Happy Ada Lovelace Day

Wednesday was Ada Lovelace Day! (UPDATE: Apologies for the late post.)

In a nutshell, March 24 is set aside to promote the achievements of women in IT and software engineering.  And we can start by looking toward the achievements of Ada Lovelace.  Ada Lovelace-the daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron-was the first computer programmer and worked with Charles Babbage on the theoretical underpinnings of computing.  Without her contribution, modern computing probably won’t exist today.

Now I’m not into the whole feminist movement.  I don’t think the movement really represents what the majority women think or want. And the feminist equation of “woman == man” doesn’t make sense.  Neither does any equation that tries to equate one person with another.  All humans should have the right to own their own bodies and not being owned by others.  And I won’t get dragged into a libertarian versus non-libertarian political theoretical debate here.  However I was brought up thinking that women can think as well as men can.  Therefore women can do engineering, mathematics and computing as well as men can.  (<flamebait>Maybe even better.</flamebait>)  So I want to acknowledge in this post, women who I highly regard and who have achieved great things in IT.

@Home: Mom

OK so my mom doesn’t work in IT.  She in fact dislikes computing in general.  We still disagree over the fact that I chose software development as a career.  However I regard her highly and without her work I would of never been able to work as a software developer.  Mom not only brought me into existence, she also taught me.  She as someone with a Masters degree in Civil Engineering, she could of worked on engineering amazing structures. For various she gave that up, to teach and raise me and my brother.  When two public school boards gave up on me ever reading or writing, Mom taught me.  She taught me mathematics and gave me a solid base that carried me well into university level math.  And she always would point out how weird it was that Canada didn’t have as many female engineers as Poland did.  While there are many reasons why that was the case, it was Mom who taught me to believe that women can and should be engineers if that was their calling.  So while she doesn’t work in IT or software development, Mom brought up a pretty decent (IMO) software developer.

@Work: Jennifer Chung, Salina Behera , Safa Siddiqui & Monika Schigel

I am privileged to work with the above ladies at my current workplace, VisionMAX Solutions.  Jennifer and Safa works as developers.  Salina is one of our talented DBAs.  And Monika works in that dark, arcane magical realm known as data modelling.  Not only are they great people to interact with, they also possess a wide body of knowledge.  Jennifer is a whiz at Java and ExtJS, and I often find myself asking her for advice on how to solve various tricky problems.  Monika has a way to cheering people up and I’ve never seen her without a wide grin on her face.  Also she and Tom, our two intrepid data modeller have been initiating me into the dark art of data modelling and the business of retail and mobile telecos.

@University: Katarina Halan & Megan Foote

While studying Computer Science at the University of Toronto, I had the opportunity to study and work with these two incredibly talented ladies.  We helped each other out on assignments.  I can not stress how well they understood the various aspects of computer science.  Also they introduced me to some interesting parts of Japanese culture, namely anime and DDR.

In the Open Source Community

Finally, two ladies that inspire me to get more involved with the open source community as a whole are: Emma Jane Hogbin and Celeste Lyn Paul.  Emma works on creating and managing documentation at various open source projects.  Celeste is a HCI expert who helps make KDE applications have the best user experience of any desktop related project.   I’ve only had the opportunity to meet Emma in person at Ontario Linux Fest 2009.  But Emma, you sure inspired me to look at the various components of documentation.  And yes documentation can be sexy.  I don’t get the ponies though.  Celeste on the other hand inspires me to one day get back into university and work on getting a human-computer interface design.  Her work inspires me to improve the UIs and workflow of any piece of software I am involved with.

To all these ladies, I’d like to personally say thank you.  You made me a better software developer.  And you are an inspiration for all women in or thinking of working in IT and software development.  Thanks!

Why I Like Free Software and Freedom

Adding freedom to software is a great business tactic.  It gives back control to the customer, who now becomes not just another faceless entity to pilfer.  Now the customer becomes a client, a person with real goals, ambitions and needs.  And libre software/open source is a guarantee to serve those needs.  But it need not end with software…

The concept of freedom built-in can take things to new heights.  As with Flat World Knowledge.  They make open/free textbooks for colleges.  It is about creating better products, cheaper, available to more people and using less resources.  The brilliance of commoditization, and giving a free hand to your customer.  And ultimately empowering people and improving the lot of the human race.

It is this idea of freedom and empowerment, that keeps me totting the freedom flag and contributing to the libre software.