My GHC experience can be divided into 3 broad categories:
There were a LOT of talks at GHC this year. The keynote is definitely worth going to because GHC brings in some of the most amazing keynote speakers. My favourite one this year is by Latanya Sweeney, who is the director of the Data Privacy Lab at Harvard where she delivered an inspirational speech about how one can use data science and data sets to influence decision-making at the national policy level and how she has enabled her students to do the same.
Other than that, the GHC schedule is jam packed. General, I found the talks can be divided into 3 broad categories:
• The state of diversity and how diversity numbers can be improved in school/work/general
• How-to talks on issues that specifically affect women in technology (how to negotiate, how to communicate to influence)
• General tech talks on self-driving cars, AI, security, distributed systems, etc.
For future attendees; pick and choose the sessions that most interest you; there is no way you can attend them all as they overlap. Furthermore, I would advise you to attend at least some talks in the first 2 categories. While technical talks may look super cool on paper, it is hard to provide a technical talk to an audience with all levels of familiarity in a topic. I often found a talk to be way over my head or too basic, and I did not get much out of them.
Be sure to arrive at the talks early because popular talks fill up fast and you don't want to go to a talk just to find it is full.
2. Career Fair
The size of the career fair at GHC is the biggest I've ever seen and I spent a good amount of time in there. Make sure you drop your resume in the resume database before you arrive at the conference because recruiters use that to contact candidates for interviews. Bring lots of paper resumes; 50 is probably a good number. Some companies will even do a quick interview on the spot (this happened to me, the interview was technical but it was not a coding interview) so be prepared.
I made a list of companies I intended to visit and checked off the list as I went at the conference and that worked quite well for me.
As I mentioned earlier, it is likely that you will have interviews lined up by the time you get to GHC. I only had 5 interviews at GHC and even that was exhausting so if your main objective for GHC is not to secure the next job, I would suggest you not to line up too many interviews at the conference, so that you can enjoy all the other amazing things happening there. (Also make sure to cancel interviews that you are no longer interested in; it saves both your and the company's engineer's time)
Some companies will give you an offer at GHC, others take a while to respond after the conference.
That sums up my GHC experience and takeaways pretty well. Just a few more closing notes:
• Don't plan your day down to the hour and make time for yourself. The conference is very tiring with everything that's going on so don't try to attend every talk and visit every company booth. Make time to relax for yourself. And if you are introverted like me, you will need time for yourself after talking to other people non-stop.
• If you really enjoyed talking to someone, don't be afraid to ask for her contact information so you can keep in touch after the conference. I didn't do this much and I regret it.
That's it! I would encourage everyone to apply.