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Grace Hopper Celebration 2019 (GHC19)

From Aicha Evans' speech at the Keynote.

September 6th - I receive an email from Anita B Organization, saying "We read your application, we like your website, and here's a free ticket to GHC 2019 in Orlando, Florida!"

After a few more questions, it seemed everything was on the up and up, and so I accepted - and that's what this post is about!

For those who don't know, Grace Hopper Celebration is the largest gathering of Women in Technology in the world.

On a personal note, This is the first trip I've taken without my parents. Sure, they've left me behind to go on vacations, but I've never left them. I was totally worried! But you know what happened?

I met a lot of cool people in Orlando, learned a lot of neat things, and had a blast just walking around airports for upwards of 8 hours.

I really, really love airports!
And I survived.

I know in the past, I've wormed my way out of jobs despite being interested simply because I wasn't sure if I could be away from my parents for so long. Turns out, I can. It's only my bed that I need to take with me.

So, employers, keep that in mind, I'm finally ready to go. Truly.

And now let's continue with the recap!

The Girl On The Plane

I didn't bring my laptop, so no worries there about taking it out or constantly keeping an eye upon it. A big relief, and after all, a phone can do most of the same things. Only smaller.

How do ya'll do it?

Took a plane from ECP (Northwest Florida Airport) to Hartsfeld-Jackson for a 2 hour layover. Much of the airport was remodeled, though I still remembered the Brookstone and Cafe Intermezzo in Concourse B.

I had plenty of time to ride the TRAINS* and eat a snack.

Pictured: Not the train ridden. I could not find a clip or gif of the player character riding the Magnet Train in Pokemon Gold and Silver.

*Only one ride was taken.

And then I got to MCO (Orlando International Airport) and stayed with a relative.

The Hall E/F/W Heist

But what panels did I visit?

While there may not have been a lot of infrastructure knowledge in the Career Fair (More on that later), there was much more for us in panels and talks; But first, how about some good old 'How to critique things'?

Best Practices in Critique: How HCI Professionals Can Improve the Culture for Women in Tech by Karen Holtzblatt and Carol Farnsworth

I'm sure you knew this, but many women leave tech companies because they're boys clubs. They can be forthright and forthcoming, we have to pussyfoot around, coach our criticisms in gentle language, and probably clean out the break room fridge.

It's not appropriate or helpful if I tell you your app blows so far, but maybe have more of a spine when I say it could be improved and here's how. A critique, done properly, is not a personal attack. Especially if you use what Karen and Carol suggested for criticism;

  • Goals - What is this app aiming to do, and is it working?
  • Principals - What does this app stand for?
  • Data - How many people use it this way or that way, what is the drop-off rate?
Whatever you're critiquing; Someone worked on that and thought it was good. And maybe it just needs a little bit of help.

Express Backbone: Facebook's Long Haul Network by Rafit Izhak Ratzin

Pics are going to be a little 'eh'.

Facebook Backbone and Software Defined Networking;
The focus is on scaling up, not out, and more machine to machine traffic, on a distributed vs. Centralized traffic engineering.

Traffic Engineering is looking at a network in place, looking at its current demand and topology, calculating paths, and wondering if it can work as needed.

Facebook uses IGP (Interior Gateway Protocol, routers within the same Autonomous System [AS] talk to each other about routes). I want to say it was mentioned that they use Distance Vector but I can't recall.

Hardware Compression in Storage Systems by Meeta Saggi

What does compression do?
  • Puts more data in less space by squishing it, which reduces bottlenecks in hyperscaled systems.

  • Longer clock cycles do more
  • Huffman Coding for lossless data compression
  • Decompression has a higher encode ratio
Encode ratio = uncompressed data length / compressed data length

I have many more notes, but we've got to keep moving!

Innovation from the Margins: Lessons from a Worker Movement by Palak Shah

But, despite what Silicon Valley would have you believe, tech is here as a tool to improve everyone's lives, not just upper to middle class people in white collar jobs. Palak Shah gave an insightful talk on how she is using technology to help domestic workers, 90% of whom are Women of Color, who are often ignored in the greater economic discussion, and are more at risk with less protections.

Alia is a  benefits app for domestic workers.

Interactive Video; How Netflix Uses Technology for Innovative Storytelling by Maria  Kazandjieva and Maxine Cheung


This was my favorite talk.

I was interested in #2 the most.

  • Netflix hosts MP4s on an OpenConnect cloud.
  • Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTPS
  • And of course, UDP. If a few packets drop, it's not the end of the world. If enough drop, well...
With a choose your own adventure title like this, the choice you select is pulled from somewhere in the video. Have you ever gone into the Youtube comments, seen a timestamp that was clickable, and clicked upon it? It took you to that point in the video above.

The story so far is in burgundy to the left. The choices are in white and cream. The selected choice is a timestamp you approach and it's pressed into the burgundy part as you continue. If you're familiar with drive partitioning, it reminded me of that.

It actually encouraged me to go back to my room, fire up Netflix, and watch "Bandersnatch". Armed with the knowledge, it was even more impressive to me. That's something I would really like to make sure runs properly. While a streaming service is only as good as the network of the end user, you must make sure it stays up, right?

(Fun fact - This isn't the only one they have! The Puss in Boots show has one, and a Kimmy Schmidt one is coming soon!)

