Women in Technology

Warning: rant forthcoming.

I don’t get the women in technology problem. Oh, I understand and see the problem. I also understand and see the problem is primarily with men. I just don’t get why there is a problem. 

Maybe the reason I don’t get the problem with women being our peers goes all the way back to first grade. In my first grade class, there were four of us always competing for top marks: Barbara, Olivia, Sasha, and me. It didn’t matter what the subject was, we fought hard for the best grades. Based on that small sample size one could wonder why men were qualified to be in technology. Thankfully, no one thinks this way. 

Fast forward to high school. My junior and senior years were spent at the SC Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics (SCGSSM). At that school, roughly half of the students are male. The other half are female. And let me tell you that intellectually, male or female, they are flat out awesome. I have two bachelor’s degrees: physics and mathematics. Some people treat degrees, especially technical degrees as a sign of intelligence. If that were the case, then I’m among the dumbest kids to graduate from my high school. So many of my classmates have doctorates. Note I didn’t specify “male” classmates. It’s not the proper adjective. 

After high school I went off to what was then an all-male military college, The Citadel. It wasn’t because I wanted to get away from women or thought they were less capable. I wanted a military college because I was seriously considering a 20-year career as an officer. I wanted a multi-service military college because I knew that was the direction the military was going. And I wanted to be close to home because my mom was having some serious health issues. At The Citadel I interacted with some outstanding female professors like Dr. Jane Bishop (history) and Dr. Mei Chen (mathematics). With regards to IT specifically, I was blown away by Dr. Margaret Francel (computer science). I’ve met very few males who can keep up with her intellect.

I also spent a lot of my college time havening. On the havens I met very knowledgeable peers who were female. Folks like Eliste, pooh, and Tenelia, to name a few among many, knew their way around *nix and NeXT systems.   After college, Eliste went into IT and she was good at it but she has moved on to other challenges. Tenelia knows her geology and tracks earthquakes. And the one that I still talk to nearly everyday (when she isn’t trying to trounce me in Words With Friends), pooh, is still one of my go to people if I have a development question. That’s why my experience at The Citadel reinforced my view from SCGSSM: it isn’t about gender.

Therefore, I don’t get why some males have an issue with females being their peers. If a woman can code, she’s an asset to my team. If she can troubleshoot a routing issue, she’s one more competent coworker to share the load. If she can figure out why the database server suddenly starts choking on some bad queries, that means I can focus on something else. A slow day in IT is like that mythical unicorn – it doesn’t exist. There’s more work than there are workers. If you don’t see more work than you can possibly accomplish, then I don’t question her skills, I question yours. 

Consolidating Email Accounts

I am consolidating my professional email accounts into one place. If you’ve previously contacted me using my linchpinpeople.com or either of my sqlpass.org email accounts, please use this instead:

kbriankelley

{at}

acm

{dot}

org

I have been slow to respond at times to the other accounts, because I don’t check them as regularly. Therefore, it only makes sense to consolidate back to one account.

 

#TSQL2sday #59 – My Heroes

TSQL2sDay150x150Here is my list of heroes for #TSQL2sday. None of them are directly tied to technology, much less SQL Server. However, all of them have made a deep impact on my life. I am where I am today because of these nine.

1. James Tiberius Kirk

I start my list with a fictional character because he was my first hero. As a three and four year-old I watched Star Trek re-runs every day. I followed the exploits of the USS Enterprise and saw Kirk and crew take on challenge after challenge. Kirk was the one who started me on a love of all things technical.

2. Penny Lake

My family moved to Japan when I was in 4th grade. My 4th grade teacher was Ms. Penny Lake and she saw me and my mom through some hard times. One of the things she did was have me tested, which pushed me into 5th grade halfway through the year. Before the testing, though, she was already handing me the 5th grade math textbook and sending me off to the 9th grade Spanish I class. Her efforts weren’t just limited to me. In her class we learned how to cook, how to run a successful business (lemonade and hot chocolate stand at the school), and a whole host of important life skills that don’t fall under the three R’s.

3. Wesley Felix/Nathaniel Drake

I had these men back-to-back. They were my band directors for 8th grade and 9th grade. I learned most of my lessons on professionalism from these two men. They knew their craft. They cared about their students. They knew the impact the band had on the school’s reception in the community. Between “Felix” and “Drake” you knew the standard was high, they’d get you there, and you’d love the result.

4. Dr. Clyde Smith

He’s my honorary father. Home life situations meant Dr. Smith became more than a physics instructor to me. He became the guy I went to for advice. He was the one who I was most afraid of disappointing. Likewise, he was the man whose praise I cherished the most. His faith for Jesus Christ, especially in the realm of science, was one that I eventually followed in my own life path. Now he’s the honorary grandfather to my children, who adore him as much as I do. How can you not love a grandfather who first teaches you how to walk on glass and then sits down and explains the physics concepts behind what you just did?

