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CoreOS at Grace Hopper Celebration 2017: Here is what we learned

In September, I joined the CoreOS team on its first trip to the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC), organized in Orlando by AnitaB.org (formerly the Anita Borg Institute). At 18,000 attendees from 90+ countries, GHC is the world’s largest gathering of women in computing. The conference features tech talks, career guidance panels, networking events, various competitions, and a career fair.

GHC aims to connect, inspire, and guide women in computing. Because diversity and inclusion form the pillars of our core principles here at CoreOS, we were excited to be part of the celebration and learn from others to better inform and expand our own diversity initiatives.

CoreOS prioritizes diversity in a number of ways. The company has a diversity council focused on initiatives to define and build diversity inside and out, create a toolkit of best practices upon which to iterate, and host community events such as workshops to make us better allies to our peers.

In the past, CoreOS team members have attended networking events hosted by NCWIT (National Center for Women & Information Technology) and the Women in Open Source, Kubernetes Women, and Women Who Go organizations across the world. Our colleagues are encouraged to mentor others and bring inclusion to the forefront of the tech community. All these venues give us an opportunity to learn from one another and build our ally network. But there is always more to do, and in this post we wanted to reflect on this year's GHC event in particular and share our takeaways.

What it’s like to experience diversity in tech

Personally, I have always been passionate about improving diversity in the tech industry. As an engineer who has been in the industry for a little over four years, I have learned that being a woman of color in the technology industry is not easy. When I was given the opportunity to attend this event and represent CoreOS at GHC, I was thrilled.

We were a team of three women at the conference from CoreOS: two women engineers and our technical recruiter. At the CoreOS booth, we focused on recruiting from the sea of talented and highly qualified women we had the privilege to be around.

Photo of the CoreOS team from Grace Hopper Celebration 2017
The CoreOS team at Grace Hopper Celebration 2017 in Orlando.

Being in an environment where the minority becomes the majority was energizing. It was quite the contrast from the typical tech environments and career fairs I have been to in the past. We had very open and candid discussions with all the attendees we met. My colleague Erica von Buelow also participated in a panel about understanding security in open source, sharing her experiences and advice for others tackling similar engineering challenges.

My most important takeaways from GHC included:

  1. We all have career goals and should have equal opportunities to expand and explore these, no matter our gender, race, color, or creed. For women in tech, however, lack of role models and a sense of isolation are all too common. GHC's dedicated space helped foster a positive spirit of inclusion, as there was a comfort in sharing stories and goals with like-minded women, all together in the tech industry.
  2. Let’s keep it up. This event is not where it ends! There is still a lot we can do as an industry, but by starting with giving one another the environment, support and energy to prioritize diversity we are taking steps in the right direction.
  3. I was reminded that our engineering work really makes a difference. It was invigorating to have deep technical discussion and brainstorm on creative ideas with inspiring women who are working on cutting edge technology.
Photo of attendees of a dinner co-hosted by CoreOS at Grace Hopper Celebration 2017
CoreOS hosted a dinner with RIT's Women in Computing chapter on Friday night of the conference.

Making progress together

Being a part of GHC gave us an opportunity to meet unique individuals, learn more about the obstacles women in tech face, and figure out ways to tear down barriers. It helped us realize that CoreOS is not alone in the challenges all companies face in recruiting, retaining, and advancing women in technology.

The lack of female and minority representation in computer science is very real problem, and our main takeaway from Grace Hopper is an increased sense of responsibility to advocate for diversity. We hope to embrace inclusion as we continue to grow our teams.

If you are interested in sharing your story, or working in a safe group, join us in the systers email group shared from GHC or even the #K8s-women Slack channel if you are in the Kubernetes community. And if you are interested in joining CoreOS on this mission to secure the backend of the internet and work on the distributed systems modernizing the infrastructure of tomorrow, we are hiring!

About Rithu John: I am a software engineer at CoreOS who started my journey into the field of computer science in high school in Kuwait, completed my undergrad in India, did my masters in Los Angeles, and landed in the heart of the software industry, Silicon Valley. All through this worldwide journey, one thing remained consistent: the lack of women's representation in tech. Advocating for diversity and inclusion in the field of technology is something I am very passionate about and holds a special place in my heart.