Janet George, SanDisk chief data scientist, said it best at the 2015 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC): “Technology is great. It won’t change the world. People will.”

For three days this October, the most ambitious women in tech gathered at the world’s largest technical conference for women in computing to inspire, support, and engage one another to ignite change. Among these 12,000 women technologists were students and alumnae of the Information Networking Institute (INI), representing Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) for the ninth year at the GHC.

We embrace this year’s GHC theme because it is indeed ‘our time to lead’ to a future where every person, no matter their gender, ethnicity, or background, can thrive in the field.

Dena Haritos Tsamitis , Director, Information Networking Institute, Carnegie Mellon University

INI has been a strong supporter of the annual conference since 2006 as a silver-level sponsor and, in 2012, became a gold-level academic sponsor. Each year, the INI selects at least six INI students to attend through Women@INI scholarships. Alumnae are also present as representatives for the likes of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard, and Cisco.

Admiral Grace Hopper once said, “the most dangerous phrase in the English language is ‘it’s always been done this way.’” In an effort to shake up the traditionally male-dominated engineering field, Dena Haritos Tsamitis has spearheaded a number of initiatives as director of the INI. “Attending and sponsoring Grace Hopper for the past nine years is just one example of the INI’s long-standing commitment to increasing diversity in the field of engineering,” said Tsamitis. “We embrace this year’s GHC theme because it is indeed ‘our time to lead’ to a future where every person, no matter their gender, ethnicity, or background, can thrive in the field.”

At this year’s conference, INI students mingled with pioneering women in tech, including Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer; Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer; and Manuela M. Veloso, one of Carnegie Mellon’s own. Dr. Veloso, who is the Herbert A. Simon University Professor of Computer Science, accepted the INI’s invitation to visit the CMU booth and meet with GHC attendees, as well as join the evening networking mixer. Her presence, alongside a number of successful INI alumnae, was a testament to the strength of Carnegie Mellon’s science and technology programming.

Several INI students met extraordinary female role models at the conference and some even walked away with job offers, but all left with the knowledge that they play an important part in changing the world.

“After GHC, you come back as a totally different person,” concluded INI student Arushi Grover. “A woman more confident, a woman more tolerant, a woman who now knows how to take on the world.”