There are a few things I look forward to each October: Halloween and pumpkin beer are among my favorites. But this year, the one thing I’m most excited about is happening this week, and as luck would have it, it’s in my hometown.

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is one of the biggest events in the world dedicated to women technologists. Aptly named after legendary computer scientist Grace Hopper and sponsored by the Anita Borg Institute and the Association for Computing Machinery, the conference takes up all four floors of the Phoenix Convention Center in Arizona.

It’s like South by Southwest—but for women in technology who would rather listen to technical talks by some of the industry’s leading computer scientists and researchers than spend a day attending 20 parties sponsored by startups.

This is my first Grace Hopper Celebration. After working with the Anita Borg Institute and Harvey Mudd College on a series about women in computer science, I decided this conference was one I absolutely could not miss.

I’ll be spending three days at the conference, which is broken up into a variety of different tracks. Day one focuses on future careers; day two is all about emerging technologies like the Internet of Things and human computing interaction; and day three offers sessions on wearables, software engineering, and privacy and security.

It sounds like a lot. So I’ve planned ahead to make sure I’ll be attending panels I think our readers will be most interested in, including tuning in to keynotes featuring Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Nest’s Yoky Matsuoka, and the director of DARPA, Arati Prabhakar.

Wednesday is open source day, and companies like GitHub are hosting how-to sessions for technologists interested in contributing to open source. Though the first day isn’t just for discussing best open source practices, but also how to make companies and workplaces more open and welcoming.

There is a trend in technology to release numbers that illustrate diversity data in the workplace, and the numbers at big tech companies all skew white and male. To improve these statistics, companies are dedicated to bringing more women and minorities into the technical workforce, and drop the brogrammer, sexist stereotypes that permeate tech culture. On Wednesday night, a talk called “Male Allies Plenary Panel” will take a look at different ways male leadership at companies like Google and Facebook advocate for women in the workplace.

Thursday kicks off with a conversation between Nadella and the president of Harvey Mudd College, Maria Klawe. (I’ll also be interviewing Klawe to discuss how universities are working to get more female and minority students in computer science.)

Machine learning and human interaction will be a hot topic throughout the day, and I’ll find out from Matsuoka what it will be like for humans to live in the connected homes of the future with devices that talk to one another, and how smartening our products will provide opportunities for life-saving technology.

On Friday, I’ll be attending a wearable fashion show, and I’m hoping to find some cute new technologies to add to our Pretty Geeky series for women who are looking for some fashion in a piece of technology strapped to their wrist. Bonnie Ross, studio head of 343 Industries and manager of the Halo franchise, will describe how technology has changed the way we show, and tell, stories in entertainment.

There’s so much more I won’t be able to check out while I’m there—there’s no way one person could take in all the conference has to offer. Still, it’s going to be a great opportunity.

Not only do I get to hang out with some old friends while in Phoenix, I get to make new ones at the biggest and best women-in-tech conference in the world. I hope you’ll follow along with me when I’m there.

Lead photo by the Anita Borg Institute

selena larson