Ada Lovelace day – Molly Holzschlag, Kathy Hassinger and my mum

Today I’ve been really enjoying all the stories posted for Ada Lovelace day, a day where we’re encouraged to blog about remarkable women in IT. I thought it was a nice idea when my friend emailed me about it so I thought I’d pitch in and write about three geek women who inspire me.

Web development hero – Molly Holzschlag

I’m a web developer. It was the internet that got me interested in computers beyond being a game machine. It was web development (and Creatures) that really made me want to be a programmer. I’ve been doing this for over ten years now and one woman who’s been a real hero of mine in the web development community is Molly Holzschlag.

Molly has been part of the campaign to make the web a more open and interoperable place. She has written books, taught classes and given Bill Gates shit about the IE team going off the radar. She has helped educate developers and been part of making web developers care about web standards, something that seemed like an impossible dream back in the late nineties browser wars. Now even Microsoft brags about improvements to standards compatibility in their latest browser. Because of the work that she’s been part of, the web doesn’t belong to hyperglobal megacorp or the government (or Google – yet). It still belongs to us, anyone who hooks a box onto the network and spends some time communing with a text editor.

A personal favourite geek girl – Kathy Hassinger

Kathy’s friend of mine who is a technical writer. Until recently she was working with developers to document software for scientists. How cool is that?

I wish I could write as engagingly and as amusingly as Kathy. Go read her Ada Lovelace post. She managed to capture the essence of what’s important about the whole subject of women in IT with a story about Colonel Samantha Carter from StarGate and the one observation that she’s a powerful role model because the people on her team don’t treat her any differently because she’s a woman.

Geekdom needs people who can communicate and make people think about things as much as we need people who build things. Code isn’t enough by itself to make a product great, you also need to be able to connect with the people who use it, get them to trust you and then help them kick arse with it.

Kathy’s not just a great writer. She’s a sweet, funny and vibrant person as well. She’s passing her geek heritage on to the next generation through her neice (who she dotes on, encourages and regularly takes to the local science centre). She’s one of those people who has always got something interesting to say about any topic. She is also unashamedly and openly a geek, something that inspires me to not try to hide who I am when I meet people who might not understand.

Someone who made it possible for me – my Mum

My mum’s an English language geek rather than a computer geek but it was her influence that made it possible for me to become a programmer. In our house there was never the idea that my sister and I had to be a certain way because we were girls. We were encouraged to read and to be imaginative and to build things. We played with lego as well as dolls, climbed trees, dug holes, made cubby houses. We were wrote stories and had a big box full of stuff to make things from. We were taught to question things (which drove my parents a little mad as we got older) and to think for ourselves. I was real lucky to get geek parents. :)

My mum loves to learn things and has three masters degrees in English. I can remember being about five or six and going with her to the University of Queensland when she was dropping in an assignment. I remember seeing the beautiful lawns and the huge sandstone buildings and telling myself that I was going to go there one day. I still had that image in my head when I was slogging through year 12. The story I told myself of the place created just so people could try new ideas and learn things was what made all that hard work seem worthwhile.

The biggest thing that I got from my mum that’s helped me be a programmer is my writing. Being able to communicate clearly and effectively is such a huge advantage to getting your ideas heard. Good ideas can’t change things if you can’t share them with other people.

Posted on 24 Mar 09 by Helen Emerson (last updated on 04 Sep 11).
Filed under Programming