I should probably start off by saying that my trip to Charlotte, NC this year was one of the greatest weekends I’ve ever had, if I can even call it a weekend.
Although I was initially apprehensive due to the massive amount of work my teachers all promised to give me on my return to class (one of the perks of taking 5 AP classes, if I do say so myself), I was also pretty excited in the days leading up to the flight. I’d read a little about the other winners, and this group sounded like the most impressive 35 young women in the nation. Of course, the fact that we had been chosen of out of thousands of entrants to receive this award was probably one of the factors, but I was nonetheless excited to meet the others.
The Flight to Charlotte
The flight to Charlotte was fairly uneventful. I was lucky enough to live in NYC, where our flights are only a few hours (compared to a few of the girls from the Bay Area, who had to wake up at 5am to catch their flights in order to make it in time for the evening events!)
After in CLT (the Charlotte Douglas International Airport) my father and I were greeted by a friendly driver who brought us and two other girls and parents to the Ritz Carlton, the hotel we’d be staying at for the weekend. Again, I’m not even sure if I can call this a weekend since it began on Friday and ended on Saturday (I had to leave early, so I couldn’t stay for Sunday morning breakfast, but more on that later.)
We checked into our rooms and met Meredith, a Bank of America executive, who handed us some paperwork to fill out and our gift bags. We soon found out that our rooms had electric mirrors and a great view of the city, before getting ready for the city tour.
And what a tour! Although I was expecting a much more small-town vibe, Charlotte exceeded my expectations. The streets were busy with life, along with signs of financial boom all around the city - from Bank of America to Wells Fargo, it was clear from the start that there was a lot of banking going on in town. We also got to check out The Green and some landmarks - the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Bank of America Museum, and a few pieces of art around the city.
Starting Off the Evening
After the tour, we went back to the hotel for our first meet and greet. While the award winners completed a scavenger hunt/bingo game, the adults learned a bit about NCWIT in case they hadn’t known much about the organization before. We ended the night with a pool party before returning to our rooms to prepare for the next day.
Saturday started early - after a light (but deliciously prepared) breakfast, we had an MBTI session with Phil Holmes, who revealed quite a bit about each of our personalities through interactive activities. This was followed by a few breakout sessions. We split into two groups to hear workshops about Big Data, Data Science, and Cybersecurity from some of the employees of Bank of America.
One of the most interesting things I learned from these sessions - apart from how diverse the specialties of the other girls were - was how huge the impact of mundane information can be even in the more confidential industries of banking. The ability for user information to predict trends and success/failures in the business world is paramount, so the integration of both data science and cybersecurity was evident from the presentations, and from the personal anecdotes of the employees.
After the workshops, we had lunch on the 59th floor of the Bank of America Center. I wish I could’ve taken photos (the view was incredible) but the City of Charlotte has a law prohibiting photos from higher elevations. At any rate, meeting some of the Bank of America employees who volunteered to help out the NCWIT awards and getting to know the other girls was a lot of fun - and once again, the food was also prepared incredibly well!
Digital Wallets and Telepresence
We had a few more sessions after lunch. From digital wallet demos to a telepresence and credit workshop, we navigated through a few more floors of the Bank of America Center before returning as a group for the ideation session. To be honest, I wasn’t aware of how widespread Apple Pay and Samsung Pay were as technology - from the magnetic strip to the NFC, while I had heard of and used the technologies in past projects, I hadn’t thought about how much it has been hitting the markets for consumers. Evidently, there is a lot of room for innovative uses for these digital wallets. As for the telepresence, the feeling of seeing some of the other girls in another room on a screen speaking in real time was eerie at first, but there’s definitely a lot that this idea can be used for in the professional world, as well.
The leader for the session asked us to come up with ideas to save a failing bookstore from having to shut down. From ideas including incorporating social media and Uber to more down-to-earth ideas including changing the selections and offering online services, the session was quite entertaining.
The next thing on our agenda was a professional photo shoot, before dressing up for the evening’s awards. I decided to take my photo right away, so that I would have a little time to finish up my homework before the evening’s agenda.
That night, donning a casual blue dress, I went downstairs to meet the others. We took a few photos in front of the NCWIT backdrop before the doors opened to a lavish room. The other girls, parents, and I walked down the red carpet into the decorated ballroom. We had fun taking photos with the famous Red Chair, our parents, and each other before the dinner started.
After a few opening words by the executives in charge of NCWIT and the Aspirations in Computing Awards, we started our dinner. Each girl was called one-by-one up to the stage after being read her biography and fun facts about her. I had to leave soon after the award ceremony in order to catch a flight back home to make NYCSEF the next day, but I had an incredible time nonetheless.
We had a few goodies after the awards, along with the after-party (so many photos were taken) before finally settling down in the airport.
I napped for most of the way home, exhausted by incredibly excited for the possibilities of the future. We had ended the evening hearing about some of the incredible things alums of the program had done - from winning international science accolades to starting successful startups and founding nationally run non-profit organizations (the coolest thing was seeing quite a few of my friends on the screens) there’s really no end to the possibilities.
I really look forward to hearing what the other girls will do in the coming months (and years!) and I wish all award winners the best of luck! I’m already looking forward to the Bloomberg Affiliate Awards later this month.