Grace Hopper Conference FAQs

This year I attended the Grace Hopper Conference in Houston for the first time. It provided amazing learning and networking experiences to say the least, but I’ll delve more into that in future posts when I break down my day-to-day experience at the GHC.

For now, here are some quick FAQs (and answers!) I learned while I was at this conference:

1. How much luggage space should I have for swag?

I left a third of my bag (which was basically a glorified backpack that wasn’t all that big) free, and I still had overflowing swag to boot. Lesson I learned: bring a carry-on roller bag, which is larger and easier to wheel around … or bring an extra bag. I read similar blog posts prior to attending the GHC and I thought they were joking; after all, how much stuff would I actually bring back with me? But, oh boy, there’s just so much stuff to be had! I had underestimated the number of companies that would be represented here, and they all want their brand out and about and visible. Plus there’s the added excitement of wanting to collect everything! Based on my experience – and the experiences of other attendees I spoke to – here’s the swag lifecycle for this three-day conference:

  • Day 1: I want anything and everything! Most people go around to as many booths as they can (take some time to talk to the people there, why don’t cha!) and collect stuff that they (ahem, we 😑) don’t really need or want. “Why yes, I’ll have another USB key, thank you” – even though all my documents have been stored in the cloud for years.
  • Day 2: I want some of the things that other people have, but I’m starting to grow conscious of the lack of space in my luggage. This story actually happened – a girl I met asked if she could give the Cardboard back to the recruiter who gave it to her and he said no, lol. After all, the companies don’t really want to bring the stuff back with them either.
  • Day 3: Time to get rid of some stuff. Moment of truth – deciding which stuff is actually worth keeping and which, sadly, need to be left behind. I heard that last year there was a box at the conference specifically for this reason, but I didn’t see anything like that this year. Some things, however, I was more than happy to keep, like a tiny travel nail kit and and and some of the better quality reusable bags.

2. Should I bring a refillable water bottle from home? (Since the website says to)

Of course, going the refillable route is way better for the environment than using all those plastic cups (though I think the ones at the GHC are compostable) over three days; I brought one for that reason. That being said, some companies were still traditional with their swag so I did see a few giving out reusable water bottles anyway if you don’t want to bring one all the way from home

3. Should I download the app?

I did. It was pretty slow and clunky, but it got the job done. (I saw people using the tiny conference booklets too, which serve the same purpose.) The app had the schedule, maps of the convention centre and hotel (since some sessions were held at the Hilton), shuttle schedule, etc. – an added bonus is that you can add stuff to the “My Schedule” section for a shortened schedule instead of mentally filtering through the whole list all the time. This, of course, is only useful if you have good Internet access. The convention centre had WiFi, but It wasn’t always reliable so I usually found myself using my phone’s data plan or planning the bulk of my schedule using my hotel’s WiFi the night before.

4. What should I wear?

Comfortable shoes and clothes, definitely. I saw a range of outfits, from casual to business casual. If you plan on interviewing with companies while you’re there, advice I’ve heard is to dress for the job you want. I work in SF so even if I was looking for a job I would still probably dress casually, lol – no sweats though, obviously. In the end, I saw most people wearing jeans or skirts and the free t-shirts they received. Oh, and bring layers! While it was hot outside (it is Houston after all), the convention centre was freezing after being indoors in the a/c for a few hours. Personally, I was fine with jeans, a t-shirt, and a shawl-like scarf to cover up.

5. Do I need to bring resumes and business cards?

Resumes are good to have on hand if you’re looking for a job, especially since some companies do interviews right then and there (mostly targeted towards interns and entry-level in my opinion). Business cards? Meh. I brought a few for networking, but using the LinkedIn app on my phone was way easier. In the end, I probably only gave away two cards. The first one was because the other woman didn’t have LinkedIn (it’s useful to set up a profile, by the way, if you don’t have one already) and the second one was for a raffle (I didn’t win 😟).

6. Do I need to bring my laptop?

It depends. For taking notes, I preferred to use my phone since it was easier for me to grab it from my pocket rather than haul out a 15″ Macbook from my already packed backpack. From what I observed, most people don’t need or use laptops during the GHC since it’s kinda the point to immerse yourself in the experience. (I did, however, need my laptop for a workshop I attended about building iOS extensions.)

That’s all for now. I hope these tips help anyone who’s attending the GHC for the first time (or other similar conferences).