A quick introductionPosted: March 24, 2010
Ada Lovelace Day is my inspiration for finally getting my Agile coaching blog up and running. Ada Lovelace Day is an annual day of international blogging celebrating the achievements of women in technology and science. It seems a serendipitous occasion to kick off what I hope will become my geek blogging habit.
I just learned from reading the Ada Lovelace Day FAQ that in addition to being the world’s first computer programmer, she was the daughter of Lord Byron — an early intersection of poetry and tech, although given the brevity of her parents’ relationship, who knows what influence her father had, if any, on her life.
First on my list of female geeks I admire has to be my mother, Judith Grove. Judy graduated from the University of Manitoba in the late 1950’s with a physics degree, and worked as a computer programmer/systems analyst through the 60’s. She and my dad met at a computer show in 1966. My dad sold mainframe hardware — his forte is people, not things that whirr, tick, or compute. When they married, her employer (a company I shall only refer to as BigBlue) fired her for marrying someone who worked for a competitor. One of my earliest memories is of going into work with her during a weekend because something had to get done; from the conversations we’ve had about the business, it seems that only the technology changes — the culture, not so much. She stopped working outside the home as a systems analyst when I was very young, but got back into desktop publishing in the early days of PCs, publishing volunteer newletters and later doing typesetting and design for customers of the printing business my folks had for a while. Her desktop publishing gig is part of the reason I ended up as a geek — the experience I gained working with her on that job was the basis for my unanticipated career switch from social work to software testing over a decade ago. And her example as a tech-savvy, opinionated, independent woman who was never afraid to speak her mind or try her hand at less traditional work (she also did a lot of plumbing, carpentry and rewiring in our home; my dad vacuumed) has been a hard act to follow.
For Ada Lovelace Day 2010, the other women I’d like to acknowledge are those who are actively out there in the Agile universe, sharing their wisdom and experiences through writing, presenting and communing at meetings big and small. Having spent 12 years on a dev team where the male/female ratio was 9:1, it’s really refreshing to walk into a room for a technical conversation and not be the only female present. Gender shouldn’t be a big deal in a professional workplace, but the reality is that it can be, especially in teams or companies where there are significant gender imbalances. I’ve seen some really egregious examples of male geek sexism, though thankfully I’ve experienced little of this firsthand (1 ). It also appears that openly talking about about women having different experiences from men in tech can still be a sensitive topic, yet many women and men in the Agile community aren’t shying away from having these conversations alongside all the other explorations of the work we do. Roughly 30%-40% of the attendees at AgileCoachCamp 2008 and AgileCoachCamp North Caroline 2010 were women, and I think this contributes greatly to the power and magic of these meetings.
Thank you, Ada Lovelace. Thank you, mom. And thank you, my Agile friends.
1) I suspect that towering over most of my coworkers helps in this regard, though for one former coworker it just made it easier for him to stare me in the chest rather than the eye