24 March 2009

Computing is too important to be left to men

In a blast to the past, I'm looking at a job that does tech support for legal software. Shades of Legalsystems and schlepping systems to law firms to install and overcome staff resistance to technology.

It has a been awhile since I did tech support for money rather than just for stuff I know and can't really resist just being helpful. It isn't exactly my niche or my career goal but it could fit nicely into what I've done, what I know and where I'm going.

And in another could be good experience for career path, having finally heard from them, I'm trying to decide whether the California Ballet Internship is something I really want to apply for or not.

On the one hand, I am a former (modern) dancer and ex ballet mom so that background and reference point will help a lot with the cataloguing part of the long term goal but the task looks to be very long term indeed and I'm not sure about their expectations.

I don't currently necessarily have the online/web database experience they specify as required but if that database is a goal, I can obtain that skill set while slogging through the task of assessing, indexing and cataloguing the materials and the further assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the current database.

Database design is sort of in my blood going back to when I used to develop them for people in the early 80s and if they take a long haul picture of the task/goal then I could probably acquire the web database current skill set during Summer session.

Speaking of databases and cataloguing, my homage to Ada Lovelace day comes in the form of a nod to Karen Spärck Jones (1935-2007) whose slogan is the title of today's posting.

She also said "I think women bring a different perspective to computing; they are more thoughtful and less inclined to go straight for technical fixes. My belief is that, intellectually, computer science is fascinating - you're trying to make things that don't exist."

Spärck Jones is so far the only female winner of the Ada Lovelace Medal. Initially she read history at Cambridge. When she was recruited to the Cambridge Language Research Unit supposedly her only qualification was that she had read philosophy. She later pointed out that reading philosophy was, in fact a good qualification for studying information processing and language.

Spärck Jones had one year reading Philosophy, but she is the woman you should thank every day that Google and other search engines and retrieval systems return relevant results by using specially defined thesauri, natural language processing and inverse document frequency (IDF) weighting.

I think that one of the barriers we've established in recent years to women in technology has come about by specialisation. In the last twenty years or so, increasingly, there's been a narrowing of the path to careers in technology that has created a narrow focus funnel.

I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to push back a little and start embracing systems understanding or a more holistic vision of tech that often comes from someone with aptitude but not necessarily the credential. Some one with aptitude can get a credential but the inverse is not always true.

Some indicators are that women in tech peaked in the 80s but based on my experience that peak included women who had not necessarily come into tech through the now established funnel and some talented individuals may have been essentially forced out or under utilised because of assimilation process that is part of that funnel.

Think about it, someone (another female pioneer, Margaret Masterman, saw her potential) and brought her into the research. Google would not be your friend but for Karen Spärck Jones.

Meanwhile, back at the me side of the house, I got some of the personal web page bits updated and will need to tackle the pdfs for both events and shops.

The Sunny Something for Stacy's 44 sweaters is drying and I'm still undecided on the closure treatment.

Right now I'm leaning toward a three stitch icord frog but I haven't really raided the button supply to see if maybe icord tabs 'round buttons would be a better choice.

While listening to some lectures and working away on a couple of school projects, I also started down the applique the fish onto the other fish and weaving of endless ends on the fish afghan front.


That is an amazingly tedious process -- 20 fish and way more ends. So far I've only two fish done and I'm trying to decide whether I want to do a direct one to one (like fish to like fish) treatment. If I do I'll need to knit another yellow fish.

In other got things done, I finally managed to get the EDD web page not to just seize on me in mid application process. What a remarkably annoying interface.

California taxes are the next fun with state stuff on my plate although that's really only because I'm putting of a day at the DMV as long as humanly possible.

DMV and laundry, some of my favourite things -- NOT.

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