Ada Lovelace Day Pledge

Following Suw Charman-Anderson’s post on the subject some months ago, I committed to writing a post about a woman I admire in technology, and to publishing that post today, March 24 2009. So here goes.

I never realised how hard it would be. Hard because there are so many women I admire in technology: I landed up with a shortlist of over 25.

But that didn’t seem reasonable. So I worked on whittling it down. And it was hard. Really hard.

I wanted to write about my wife, whom I admire greatly. We’ll be married 25 years this September. I wouldn’t have amounted to anything without her. I still won’t amount to anything without her. But I guess it would be stretching a point to claim she’s in technology just because she’s married to me and she puts up with me. Thank you Shane.

So then I thought about my first job. My first break came from a woman, Wendy Marlow, who hired me into Burroughs Corporation three decades ago. She was an ex-journalist like me, in fact I wouldn’t have dreamt of applying to a computer firm except for the fact that Wendy went and placed an ad in what was the UK Press Gazette. She encouraged me to dream big dreams, and backed me when I needed the backing. Thank you Wendy.

And my first boss there, my first boss ever, was a woman, Liz Jackson, who worked for Wendy. Between Wendy and Liz they somehow managed to manage me, mentor me, bend me, shape me. I still have immense fondness and admiration for them, because again I wouldn’t have amounted to much without their help. Liz had the harder job of having to deal with me on a day-to-day basis, to coach me and to correct me. Which was hard. [But probably not as hard as having to put up with my playing Board Cricket with her husband Warrick, who’d invented this amazing board-based ultra-realistic cricket game. So amazing that it took as long to play as a real-life Test…. ] Thank you Liz.

My biggest mentor in tech is also a woman, Esther Dyson. Release 1.0 was pretty much a bible for me, and PC Forum was an annual retreat, and for me neither would really have existed without Esther. She didn’t just influence the way I think, she also made sure that I “always made new mistakes”. Thank you Esther.

Then there’s the person who encouraged me to start writing this blog, Julie Meyer. [In fact The Kernel for This Blog was written for an event Julie was putting on]. Julie introduced me to Niklas Zennstrom when he was on the verge of launching Skype, and there were some fascinating conversations with him and her. She also introduced me to the works of Carlota Perez, whose seminal Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital continues to influence me to this day. Julie also got me into thinking about microcredit at a time no one else was, and mobile payments before they became common currency. A key influence and a good friend. Thank you Julie.

So as you can see I’ve been really blessed. My wife. The person who gave me my first job. My first boss. My biggest tech influence and mentor. A big supporter and encourager.

And then there’s all of you, so many women I admire and respect and am proud to count amongst my friends. You know who you are. Your name is Legion, for you are many.

And this is my way of saying thank you to all of you. And to Ada Lovelace. And Suw for giving me this opportunity.

5 thoughts on “Ada Lovelace Day Pledge”

  1. JP:

    What a great post!

    I wrote about two Indian women in tech, one of whom was an informal mentor and guide to me in my early days in the IT industry. But in general, Indian women in science and tech are not a visible community (notwithstanding programmers working on code in large numbers). Growing up and then as an engineer, all my templates were male which was ok because it didn’t stop me carving a path in the industry but it would have been nicer to have had more women around.

    Relatedly I think you will like the recently published book ‘Lilavati’s Daughters’ which chronicles Indian women in science and technology. I am waiting for my copy via a friend.

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