Yelp @ Grace Hopper - Orlando Edition!
Rachel Zhao, Engineering Manager
- Nov 3, 2017
Yelp returned to Grace Hopper Celebration once more, this time in Orlando! Let’s take a look at what GHC2017 is all about from the insights of our attendees.
Neha H.: Android engineer @ Search User Experience team
Grace J.: Recruiting manager @ University Recruiting team
Tiffany K.: Product manager @ Contributions team
Lauren C: Product designer @ Messaging team
Xun T.: Software engineer @ Ad Creative team, first time speaker at GHC this year.
Favorite sessions during GHC
Tiffany: Women Who Build The Product Management Journey. I really
appreciated hearing from women leaders who have been successful in the
product role. They gave some great advice on how growth often happens
when you take on opportunities that make you uncomfortable and how
important it is to have a manager that believes in you.
Keynote by Dr. Fei-Fei Li. Being a foreign national, Dr. Fei-Fei Li struggled her way to the top by breaking many stereotypes. She rekindled the image recognition field by adopting machine learning and AI in revolutionary ways. In addition to her exceptional scientific achievements in the field of AI, she is also a mother and a good teacher. Hearing her story has truly inspired me and empowered me to rediscover myself.
So you want to be an
entrepreneur? Dr. Laura Mather, CEO and Founder of
Talent Sonar, shared an example of how she gave the same pitch to
multiple VCs in a single day. The pitches didn’t always go well but she
would stay focused on the task at hand, despite incremental setbacks and
move on to the next VC. My takeaway from this was that there may be
setbacks in life and in your career, possibly one after another, but
that should never slow you down.
Success. This group of panelists talked about
asking the right questions and developing relationships with your
managers and mentors early on at a company. They suggested making them
strategic career partners so that you can …. One of the presenters
also talked about finding a sponsor, who will vouch for you to other
seniors and executives and give you actionable feedback to help grow
Lauren: My favorite session was HCI: Anthropology, Accessibility, and
User Confidence. I spent the early stage of my career feeling a bit like
an odd duck on the team as a designer with a foundation in Anthropology.
It was really inspiring to hear Emily Grace from Capital One talk about
anthropology as it is, the study of people and how the foundations of
anthropology make her a better researcher. She discussed her journey
from field researcher, forensic anthropologist to working on a
cutting-edge UX Research team at Capital One.
Most memorable moment @ GHC
Grace: My favorite part about GHC is seeing so many students and professionals come together with the same desire and goal to improve opportunities for women in tech. There is a sense of camaraderie across all companies and organizations in attendance that I find unique to Grace Hopper. I particularly appreciate that companies share best practices for recruiting and new tools or workflows that they’re trying out to make the candidate recruiting experience better. I also enjoy getting to know and work closely with so many of our own amazing female engineers and allies during Grace Hopper! It’s really rewarding to hear our engineers share what they love about working at Yelp with students and professionals.
Neha: I was completely in awe at keynote on first day, listening to so many powerful women personalities and being surrounded by 18,000 women in tech. In my over ten years of working in the industry, I have usually seen only one or two women engineers on a team so this was a new experience for me.
Lauren: The realization that this was the first time in my life that I
was completely surrounded by thousands of women in technology.
Takeaways to apply at work
Xun: Dr. Ya Xu, Principal Staff Engineer & Statistician at LinkedIn,
gave a talk in which she questioned the typical A/B testing ramp-up process where we gradually increase traffic to the new
treatment (1%, 5%, 20%, etc.). Instead, she proposed ramping traffic
quickly to Maximum Power Ramp (MPR) as soon as the risk is determined
small. MPR is calculated as the ramp that gives the most statistical
power to detect differences.
At Yelp we run A/B testing on almost everything we launch. We’ve
designed guidelines on documentation and how to properly run an A/B
testing experiment. It’s refreshing to hear how other experts in the
industry speed up the A/B testing process while maintaining accuracy of
Grace: Grace Hopper attendees are often interested in hearing about the
work environment at your company. They want to hear stories and
anecdotes about what it’s like to be a female in specific organizations.
In these conversations, it’s important to share what you like best about
working at your company. People want to hear why you do things, not what
you do. I’ve learned this over many recruiting seasons and have seen it
to be really effective at Grace Hopper. I hope to share more of our Yelp
values and stories of our employees as I continue to talk with
Neha: In Career Success Presentation, three engineers gave talks about
how to develop a professional relationship with your manager / mentor /
other people in the company to build allies. They talked about how a new
hire should understand manager and business priorities. They also talked
about how to effectively communicate to earn recognition. I feel this
advice is very useful for fresh graduates starting their careers, who
don’t really get this coaching in their schools and learn this on their
Lauren: I loved the discussions on accessibility in tech. This is so
important and it’s on us as gatekeepers for the technological world to
make sure we are inclusive of everyone trying to access our platforms.
I’m currently talking with a couple of coworkers on creating an
accessibility workshop at our workplace to educate coworkers on the
reality of these disabilities and the current experience it provides for
our users facing this issue.
Pro tips for future speakers
Xun: Be prepared for technical challenges at the event venue. For
example, the venue where GHC was hosted this year adopts a special
internal system where everything to be projected to the audience has to
be included on the slides (pptx format). It was not possible to switch
to the browser, to the editor, or to the command line to run live demo.
Hence we enriched the slides with screenshots of each step and detailed
instructions. WIFI connectivity at the scene could be unpredictable as
well. Since we were running a workshop, we prepared USB drives with the
installations and dataset to pass around in case of poor internet
connection. The USB drives have become quite handy and helped the
audience set up the environment quickly.
Almost 200 people attended our workshop. We labeled the workshop as
“beginner/ intermediate” level, which could be a wide range for a
workshop under “data science” track. The diversity of the group amazed
me. We got folks who don’t program regularly to folks who predicted the
content on our next slide. I’d definitely recommend running the workshop
before GHC with a smaller (but hopefully as diversified) audience. If
possible, structure the workshop so that it can be scaled to large
groups of people by focusing on individual practices and small group
discussions. It could be also beneficial to include some complimentary
materials via printed booklets or a Github link.
Pro tips for future attendees
Neha: Popular sessions get filled up very quickly (hundreds of people
lining up ahead of time). I highly recommend doing some homework to
identify the talks / presentations you want to attend and get there an
hour early to secure a spot.
Another tip is if you upload your resume on the GHC website, you will
get invites to all the after hours events by various companies. For
students and people who are looking for a change in their career, this
could be great way to make new connections and reach out to recruiters
or engineers in addition to talking to them at the career expo (which is
Grace: Keep your resume to one page and wash your hands often so you
don’t get sick from shaking so many hands ;)
Lauren: Plan Those Sessions! Honestly, there is so much going on and
it’s really hard to figure it out on the fly with so much grabbing your
attention even when simply walking down the aisles of the main room. I’m
really glad I made an effort the first night to pick what the must-sees
and would-likes were in case I needed to be available at the booth or
found myself in a captivating conversation.
Women @ Yelp Engineering
This is Yelp’s 5th year attending GHC and this year is particularly special as we were recently named one of AnitaB.org’s Top Companies for Women Technologists. A large impact has been made through forming AWE (Awesome Women in Engineering) chapters across all engineering offices and having an Executive Sponsor (Sam Eaton). Through AWE, we’ve been able to host programming (both professional development and social) for members, trainings for allies and managers, outreach and partnerships with many organizations and recruiting efforts. Check out our website if you want to learn more about how Yelp supports women to grow in the engineering department!