As a twelve year old girl, I came across the Space Invaders video arcade game and was mesmerized by the relentless thump-thump of the advancing aliens, the satisfying sound effects, and the addictive simplicity of the game play. Soon thereafter, I convinced my parents to buy my first computer, an Atari 400 with its awkward membrane keypad, and became entranced by the potential of building my own interactive experiences. I set out to teach myself the BASIC programming language and learned how to make pixels move around the screen. While I never developed a full-fledged video game, before I finished high school I went on to write a grading application for teachers at school, build a voice command interface demo at the local Army post, and teach at a computer summer camp.
After completing a Computer Science degree at Stanford University, I went on to work as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. I found myself coding up algorithms and routines for this or that function within much bigger projects. The analytical puzzles kept me challenged, but it was less than fully satisfying. As part of a bigger team, I missed designing how the product would work, interacting with real users, and weighing which features were most important. I became drawn to management positions that would give me this broader purview, solving real problems and designing complete solutions. It is this tangible aspect of real world problem solving that I believe is key to engaging more girls and women (as well as boys and men) in technology -- make the work tangible and relevant.
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