S.W.A.T., UNF computing students storm Grace Hopper Conference

Emily Barrett, Reporter

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Imagine being a UNF student walking into a conference hall with 25,000 men and women, with over 300 companies all having the same interests as you.

That’s what 10 women from the UNF School of Computing and S.W.A.T. (Society of Women in Advancing Technology) did on Oct. 1 through Oct. 4, 2019, when they attended the Grace Hopper Celebration.

The Grace Hopper Celebration is the largest conference for women in computing in the world and is hosted in Orlando, Florida at the Orange County Convention Center. The conference is designed to bring the research and career interests of women in technology to the center of attention.

According to S.W.A.T Vice President Katarina Capalbo, the conference had amazing rooms and displays. They had separate rooms for the career fair that they hosted, which allowed not only college students to look at prospecting companies and hopefully get a job offer, but women in computing from all age ranges. The conference included an interview hall as well as a keynote speech room. They also had smaller rooms for panels and sessions to talk about special topics and interests in computing such as, how to build your own plant water sensor to see when your plant needs to be watered. The convention also offered free food from multiple vendors, and many of the women were huddled up near the food on their laptops discussing computing. The discussions consisted of women studying for their upcoming interviews as well as speed mentoring by senior level software engineers and industry level professionals that were there at the conference.

“When I first got there I felt so inspired, the ratio of men to women at the school of computing is so small and seeing all of the women at the conference is insane,” said Capalbo.

Out of the 10 UNF women who attended the conference, a minimum of six got interviews; two seniors ended up getting job offers, as well as two underclassmen. They are still receiving offers, as well as looking over the offers they received.

“The experience was overwhelming, exhilarating and exciting because I was around 25,000 women in technology. I was so moved by the speeches and sessions, I teared up more than once,” said Capalbo.  

Capalbo first had an interest in the conference in 2016 when she was still in high school. When she arrived at UNF, she mentioned it to Elise Marshall, the lead advisor of the school of computing. One year later, Marshall remembered Capalbo’s interest in the conference and had the idea to take S.W.A.T. there. They then started planning their trip to the conference in July of 2019 and received  funding from Student Government and local business around Jacksonville.

S.W.A.T. is all about encouraging and supporting women in technology, in S.T.E.M., and professional and academic growth through workshops and meetings with companies. They are open to everyone, not just women and they meet twice every month in building 15 on UNF’s campus.

S.W.A.T. is planning on attending the conference again next year with a larger group. So, if one is interested in computing and wanting to get an internship or job or just explore the computing world, this is the convention for them.

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