In honor of Ada Lovelace

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Joining folks celebrating Ada Lovelace Day, by writing about one of many women in technology whom I admire.

When I met Carolyn in Moscow in 1992, she was not yet a woman “in technology.” She was editing translations of Russian journals into English for a strange little enterprise, one of several hundred groups named “Intersomething.” I worked there too, briefly, one of an uncountable number of odd jobs I had in those early years in Moscow. Carolyn eventually migrated to working for a law firm, translating documents from Russian to English. For a while she and I worked together translating a business newsletter, while I hosted an English-language radio news show. Then somehow she started doing some “computer stuff” for them, mostly because no one else wanted to. Or because whoever was supposed to do it wasn’t getting things done that she needed so she did them herself. Soon enough she was their IT person.

Then she moved back to California and got a job in a youngish company (what do you call a startup that’s been started up for a few years? An upstart?) that did conference calling systems. To be honest, I never exactly understood what she did, and I only saw her a couple times a year, but after a while I began to notice when I introduced her to friends that she told them she was a developer. And when I mentioned that I wanted to start a blog she offered to host the domain for me. I realized that while I hadn’t been paying attention, my thoroughly humanities-oriented friend had become a full-fledged geek. Just like that. Then a little while back she mentioned she had gotten involved in running an online social network called Tribe.net. She and my fiancĂ© have conversations about servers that make my head spin.

What makes Carolyn so cool? It’s not that she’s the most brilliant geek I know (she’s not) it’s that she joined this mysterious, predominantly male tribe with such seeming ease. She proved to me that you don’t have to be male, born after 1980, obsessed with computer games, socially awkward or in any other of a number of stereotyped ways to the manner born in order to be a happy and successful technology professional and enthusiast. No angst required. It seems interesting? There’s an opportunity? You find you’re good at it? Then do it.

I’m writing this late in the evening after all-day meetings with a group of about a dozen folks who work on computer projects. Would like to say it was surprising that the only other woman there does their graphic design, but of course it wasn’t. But knowing Carolyn helps me believe that it won’t always be this way.

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