Commentary & Perspective

GHCI: Experience of a Lifetime

Seema Mangaonkar from Veritas, shares her rewarding experience of being a Grace Hopper Celebration India (GHCI) Committee Member in 2015.

It’s been over three months now, since I attended the GHCI 2015 conference  in Bangalore. However, the energy and GHCI excitement continues to flow in my hands, heart, and head. I attended GHCI 2015 as a Committee Member and was working for the Soft-skills track since July  2015. I am proud to say that it was one of those remarkable phases in my professional life.

I have a Masters in Educational Technology with Computer Applications and serving the eLearning business since 2006. In my current role with Veritas, as a Senior Technical Education Consultant, I am developing technical education content for Information Availability products and leading project-related endeavors.

My affair with GHCI started in December 2014, when I attended the conference as a delegate. On first impression, it was supposed to be a three-day event providing knowledge and learning on technology, leadership and management. I knew it would be a different kind of experience since the conference was ‘by the women, for the women’. However, I never imagined that it will influence me and my overall thinking about my career. Like any Indian woman, I believe that at a certain stage as a mother, as a wife and as a daughter you will have to give priority to your family and you will eventually be stuck at some point in your career. GHCI proved that it is indeed possible to have a career and satisfactory personal life. It is entirely up to the individual.

In 2015, I started my new year with a resolution to contribute as a Committee Member for GHCI 2015 and stand tall as a woman in technology. I involved my manager in the discussion and got his approval on setting up my resolution as one of my performance goals. In March 2015, when I received the volunteer’s registration link by ABI India, I registered my name and acclaimed expertise for the defined tracks. In June 2015, I received the confirmation email from ABI for being selected as a Committee Member for the Soft-skills track. That was the first stepping stone. I received full support and encouragement from my manager to be a Committee Member for GHCI 2015.

I found the entire process of working as a Committee Member to be  well-thought-out, clear and communicated on a timely basis. I was encouraged to work with SMEs to submit proposals, attend weekly committee meetings and contribute actively in planning and execution of Soft-skills track. One of the enlightening experiences that I thoroughly enjoyed, was during August-October the period where Committee Members contribute in idea generation, proposal reviews and discuss best-fit sessions in set deadlines. The key is coordination and timely communication with other Committee Members and track Chairs. It helped me enhance my skills in cross-functional communications, prioritizing tasks, speed reading techniques and build a network with industry experts.  We used an online collaboration tool to exchange ideas and another for tracking proposals and feedback. You can get more details of my experience as a GHCI Committee Member from my presentation.

Overall I completed two GHCI submissions, reviewed 10+ proposals for the Soft-skills track and attended 15+ weekly committee meetings. Even in my company, I interacted with HR and Directors who were responsible for setting up the Veritas booth at the GHCI 2015 Student Career Fair. I came up with some interesting ideas for presenting Veritas at the booth and it was well-received by the leadership.

Finally, on the conference days, 2nd-4th December 2015, Taj Vivanta, Bangalore was vibrant and energetic in the presence of close to 2,300 tech women. There were ‘leaders to lead you to be a leader’ and there was a determined power driving the theme of the conference, #OurTimeToLead. It was an experience, beyond words!

I am grateful for this wonderful opportunity of being a part of GHCI 2015. I would encourage every girl and woman in computing to be a volunteer at GHCI and experience the journey at least once in their lifetime!