When you’re a graduate student, professional networking is an essential skill. And when you’re an international second-year master’s degree student who is ready to undertake a job hunt in America, professional networking opportunities are invaluable, especially when, to begin with, you just don’t know that many people in the United States.

The ability to network in technology professional circles nationally and internationally came to School of Information Studies (iSchool) graduate student Mingyu Zhong recently when she was selected for a scholarship to attend the Anita Borg Institute’s Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women In Computing Conference. The second-year information management student from southwestern China was one of 34 young women nationwide chosen for a scholarship to attend the annual event, which brings together the best minds in computing and increases visibility for the contributions of women to computing. Her conference attendance sponsor was Deutsche Bank.

Honoring Dr. Hopper

The conference is co-presented by the Anita Borg Institute and the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). It is named in honor of the late Rear Admiral Dr. Grace Murray Hopper, who rose to the challenges of programming the first computers. During her lifetime as a leader in the field of software development concepts, she contributed to the transition from primitive programming techniques to the use of sophisticated compilers. 

3 Days of Leading-Edge Topics

For three days, Mingyu enjoyed mind-expanding keynote talks by industry leaders. She also experienced informational sessions during the day, career fair meet-and-greets with employers, and networking opportunities with other attendees and industry professionals. While she is an aspiring data analyst, Mingyu found that many of the employers in attendance were interested in hiring people with skills as developers. Nevertheless, she was able to speak to them about the kind of companies they represented, the opportunities that existed there, and the kinds of jobs they offered.

She also enjoyed having an American roommate, and the ability to interact with many professional women, as well as building a number of academic and career connections with whom she is keeping in touch. The ability to take lessons from successful women in the IT industry was especially valuable, and perhaps for her, the most inspiring aspect of the conference, the grad student said.

Data Science Interest

Mingyu came to the iSchool for the Information Management program, and is also taking the Certificate of Advanced Study in Data Science. It’s a real change of direction from her undergraduate studies, where she majored in international economics and trade at Southwestern University of Economics and Finance in China. Now, she “really likes what I’ve chosen to study here,” Mingyu said, citing here database management, information systems analysis, and data science and data visualization coursework. She also greatly enjoys the environment she’s found at the iSchool and at Syracuse University. “I love Syracuse, and the people here” for their friendly nature, she added.

Inspiring Stories

Mingyu found the personal stories of the struggles of women who’ve come to have successful careers in technology quite inspiring. “Many of the speakers have children, and they talked about their stuggles in life, with all kinds of balancing that they had to do, but it was really inspiring. I know how hard they’ve worked, and finding out how they were able to succeed has encouraged me to work harder,” she noted. Already, however, Mingyu is in a leadership position herself; she serves as present of the School’s graduate chapter of Women in Technology.

One of the successful women Mingyu met at the conference made a deep impression was Kan Tang, a woman of Chinese origin who originally worked as a model in China, but decided to pursue a career in technology. Tang spoke to the young women in attendance about her early career struggles and later successes. While Tang has maintained a high-profile career, becoming the worldwide chief technologist for HP Software Professional Services Strategy & Solutions, she has combined that with successfully raising a family, she told conference attendees.

“To be a woman in tech, I think it’s hard, but there were lots of successful women at the conference, and I was able to meet lots of them. I think the message they wanted to tell us is we can all succeed, and building a community of women in technology to help each other and support each other, that’s really important,” Mingyu noted. Since she has aspirations to have both a technology career and a family, the stories she heard of women who were successful in both capacities were especially inspiring to her, she said. “I was inspired to hold on and move on,” she emphasized.