By Zach Driver | October 14, 2019
Kayla Kasprak stood in front of a packed room of more than 650 people during the 2019 Grace Hopper Celebration presenting on a topic close to her heart, but little did she know that it would be a small meeting over nachos and wings that would mean the most to students from the College of Engineering and Computing.
Kasprak graduated from South Carolina in 2017 with her bachelor’s in computer science. As an undergrad, she traveled to Grace Hopper twice. This year, she came back with her current employer, Comcast NBCUniversal, to give two talks and host a tech meetup for women in mobile development.
As the largest gathering of women in tech in the world, the annual conference hosts over 25,000 females and brings together some of the biggest names in the industry. Students and professionals spend the week learning together and meeting people that will help shape their careers.
“My favorite part about getting to come back as an alumna of UofSC is getting to meet with former and current UofSC students,” said Kasprak. “There are also folks that I went to school with, who are now here and who work in different parts of the country with different companies. We all get to come together, so it feels a little like a reunion.”
After her presentations on creating a more inclusive code review culture, she and fellow CEC alumna Maribeth Bottorff walked over to a restaurant near the convention center to sit with more than 20 students from South Carolina and listen to their questions about getting in and moving up through the tech world.
“The conference and networking event were encouraging and beneficial for participants at all levels of their studies and career,” said Csilla Farkas, professor and associate dean for diversity, engagement, and inclusion. “It was great reconnecting with our former students and to hear their experiences.”
Not only did the students learn from Kasprak, but she says she now plans to return to her company with fresh ideas on improving code review culture.
“That’s what is nice about getting a diverse set of experiences that are different from your own,” she said. “I certainly learned a lot from the everyone I talked to.”
Farkas said the college is dedicated to increasing diversity and sending more students to the conference. They use funding from the BRAID Initiative and other internal departments to raise more than $30,000 annually for the costs of the trip.
“You could feel the energy in the air as you entered the convention center, and the college’s participation rate has steadily increased over the last several years,” she said.
While some people think of tech and engineering as a male dominated field, Kasprak thinks events like Grace Hopper are breaking down barriers for women and have given her the opportunity to thrive.
“You meet people here that you continue to talk to long after the conference,” said Kasprak. “I could not do what I do every day if it wasn’t for the people here at Grace Hopper.”