5. Judit Polgar

Like Kirk, I’ve never met Ms. Polgar. However, unlike Kirk, she’s real, much to the chagrin of many a chessplayer. Judit has the highest chess rating ever for a female. That’s what gets talked about. I don’t think she ever really cared. She just looked at herself as a chess player and she was awesome (she has retired from the professional ranks), making it to the top ten in the world and slaying world champions like Kasparov, Karpov, and Anand. Her style is aggressive and tactical. Play too passively and she will march her army out and suffocate you in your closed in lines. She is a throwback to Fischer, to Tal, to Morphy. And she is the one I most tried to pattern my chessgame around. When she stepped back a bit from competitive chess to get married and then start a family, she gave me a most needed wake-up call. I had been pursuing my career at the expense of my family. Seeing Judit step back started those deep questions in me.

6. Major Herbert L. Day, USMC, Retired

Major Day was the Director of Bands at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, when I reported there as a freshmen. Only he wasn’t on campus as the band was in Scotland at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. A US college band at the premier military tattoo in the world? Yes, sir, and that tells you the level of excellence expected of Major Day. Between Major Day and Sandy Jones (in charge of the Pipe Band and former Pipe Major for the USAF), we had out butts reguarly kicked militarily and musically. Major Day got the most out of us. He knew when to be stern and when to be sympathetic. He rode us hard. He had phrases like, “It’s not a promise, it’s a prophecy,” and “Play it right or I’ll rip your lips off!” I miss Major Day every day.

7. Dr. David Allen/Dr. Tony Redd

Dr. Allen and Dr. Redd where two of my English professors at The Citadel. Both encouraged me to write, write, write. Whether it was poetry or prose, they wanted to see what I had penned and they were quick to offer suggestions for improvement, to tell me what I had done well, and to point me at others to draw inspiration from. I owe a lot to these men.

[Off-Topic] Beating Childhood Cancer

Child Cancer AwarenessNote: I feel this post is important enough to post across all my blogs.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month here in the USA. Here are some statistics:

  • In 2014, an estimated 15, 780 children (ages 0-19) will be diagnosed with cancer in the USA.
  • In 2014, an estimated 1,960 will die of cancer here in the United States.
  • That averages to between 5 and 6 children dying of cancer every day, just here in the United States.

There’s a lot of talk about “surviving” cancer, meaning you hit the 5 year mark after diagnosis. That’s a misleading statistic, as I’m about to explain. Here are some more statistics:

  • 12% of children diagnosed with cancer do not survive (don’t make it to the 5 year point).
  • The average age of diagnosis is six years-old.
  • With current treatments, 60% of childhood cancer survivors suffer after-effects.

Campbell’s Story:

A more comprehensive telling of Cam’s story can be found on this blog and on this Facebook group. Here’s the short version: Cam was diagnosed with cancer when she was 3 years old. She beat it. However, certain symptoms came back, which led to re-checks. The cancer had come back. Despite all efforts, including experimental treatments, Campbell died from cancer. Technically, she is a survivor, because she made it past five years (5 years, 2 days). However, Campbell is no longer with us. Therefore, the statistics stating 12% of diagnosed children die of childhood cancer should be higher.

If you do the math, Campbell died at eight years old. She passed away despite heroic efforts from donors to cover expenses and lobby her insurance carrier to cover the experimental treatments, medical personnel performing everything they could do (numerous brain surgeries, clinical trials, experimental treatments), positive thoughts and prayers, and even celebrities taking the time to make some of her wishes come true.

How do I know about Campbell? Campbell’s dad is a Citadel classmate of mine. Because of Campbell’s fight, I became more educated on childhood cancer. Childhood cancer is the leading disease cause of death in children. Every form of childhood cancer we can find a cure for means more bright, young lives saved. Furthermore, given how much damage current treatments do, we need better treatments for survivors. All of this requires research. Research requires funding. As a result, I’m trying to raise awareness about it now.

What We Can Do:

I don’t believe in issuing challenges. If this touches you enough to give, then please do. If not, I realize there are many excellent causes and efforts out there. Please try and give something to one or more that have meaning to you. Here’s what Cam’s family specifically asked for, because this puts research dollars forward for the doctors who were treating Cam and her particular form of cancer. You can mail donations to:

Weill Cornell Medical College with GREENFIELD Ependymoma Research in the memo field.

The mailing address:

Ana Ignat
Department Administrator
525 East 68th St, Box 99
New York, NY 10068

Or you could choose another childhood cancer charity/research fund. If you do, please check with a site like Charity Navigator to see how efficiently that charity uses the donations it receives. I know that particular charities in the past have sounded great but when you do the research… not so much. That’ll help you ensure that more of your donated money goes to research.