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My university sent out the GHC 2016 emails recently. I have always wanted to go, because every year I see every single one of my female CS friends go there. The vast majority of them are sponsored by their companies, so they don't really have anything to present. My question is, is attending GHC in such a situation of any use at all? I have always felt that you get more respect in a conference and also more contacts (because of people wanting to talk to you) when you actually contribute something to it as opposed to being a passive observer. But I am not sure.

My second question, as the title says, I am a first year PhD student, so I don't really have any one big project I'm working on, just small projects I've been doing to get a feel for my field. So I can't present anything worthwhile. As a student, is there a way to go to GHC as only an observer (not presenter)? I mean, in case I conclude that simply attending will be useful too, I'd like to give it a shot, but can't find anything like on their website.

Thanks!

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A lot of technology conferences are a step away from the world of academia, based in a commercial culture with attendees from the world of software development. It's a highly rewarding experience, to present at a conference, but it's always a highly valuable experience to go, listen and socialise. There is nothing wrong with attending without presenting. – AJFaraday Feb 29 at 15:47
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I suspect the answer to this question varies greatly depending on who is offering to pay your way to the conference. Paying out of pocket is hugely different from being funded to go. – jmite Feb 29 at 19:24
up vote 26 down vote accepted

GHC is less of a research conference and more of a networking and educational event. They had over 12,000 attendees last year but only ~700 presenters, so clearly most people do not present anything.

I've known several people to go (Masters and PhD students) and none of them have presented. They all loved it and at least one got a job out of it.

You'll get to listen to some great talks, attend workship-like events, interview with many companies, and meet a lot of other students. It seems like a great experience so you should definitely consider it.

The scholarship applications just recently opened, which would cover your costs of traveling and attending the event.

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I signed up just so I could say: YES. Go to Grace Hopper. As a woman in tech it has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The chance just to feel represented -- to talk to random women and have them be knowledgeable about all sorts of aspects of programming -- it is something you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the world.

(I see the rules say to avoid "Making statements based on opinion". This is clearly based on my opinion... sorry :) )

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That you had a great experience is not an opinion, it's very much fact, so that's fine. My only suggestion would be to give more concrete explanations of how it was good for you, especially in a way that would apply to a 1st-year PhD student. Yes it was incredible and unmatched and you had the time of your life, but what did it do for your career? Even if what it did was just get you excited enough to do better things, that's at least something concrete that should be made explicit. – Chris White Feb 29 at 18:44

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