Thursday, January 8, 2009

Who will I choose for my Ada Lovelace Day blog

From amongst all the unsung heroines: entrepreneurs, innovators, sysadmins, programmers, designers, games developers, hardware experts, tech journalists, tech consultants . . .
Who do I want to write about? Someone who's already made their mark? Somebody that represents what I feel/think about technology?

I've been a woman in technology all my adult life. Sometimes I've been the only woman present in a bunch of geeks. Sometimes I've been the only geek present in a bunch of women.

So I jumped at the chance of helping to document the existence of women in technology when Suw put out the pledge for Ada Lovelace Day. I thought it would be easy - just select one of the great women that I have studied or worked with over my time in computing.

I wanted her to be an Australian. So I started to contemplate who I could write about. My first thought was Jenny Edwards, one of the 4 women in third year maths at Sydney Uni in 1967. It was Jenny who introduced me to Computing as a reality and not something in science fiction because she was already studying it. Jenny went on to have a distinguished academic career with plenty of notable involvement in the industry but I was looking for something else.

Then I thought of Judy Kay, now a Professor of Computer Science at the School of Information Technologies (formerly Basser Department of Computer Science) at the University of Sydney. Who was helpful to me when I returned to study there briefly in the 80s and who has specialised in the edge between people and machines. But I wasn't going to be able to do much better than her own description of herself.

By now I knew that I was looking for je ne sais quoi so I stepped sideways and looked for famous Australian women in IT. This led to Kate Behan who helped establish the Australian Computer Society as what it is topay. Then to Lindsay Cattermole who made a great commercial success with Aspect Computing and followed this with extensive roles in the business of IT in Australia.

But something was missing. I wanted to feel the geekness I wanted to write about someone that I wish I had had as my friend. I found myself sifting my Google searches and landed on a Linux page and there I discovered a nice nest of geeky women. I’d forgotten about my time with the Sydney LinuxChix - this was where I might find the person I was looking for.

I spotted Mary Gardiner who was giving a talk on "Starting Your Free Software Adventure" at the AussiChix conference and had in her biography: “Mary Gardiner learned DOS 2.0 when it was already old-fashioned and has never quite got over the commandline. She was therefore a natural candidate to bang her head against Linux on the desktop in 1999 and has never looked back and only looked sideways a little. She's been involved in LinuxChix since 2000 and the Australian Linux community since 2001. She codes and documents and in her spare time occasionally spends time on her PhD work in computational linguistics.”

I loved it, here was someone who codes in her spare time! And what’s more she is completing her PhD at the Uni right next door to my office so I could meet and talk. Woohoo . . . off I went and you can read about our meeting in my next blog!

1 comment:

julieg said...

And today doing more research for my real blog I found this list of ten Australian Geek women
Eve Scott nee Hicks
Betty Laby
Kay Thorne nee Sullivan
Alison Doig
Diana Ryall
Ann Moffatt
Rye Senjen
Rosie Cross
Spiderlily Redgold
Sandra Lynn
Joan Cooper
Ms Megabyte/Yvonne Adele
Dale Spender
Sheryle Moon
Sonja Bernhardt
Silvia Pfieffer
Alice Boxhall
Doreen Awabdy
Donna Benjamin
Cathryn Lak
Jane Treadwell
Kate Lundy
Jenny Seberry
Sokar Phillpot
Narelle Clarke
Pia Waugh