with - that going to conferences doesn't have to doom me to hanging out with (a boring subset of) men who only know and talk about CS. So instead of a mild dread collecting in my stomach, I'm excited for the talks and the people at SODA this year. And I'm more likely to be around for SODAs after that.