Today is Ada Lovelace Day. Who was Ada? From Wikipedia:
She is today appreciated as the “first programmer” since she was writing programs—that is, manipulating symbols according to rules—for a machine that Babbage had not yet built. She also foresaw the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching while others, including Babbage himself, focused only on these capabilities.
And yes, the computer programming language “Ada” was named in her honor.
So what is Ada Lovelace Day? In general terms, it’s a day to acknowledge and encourage women in technology. This is sort of the same mission as IEEE’s Women in Engineering group, or the “Introduce a Girl to Engineering” program. More specifically, many people are taking a Pledge to honor specific women in technology through blog posts and twitter.
So which women have been most influential in my career? Long ago and far away, there was Paula Berger. In 1984, she was running a successful contract agency back in Massachusetts, and gave me my first job as a technical writing intern. She later went on to run a series of technical communication conferences, consult with companies all over the world, and serve as president of the Society for Technical Communications. She’s currently Director of the Near Field Communication (NFC) Forum, a non-profit industry association that promotes the use of NFC short-range wireless interaction in consumer electronics, mobile devices and PCs. I’m proud to say she’s a friend of mine!
Eventually, I ran into the classic quandary of balancing working vs. raising my children, and decided that I wanted to do BOTH. My mentor and friend during this time was Karen Delprete. Karen was one of the very first sales and sales support people for Wang Computers (remember them?) back in the mid-80s, and blazed a trail in a male-dominated industry for me and others to follow. She’s now with EMC in Boston (and my children and hers are almost grown up!)
More recently, I’ve been had the honor of working with so many intelligent, capable, and inspirational women that it’s impossible to pick out just one or two. This is why I love what I do. This is why I hope to be doing it for many years to come.