I was in my late twenties when I went back to college. I had studied Psychology and Biophysics previously but this time I decided to study Computer Science for a couple of different reasons, 1) because I didn’t have to take calculus again, 2) because I knew I liked programming and 3) because I knew that if I wanted to be innovative in any field I was going to have to learn how to wield a computer like a sword.
At the time I was working full-time as a Pulmonary Technologist (somebody who helps figure out if your lungs are OK), raising 2 kids and taking 1 to 2 classes a term. I struggled a bit to get my footing at first but pulled out with a B and then an A. Then I enrolled in a Programming Languages class with Dr. Doud. The class size was smaller, about 15 to 20 students, of which I was the only woman. When Dr. Doud saw me he proclaimed, “I see we have a woman in here. I wonder how long it will be before she quits.” I really don’t remember how the other guys responded, whether they were embarrassed or even if they thought it was funny. But I do remember what happened inside of me. Something switched on; I was actually challenged! I hit my textbooks and projects with such intencity that I ended up with the highest grade in the class. And Dr. Doud ended up being one of my favorite professors and with his encouragement I graduated from the program with a 3.41 GPA. Go figure.
Yes, being female in this high-tech culture has its challenges. I know that a clear, crisp fall morning makes me feel like singing. I know that a sobbing child makes my heart sick. I know that watching “A Hundred First Dates” makes me cry every time. And I know that I am totally dismayed when people (women and men) come face to face with an organization that just doesn’t get who they are or what they have to offer and get shut down even before they have a chance to do what they do best. Jim Highsmith said, “At the core, I believe Agile Methodologists are really about “mushy” stuff… about delivering good products to customers by operating in an environment that does more than talk about “people as our most important asset” but actually “acts” as if people were the most important, and lose the word “asset”.”
Dr. Doud was initially wrong about me. He thought, and so many others think, that a tender heart doesn’t belong in software development. But since the industry has wasted multiple years and millions of dollars in failed projects (for various reasons); it’s has now become prime time for “mushy” stuff.
It’s time for software development to catch up with me 🙂