GHC News: My First Grace Hopper Celebration
by Nikki Roda
My name is Nikki Roda and I am a new inductee into the Systerhood having joined this summer. I’m currently an MSI student at the University of Michigan’s School of Information studying Human Computer Interaction and Information Analysis and Retrieval. I’m most interested in making information useful for everyone else who isn’t a data-obsessed nerd like myself. Whether I’m designing a web page, building databases, interpreting the results of a usability study, or making a data visualization, I present the information in a manner that is accessible and helpful to the average user.
My path to Information Science, however, has been a little circuitous. I graduated with a BA in Economics from Barnard College in 2005 and worked at the New York Federal Reserve for four years after graduating. After leaving the Fed, I spent two years in India working with various non-profits on monitoring and evaluation systems and became very interested in how third-sector organizations measure their social impact. I could see that there was a need in the third sector for creative data analysis and that need is what drove me to start my MSI degree. And I haven’t wasted my time: within my first year I founded the A2 DataDive, an event inspired by the work of DataKind, that pairs local non-profits that have data issues or questions with enthusiastic data scientists and students who volunteer a weekend to helping provide answers. Our inaugural event in February 2012 went so well that the School of Information has begun to coordinate with us, the student organizers, to make it an annual event and potentially give students university credit for their participation.
The Grace Hopper Celebration has been on my radar for a number of years now, and I’m excited to say that this year is the first time I’ll actually have the opportunity to take part. I feel extremely fortunate to have been awarded a scholarship to attend the conference from the Anita Borg Institute. I was on pins and needles waiting for the decision but was over the moon when I found out I would be attending the conference this year. I’m so thankful for the support I’ve received from the community of women involved in the STEM fields and am very excited to have an opportunity to thank everyone in person at the celebration!
I have high expectations for the learning opportunities that I’ll find at GHC because of all the wonderful things my colleagues have told me about it. In particular, there are three main goals I hope to accomplish at this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration: develop mentoring relationships, build fellowship with likeminded females, and learn about new trends in the technology fields. My current research interest is related to helping non-profits better collect, analyze, and visualize their qualitative and quantitative data. I’m therefore very much looking forward to the talks by Nora Denzel on big data, Lili Cheng on new possibilities with social features, and Hilary Mason on using data to learn about the world in real time, among the other interesting speakers who I hope to learn from during the conference. Similarly, as I have learned countless times from my personal experience, mentorship can be a principal component of one’s career advancement. Mentors, not only help us to explore new opportunities, but they can also offer sage advice about making the most of one’s career as well as balancing life and work. I feel very fortunate that my mentor from my summer internship, Nadyne Richmond, is planning to attend and speak at this year’s celebration. Beyond the speakers, I’m excited about this wonderful opportunity to build connections with peers—young women who are making the transition into a career or are entering into academia. Like my cohort at the University of Michigan, these are the friends who I hope I will be able to turn to for support in my work and who I likewise hope will be excited to ask me for help in return.
Given all the expectations I have for this event, I can’t think of a more valuable and, frankly, inspiring opportunity than the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.
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