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Mason hosts Cloud Computing Conference

November 17, 2020   /   by John Hollis

Mason hosted the inaugural Cloud Computing Conference on Nov. 7. Photo provided.

Storing and protecting data has become more challenging as technology has grown, but cloud computing has provided a remedy to many of those concerns.

As the industry has grown exponentially, so, too, have the expectations of its understanding from students looking for full- or part-time jobs. The Society of Women Engineers chapter and George Mason University’s Institute for Digital InnovAtion (IDIA) co-hosted the first virtual Cloud Computing Conference on Nov. 7 to fill the knowledge gap.

Virginia Secretary of Education and Mason alumnus Atif Qarni, along with Aurali Dade, Mason’s interim vice president for research, innovation and economic impact, kicked off the event that brought together 350 participants from Mason, Northern Virginia Community College, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Virginia Tech, James Madison University and others to learn from industry experts.

Speakers from Microsoft, IBM, Northrop Grumman, Amazon Web Services, Booz Allen, Accenture, Salesforce and others were excited to share their knowledge with students.

“At George Mason, we have a commitment to inclusive excellence and we actively and strategically work to increase participation by underrepresented groups in our computing programs,” Dade said. “We believe that Mason has a special mix with our status as a computing powerhouse, coupled with the dedication to increasing inclusion. This conference is a perfect example of bringing those commitments to reality through the fabulous line up of technical conversations led by women.”

Kammy Sanghera, interim executive director for the IDIA, said that one of the objectives of the institute is to collaborate with a powerful and driven organization like the Society of Women Engineers to create conferences and resources to educate and positively impact students' future careers.

Maya Chatterjee, the president of the Mason chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, was pleased the conference amplified minority voices.

“My inspiration for this event was to provide an opportunity to empower curious individuals with tools and the knowledge to succeed in our ever-growing field of technology,” Chatterjee said. “We wanted to have an event where students could not just be introduced to the fundamentals of cloud computing, but to the top tech trends in the industry such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

Other workshops focused on the challenges and solutions for artificial intelligence to AWS Datalake and machine learning.

“As a software engineer myself, I have made use of cloud in multiple projects, but being able to connect and learn about cloud computing and its impact from professionals in the industry has been extremely helpful and informative,said Shruti Gupta, vice president of the Mason chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. "I am glad our team was able to have such wonderful women leaders to talk about their experiences in the industry.”

Her favorite session at the conference involved the creation of a successful mock company, “UnicornFlix,” that highlighted the process of turning an idea into a product and the role Cloud Computing plays.

The conference generated positive feedback from attendees and hope of more such events at Mason in the future.

“We (women) know we will always be in the minority in classes and in the industry,” Chatterjee said in her closing remarks, “but we ask you to take the extra step to promote an inclusive environment so that we all can learn from each other.”