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GirlGeek of the Week
December 1999

Doris EngstromSarah Farrel

Growing up I never knew what I "wanted to be." As a freshman at the University of Connecticut I declared Biology as my major only because of my love of animals. I switched schools twice more and declared Psychology as my major in the beginning of my junior year. During this time my older sister gave me her old computer, a 10 MB DOS something or other that couldn't even run Windows 3.x. I was able to email her and muck around in the MUDs. This was at the time when the WWW was just born and most people said "Inter-what?"

Soon I bought a new computer, a PowerMac. Because of the fun I had with my computers and a positive conversation I had with a female Computer Science professor at my school, I decided to change my major to Computer Science. I knew I was good at BASIC and at Calculus, but I was still unsure that Computer Science was for me. Then I took a Visual Basic course, bought a Windows95 machine, and I fell in love. I knew then that I had finally found "it" -- something I really enjoyed doing. Shortly after I finished the Visual Basic course, that same professor hooked me up with my first computer Visual Basic programming job. It's been programming of one type or another ever since then.

When did you first discover your love and/or obsession with computers and technology?

In addition to what I've already mentioned above, I'd like to say that it took a long time for me to finally get the idea that computers were something that I was good at. If I didn't have a sister who was setting an example for me and supporting the idea, I think it would have taken even longer. I just didn't picture myself in the field because, before the Internet came along, I pictured computer engineers as men who were locked up in a tiny white lab room, with florescent lights and dinners, making back up tapes. Thank God I was wrong. Too bad that was the impression I had because no one had encouraged or told me differently in high school.

How do you earn a living?

Up until this month I was working full time as a Perl programmer using Oracle as a back end and a browser for the front end. I created dynamic and customized web pages targeted at my company's client's customers, capturing important marketing information in the process. Right now I've taken a break from this to finish up my last semester towards my B.S. degree in Computer Science. I've been on the grueling "ten year plan" because I've been taking night classes part time. I also was just invited to join Alpha Sigma Lambda in recognition of my part time status and high GPA. I'm really looking forward to graduation and on that note, I'm available for contract work if anyone is interested (shameless plug, I know)

Do you consider yourself a Geek?

I really don't think I look like your stereotypical geek, but when I catch myself using computer lingo, like "deleted" and "edited" in everyday life conversations outside of work, I have to laugh because I really have become a geek. It's a good thing, it's in style now.

What is your favorite Website?

I don't have a favorite Website. In fact, I rarely visit a site more than a few times with the exception of a search engine because I just don't have the time to surf lately.

What do you do when you are not working?

I like to play around with photography. I like to "paint" on the computer in Painter and Photoshop. I like billiards, although I haven't played in a while now. I'd rollerblade more often if I fell down less. I think when I have the time, after graduation, I'd like to be a positive example for other young women by volunteering to talk or teach at local high schools and maybe participate in a program of "adopting" a high school student at work for a day. I have run into very few women programmers and I'd like to do something about that in my own small way. What my sister did for me was in a sense say, "I did it, you can do it." And now I'd like to say that to other young women. "I did it. You can do it."


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