Natalie Tarn '22 - Grace Hopper Conference (Fall 2020)

Grace Hopper Conference

I just attended my first Grace Hopper Conference, and I’ve never felt more inspired to continue in the computer science field. But truth be told, I haven’t always felt this way. Last year, when I was rushing Catalyst, Duke’s technology community, I couldn’t help but compare my own classes and intellect to the accomplished males who were also rushing. I couldn’t help but feel small in my computer science classes.

So hearing a female engineer’s at first uncertain, then successful transition from being a new-grad into full-time engineer at Workday was empowering. Hearing another female engineer’s struggles in full-stack development followed by her amazing work in robotics at Cigna was moving. It reminded me that even though I might struggle, that I deserve to be in the technology field as much as anyone else, and that I can and will be successful in the technology space.

Having been previously been empowered by other women in Catalyst and again at Grace Hopper, I’ve become committed to inclusivity and aspire to do what they have done for me. To do so, I peer tutor for Data Structures and Algorithms. My students are mostly female and minorities, and I’ve created a safe space for them to ask any questions. I continuously encourage my students to ask conceptual questions about their code and understand what the algorithm does itself, not just go through the motions.

One of the ending keynote speakers, Dr. Vivienne Ming said something that really resonated with me: “If you want an amazing life, give it to someone else.” And that’s what I want to do. Others have made the technology space inclusive for me. In turn, I want to make sure that the technology space is inclusive for everybody, perpetuating this cycle until we reach the diverse communities needed in technology.