Women make up only 29% of the science and engineering workforce, with only 10.7% focusing their careers in electrical or computer hardware engineering, according to the National Science Board’s “Science and Engineering Indicators 2016” report. Studying these statistics, it got me thinking… what was my first interaction with technology and programming?
One weekend my Brownie® (girl scouts 10 and under) troop leader and her family held a yard sale. I seized cash from my piggy bank and bolted next door. Rummaging through piles of toys, I couldn’t decide what to get. There were so many choices, and I didn’t want to waste my money. I darted from pile to pile, shelf to shelf, rack to rack, stumbling upon a box of magazines. Well, what have we here? Digging through the box I realized they were programming magazines. Dozens of programming magazines, right at my fingertips. On the cover of some, were pictures of computer games…
I started thumbing through the magazines, quickly realizing each magazine held several different program and game samples along with coding tips and tutorials. At the time, my family owned two games that I remember – “King’s Quest” and “Chess.” Chess wasn’t my thing and games were relatively expensive back then, so my options were limited. I could already beat King’s Quest (when I managed to survive the dreaded cliff), so the thought of a new game was intriguing, much less dozens of new games. My mind started to wander at the possibilities. Could I actually make games? Was it really that easy? I wasn’t quite sure, but I was determined to give it a go.
I realized at 10 cents each, I could get 10 magazines with my dollar. I perused each magazine very careful to make my final choices. I marched up to my troop leader’s husband, magazines in hand, and gave him my money. He looked at me quizzically, asking:
“Do you know what these are?”
“They show me how to make games.”
“Will you actually use them?” he questioned.
“Yes, I’m going home to start right now,” I stated matter-of-factly.
At that, he smiled and handed me my dollar back, “I want you to keep this and if you promise you will use them, I want you to take them all.” I didn’t feel right taking them for free, knowing he had paid for them, so I offered again. Still he insisted, “Just promise me you’ll use them, and I want to see some of your games.” I smiled, graciously accepted his gift, and ran home with my new obsession.
Once home with my hoard of magazines, I informed my dad that I was going to learn to program. Without missing a beat, he smiled, cleared off a floppy disk for me, and labeled it with my name. My mom cleared off a shelf by the computer for my new magazine collection. Then, the game was on… literally. I made game after game, devouring magazine after magazine. There were some setbacks early on as I learned. I couldn’t always get the games to run, and wasn’t able to find all the missing semi-colons myself. Sobbing ensued the first few times, my dad taking pity on me and helped to find the errors.
I eventually learned to debug programs myself, and perhaps more importantly to watch out for minutia while programming, so I wouldn’t have to error-hunt quite as often. Many more games followed. I even started making my own games, learning from every endless loop and unexpected malfunction. I then had dozens of games at my fingertips, for the price of a few floppy disks. I beamed with pride as my older brothers borrowed my floppy disks, playing games I had programmed.
Not only did they love the games and play them hours on end. But a girl created them. I created them. From there, I was hooked on computers, eventually becoming the Director of the Security Operations Center at Armor.
To learn about my journey in my career to information technology, read “The Benefits of Being Blonde.”