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Grace Hopper was an American computer scientist and US rear admiral with a Ph.D., in Mathematics from Yale University. To honor her work, the Grace Hopper Celebration brings together women in technology from around the world to build connections, expand knowledge and develop careers. Since it launched in 1994, the Grace Hopper Celebration has seen phenomenal success — with 26,000 attendees at the 2019 conference in Orlando. This year’s virtual Grace Hopper Celebration takes place on September 26, September 29 – October 3.
I sat down with Caitlan Spronk, Software Engineer at Genesys, for her insight and key takeaways from the 2019 Grace Hopper Celebration.
What was your biggest takeaway from Grace Hopper 2019?
Caitlan Spronk: It was amazing to see the sheer number of diverse women in tech gathered in once place. I think that can be summarized with the simple but powerful statement: “You’re not alone.”
Why did you attend Grace Hopper and how does this conference stand out from others?
Caitlan: It’s the biggest women in tech conference in the world. One of our interns had gone a previous year with her school and said it was a can’t miss event.
What got you interested in technology and/or working for a software company?
Caitlan: I’ve been interested in web development since I went to a summer camp in junior high. We made web pages with Netscape Navigator (Yes, this was a while ago!). I love the fact that developing web applications pairs complex problem solving with creativity. There aren’t a ton of web applications that need to perform at the same level as the Genesys Cloud™ platform does, so it’s a really cool platform to work on. As a UI developer, I love that I get to think about not only “how can we handle the logic for this data and real-time-update-heavy view in a way that maintains the web browser’s performance,” but also “how do we make this look good and feel effortless to users.”
There’s a lot of room for professional growth at Genesys. Tell us about your experiences.
Caitlan: I’m very fortunate that Genesys is not a “stay-in-your-lane” company. While I was a grad student in rhetoric and composition, I started here as a technical writing intern before being hired full time as a technical writer. At that point, I’d been teaching myself to code and doing web design side projects for quite a few years. But I didn’t have experience working on any projects that had the scale and professionalism of Genesys Cloud. I saw working on documentation for it as a great opportunity to learn about the nuts and bolts of cloud software and team software development, in general. I was already working with the product and with developers on a daily basis. I was always looking for ways to learn more about the technical aspects of how Genesys Cloud worked, because it was fascinating to me and it helped me write better documentation.
I told my boss, Jeff Beard, that my ultimate goal was to be a developer and he found an amazing technical mentor for me, Maisey Harris. I was eventually hired as a full-time software engineer on Maisey’s team, and I’ve been doing that for about two-and-a-half years now. Being a developer for Genesys Cloud really is a dream come true for me; it wouldn’t have been possible if numerous people in the organization hadn’t been willing to think outside the box and see potential in me.
What advice do you have for anyone attending the Grace Hopper Celebration virtually this year?
Caitlan: Go to as many sessions as you can. Try to jot down ideas, inspiration for new projects and how you feel. That will allow you to hopefully carry the momentum you get from the conference further as the memories fade.
Investing in the Future
Grace Hopper famously said, “The most dangerous phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way’.”
As a sponsor of the Grace Hopper Celebration, Genesys is investing in finding new ways to do things. We invest in developing the technical talent of women within the company so they can build their skillsets and accelerate their careers. And we know that attendees of the Grace Hopper Celebration will bring back new and different ideas for doing things. We’re looking at this year’s attendees to change the way we’ve always done it.
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