Last year I attended my first ever Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) conference in Houston. I'd been at Amazon a year, and was so excited to join hundreds of my fellow Amazonians at one of the largest women's technology gatherings in the country. I've worked in IT for 20 years, and have never felt so much energy as I did at GHC.

There were 12,000 attendees and hundreds of speakers – for an engineer like me, I felt like a kid in a candy store with the smorgasbord of topics to choose from and interesting women to meet. Personal inspiration came from presentations, such as ‘Bringing Your Whole Self to Work’, mentoring talks and hearing stories of growth from successful entrepreneurs and incredible women like Sheryl Sandberg, Nora Denzel and Megan Smith, CTO of the United States.

It was a life-changing experience for me.

The conference came at an important time in my life. I celebrated my 40th birthday while in Houston. That milestone, combined with the motivational GHC presentations and the support of Amazon, where employees are empowered to think big, drove me to make a list of action items.

There were big and small items on this list, personal and professional – all of which I’ve accomplished in the last year. Career goals I made and executed include: finding a mentor (I now have two), switching job roles (I moved into a Data Engineer position in April), and learning a new technology (now working with Redshift and other AWS products). Fortunately, Amazon was supportive and I now love my job even more.

I also committed to a long time personal goal of writing a novel based on a recurring childhood dream. Although I started it prior to attending Grace Hopper, life kept derailing my progress. What I realized as I listened to the life stories of accomplished and powerful women at GHC, was that I let things get in the way of my goals. We can accomplish incredible things, if only we make them a priority. I left Houston last year determined to finish my novel and I am happy to say that I have! I plan to publish it in the near future (as we say at Amazon – stay tuned).

We all have many ambitions, but without the right encouragement and focus they may not come to fruition. Amazon and GHC inspired me to new heights, which makes me even more excited to represent Amazon as a speaker at Grace Hopper 2016. I hope that my presentation, “Rock Your Career: Core Skills for Increased Effectiveness,” will motivate others to achieve their own dreams, grow their careers and accomplish things they never thought possible.