Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ada Lovelace

Apparently it's Ada Lovelace Day today.  I'd heard of Ada Lovelace, but the day was new to me, and it seems to be very new in general.  From what I've read, it was established last year to try and raise awareness of women in science and technical areas, and bloggers are encouraged to blog on this day about women in technology fields.  Almost 2000 people blogged last year on this day, and it's expected even more will do so this year.

Here's a brief blog I wrote for the SOE GIRL site:  Happy Ada Lovelace Day.

New Scientist (my favorite science magazine) marked the day with:  Celebrating Women in Science.

And, a friend and former guildmate of mine, Paul Fenwick, flattered me greatly by actually including me in the list on his own blog for Ada Lovelace Day.

I've been a woman in technology for most of my life I suppose, depending how you count it.  My dad is a physicist and engineer, so I was raised in a scientifically friendly environment and encouraged strongly to study the sciences.  I think he was very disappointed that I didn't show any interest in going into physics, but biology interested me far more, so off I went to the University of Toronto.

I had a couple of female professors in the biology department at UofT, although they were in the minority.  Verna Higgins was a good example to me as I finished up my degree, which ended up being a specialist Bachelor's of Science in Plant Pathology (the diseases of plants).  Studying plant pathology meant studying a lot of fungus, not a particularly glamorous life, but I did spend a couple of enjoyable summers working in the mycology labs growing plate after plate of Penicillium species.  It's interesting stuff.  Not really an area that women are rushing to get into; but then again, I'm not sure the men were particularly rushing in either.  Although women were in the minority, I wasn't the only female in my classes.

The B.Sc. was followed up by a Masters of Science at the University of East Anglia in England, mainly because they didn't have any job openings but they did have an unclaimed scholarship in my field.  But even with a M.Sc. now in hand I still had no prospects of a job.  I applied to numerous positions in science roles, but coincidentally, I happened to hear of a position in I.T. support at an entertainment company where a friend worked.  And eventually, I got that job in London.  At first it was just answering the helpdesk phones, but soon I was documenting instructions, helping to train new support technicians, and eventually programming databases also.  Once again, there were a couple of women in the department, but not very many.  There were several programmers working on the reporting and financial software, however, and they were very encouraging as I tried to learn more and expand my skills: Adelaide, Vanessa, and Natalie.

A promotion to be the email administrator for Latin America (and a relocation to Sao Paulo) followed, where I had the pleasure of hiring and working with our network administrator Cristiane Kadooka.  A native Brazilian, she worked incredibly hard to practice her English and was completely dedicated to everything related to our networks.  She is still with the company, and several promotions later, is now based in Miami.

Another promotion for me and I was the I.T. Manager for Australia & New Zealand, based in Sydney and responsible for our offices in Sydney, Auckland, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth.  Here, however, I was completely isolated from other women working in the same area as me.  The I.T. department consisted of just me and one (male) contractor for many years, and although the company itself was full of smart, competent women, this was still an entertainment company and their skills were mainly in marketing and promotions.  The only exception I can think of was Shainaz Tamrazians, a very smart and efficient lady with a background in economics, who inherited responsibility for much of the sales reporting.

Parting ways with that company after 9 years, I worked briefly as a database designer for a small company in North Sydney, in which the only other female being the receptionist.  I hadn't been there long before my current position beckoned, and I made the transition to game design and moved to San Diego.  Here I have had the pleasure of working with a number of very smart women in the industry.  Although there were at one point three female game designers and two assistant producers on the team, unfortunately three of those have moved on to other things (two still within the industry) so there are only the two of us permanent female content designers on the team now.  I'd love to see that ratio growing again.

Reading back over what I've written, I seem to be talking about myself an awful lot.  I didn't intend for this , post to be so much about myself, but it is meant to highlight some of the different areas of science and technology that I've seen personally, as well as some of the remarkable women I've met there.  There is no doubt in my mind that in pretty much any field of science or technology that you care to name there are women who are currently excelling in their field.  I look forward to the day though when there's no need to call them out separately.  I look forward to thinking of some of the "big names" in game design, and besides people like Sid Meier and Will Wright, the name of a woman will pop directly to mind also.  I look forward to when there will be no more need for these "most influential women in MMO development" type articles, just "most influential designers in MMO development" with a proportion of women in the list that's proportionate to women in the general population\.  There's no way I'd make it onto a list of "most influential designers in MMO development" right now.  But one day, I hope I do, and I very much hope I'm not the only one there with two X chromosomes.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing so much about your background. I've wanted to work in MMO development (as a PM or some sort of supporting role like that) since I first began working in Project Management & IT. It is inspiring to know a little about how you got involved in game development. Someday I'll be there too.