Monday, March 23, 2009

For Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. The following is my contribution.

There have been a few way points on my journey to becoming a woman in technology. I started in Physics, took a detour through management and training, stopped for a while in HCI/Interaction Design/Usability Research, and am now visiting my latest roadside attraction, Information Retrieval. At each point in the journey, there have been more and more great female role models to look to, but most were remote figures - famous women like Grace Hopper, Anita Borg, and Fran Allen. They of course are very inspiring, but the biggest impact on me came from my first tech company position, where I worked for Lee McIntyre.

Lee set a great example for us coop students. She passionately advocated for the software users our team was designing for as well as the members of our team. She has a PhD and demonstrated how getting advanced degrees doesn't necessarily hold you back from pursuing a career in industry - in fact, she encouraged me to pursue my goal of a Master's degree even though it meant delaying my entry into the workforce and leaving the field of HCI.

Most importantly, Lee understood the value of diversity - on her team and in general. Even though I didn't have the most common background in design of other applicants - a degree from an Interactive Arts program - she included me in her team, which also boasted architects, artists, and a former engineer, in addition to those from traditional design backgrounds. We had a great team that saw many approaches and solutions to solving problems, and we made stronger, better decisions because of that.

Lee has honors and patents galore, but it was her actions as my manager that made the biggest impact on me. In fact we still chat from time to time and she always has interesting advice and tips. With more and more women like her around, I am truly excited to be pursuing a career in this field and looking forward to future destinations!

No comments: