GirlGeek of the Week
My parents always encouraged me to get an education
and prepare for a career. It was alright if I wanted to raise a
family. But if I HAD to work, they wanted me to have the ability
to support my family and myself. The only jobs available to women
without special skills were hard work for low pay. In an era where
girls were to graduate high school, marry, and raise kids, this
was radical thinking.
In high school I realized I was good at math. The summers of '67
and '68, I was fortunate to get into a National Science Foundation
computer math program at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering
at the University of Pa. That is where they built the Eniac. It
was a great course touching on set theory, assembly language, FORTRAN,
PL1, list processors, automata theory, symbolic logic and much more.
I enjoyed the math but I decided I hated computers. But it had laid
the groundwork. When I had computer classes in college, I ate them
up like tasty snacks.
Armed with a BS in Mathematics from Juniata College, I became a
programmer. I have worked on a numerical model of the Penn Central
Railroad. This was to identify the profitable lines. I spent thirteen
years creating systems to monitor coal-fired power plants and doing
some direct digital control of the plants. The computers we used
at that time had 64K of core (we now call that memory) and 20 MB
of hard disk. We also used paper tape, punched cards, and mag tape.
Recompiling a program was a sysgen that was performed overnight
on a mainframe. Therefore, we correct errors by writing patches
in hexadecimal. We had FUN! Then I went into laboratory automation.
Now I am involved in two way paging with Skytel.
When did you first discover your love and/or
obsession with computers and technology?
There were three events that shaped my career.
1 - When I was growing up, the jobs in the newspaper were listed
as "jobs for men" and "jobs for women." The interesting jobs and
the ones that paid any money were in the jobs for men section. So
I had to find one where being a female would not be a REAL disadvantage.
In high school, I was interested in sports, math, and music. I was
not allowed to compete with boys in sports and I knew I could not
compete in music. But I excelled in math and science. My sophomore
year I took an extra math class. There were 3 junior girls, 15-20
junior guys, and me in the class. That's when I realized that in
math I could compete with guys AND WIN.
2 - My senior year in college when I was looking for a job as a
mathematician, I realized I worked in math classes and played in
my computer classes. I thought "Why not get paid for playing?"
3 - I had pushed very hard to get into management. I had worked
my way up to project management. About 75% of my time was devoted
to management duties and only 25% was actual technical work. It
was an assembly language shop. I was one of the few people with
heavy FORTRAN experience in addition to assembly. Twice within a
week someone asked me to write a little test program in FORTRAN
to test a specific feature (each task was only 5 to 10 minutes).
I realized that when I was coding these simple programs I was singing
or whistling. I didn't do that when scheduling projects or writing
reports. I realized the only reason I wanted to go into management
was for my ego. I wanted to be THE woman who made it into management.
Programming was fun. If I was going to work for a long time I might
as well have fun. I changed my career to stay technical.
How do you earn a living?
For more than a quarter of a century I have been a professional
programmer (although I am now called a Senior Software Engineer).
When I started, programmers got involved with specifications and
requirements, design, implementation, debugging, testing, documentation,
customer training, maintenance, and any other task that needed to
be done. The term programmer still feels like an old slipper to
Do you consider yourself a Geek?
No, I don't for two reasons. First, "Geek" is like most buzz words.
Everyone has a slightly different definition. However, most of the
time PCs and the Internet are related to the discussion. PCs and
the Internet are very small parts of my professional and personal
Also, I have always been fortunate enough to work in development
groups that have been populated by very intelligent, educated, creative,
and motivated people. Constantly surrounded by people like this,
I feel normal and average.
What is your favorite Web site?
This summer while writing a paper on ATMs for
a Network class, I really enjoyed www.atmforum.com.
Just before Christmas, GirlGeeks introduced me to www.fatbrain.com
where I bought a great book on artificial intelligence. www.gamelan.com
has been helpful for learning Java. I also enjoy browsing www.MotherNature.com.
What do you do when you are not working?
For the last 3+ years I have been working on a Masters Degree
in Computer Science and have not had much time for anything else.
All that is left to do is my project, which is on Artificial Intelligence.
I have been interested in this for years and I am having fun with
the project. I love logic puzzles and logic games. (Guess what I
like about programming).
I also knit. I especially enjoy designing sweaters. I've learned
to tie flies for fly-fishing. I want to become as comfortable with
fly tying as I am with knitting because I want to use the techniques
to make jewelry.
I love playing with my dogs. My husband and I travel as often as
we can to state and national parks. We enjoy poking around outdoors
and bird watching.