Do you improvise, adapt, overcome, or do you do all 3?

Into the Career Fair-verse

Let's get this out of the way -

They say there's shopping day and night, on eBay.

There's a lot of "apply online!" From booths. Not every booth, but quite a few, and I must ask -

What do you think we've been doing before this?

We came here to finally get resumes in hand. I know it's an extremely busy place, but that's why many booths had tablets for us to sign into and directly input our info into their specially marked GHC databases. That was a totally acceptable and innovative way for us not to feel as if we were shoving things into a hole.

 I appreciate the companies like Nordstrom who, while not having some network infrastructure representatives, took my resume. The ladies at Chewy were nice (and gave me a ball to bring home to my dog, Coco!). Cloudflare was probably the second infrastructure company there (after Cisco).

Sirrah from Square was absolutely lovely, and listened as I went on my tangent on how certain POS systems for vendors could really benefit from them.

The booth that somehow impressed me the most on day 1 was The Hartford financial agency. I had been feeling a lack of network infrastructure representation on the floor until I met Liz Hurley, which also had the most ingenious bit of swag of the conference - a tasseled keychain with cables woven between them.

The smaller one doesn't look like a USB 3.0 cable, but after testing, I did find that it fits into my phone. The longer one may work for a Pixel.

Our daily network infrastructure representative on day 2 came in the form of Vanessa for Disney. I was the only networking person who approached her all conference - for reference, this is day 3. I didn't go on October 1st.

I'm still trying to meet D'Yanna Craighead in person and win one of the Disney Tech shirts.

There was also another friend at the photo booth - You'll have to find my IG or LI page to see who!

(Hey I got a shirt! Didn't meet D'Yanna though. Such a busy place!)

PWC had a slew of ladies who pointed me in several right directions.

Glad they had so many options for network admins, from working with clients to back end support for PWC team members. You support them, and I'll support you.

Did I expect to see NPR here? No! But they were! I told them how much I enjoy listening to 1A.

The Cisco booths had a lot of cool activities. I got to use VR twice! To save rhinos and live in a smart city.

Did you know New Orleans apparently has an underlying Cisco network? Or they were a test city. But apparently, Las Vegas actually is making strides to bring a smart city!

I caught the last 20 minutes of Monica at Cisco's booth giving a talk about networking - Actual people networking, not infrastructure. We can do it everywhere!

"Embrace the other" Do you hear that, tech companies?

A lady at the Federal Reserve booth called out to me as if she knew me (She didn't and we laughed about it - I didn't want to have accidentally missed meeting someone I planned to!). Apparently, the Federal Reserve isn't directly part of the government, but supports the banking institutions of the country. Works for me.

I met Crystle at the EA booth. This is the first time I've met a LinkedIn connection IRL! Everyone at EA was really cool. How do you say that in Simlish?  I also liked the photo-upload feature they used with their tablets.

Also cool was Jeremy at Starbucks, where most of the infrastructure team is in Seattle. I hope they have a local special called Goodnight Seattle. They had stickers and - get this - PopSockets with the Starbucks Siren on it. I've always wanted one but usually put that 10$ toward Udemy courses instead, so this was nice!

Can't wait to see how the infrastructure holds up in the mobile only stores in one of the busiest cities of the world.

"You already spend 2 hours a trip here. What's another 6?" 

I also had a good time talking with Brian of Target. We were both excited for Triple Force Friday and spending too much money at the store 😂. Very excited about Target Circle coming out!

Way in the back, there were individual booths of ladies who had done research papers. Here's some snaps about how Claudia Rojas used Wireshark to sniff the packets from one of those infernal smart door bells and manipulated them;

Last, but not least, Kyruus , a 'Let's fix American health care' startup, had some representation near the back as well.

The Long, Truly Diverse Road

There were some tweets from black women at the conference - Alienated, saying that this conference pays lip service to diversity while keeping it to white women and east Asian women only (per the tech norm).

I'm here, but I'm not a programmer by trade. I was already walking into a place that 90% wasn't looking for me. But these ladies are, so their experiences aren't invalid. I met companies I'd only heard of like Kyuurus, and the companies I was interested in had a good mix of diversity, Including black women (there's a reason I did not give two thoughts to the Facebook or Google booths).

While I was glad to see they dropped sponsorship with Palantir over their work with ICE,  other companies that contribute to US imperialism were in attendance as well. There is no way to do truly ethical business, I know.

Hollywood Diversity is usually black men and white women. Tech, hailing itself as the great equalizer, needs to do more than only men and white and Asian women. Black (👋🏿) and Hispanic women are here, and we want to be included.

Here's a final picture from the Worker Movement panel that ties into the above;

Thank you, Cisco and Cloudflare, for being the 2 companies I came across that made their stickers transparent.

Bonus; since the convention is over, I can say this now. I got an invitation to meet the CEO of Square.Who is also the CEO of another company you may have heard of.

Hint: It's Twitter.

 I was too late to RSVP, but damn, it feels good to make such a strong impression on someone that they invite you to that.

So, that was my experience at Grace Hopper Celebration 2019 - Good for education, many of the companies visiting could be improved on truly being diverse.

A final friend to say goodbye;

EMPLOYERS: This blog is impressive enough to net free conference tickets. You should want that on your team.


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