From Ada to Aga – Thank You Women of Technology

Throughout my career in business communications, I’ve found myself drawn to leveraging new technologies. From early e-mail newsletters to intranets, web sites to virtual worlds, and blogs to microblogs, there’s always something new around the corner to keep things interesting.

And, for the past eight years I’ve had the opportunity to expand my skills and apply these new technologies while working for a company that is a leading technology provider – Dell Inc.

In spite of this, and much to the amusement of my truly technically savvy brother that I call when I don’t know the difference in an appliance and a server, I don’t consider myself a true woman of technology. To me, that title is reserved more for those who dig into the code, understand the backend and engineer the software and hardware.

Today is a day set aside to honor some of those women. Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. The daughter of Lord Byron, Ada made her own way and her own name for herself as the first computer programmer (not the first female programmer, but the first programmer) and therefore the founder of scientific computing.

Ada Lovelace
So, on this day for honoring women in technology, I’d like to call out a few outstanding women in technology that I respect and have had the priviledge to work with at Dell:

Aga Webb – IT Director and CIO for the Asia-Pacific region
I’ve not worked directly with Aga, but have been involved in projects that gave me an opportunity to be in meeting discussions with her. I’ve always been impressed with her knowledge, her command of a situation and her common sense when facing technical quandries.

Kathy Kitayama – Director, Global Online Content Operations
Kathy leads a worldwide team of developers that make miracles happen every day on That’s no small feat for a web site that over the last four quarters had half a billion visitors; but hey, she does have B.A. in Applied Mathematics from Harvard!

Joi Chevalier – Global Online eBusiness Sr. Consultant
Joi got her undergraduate degree in English at Oxford, but she’s way better than I am at understanding the the technicalities of technology. Maybe it’s because of that masters from The University of Texas that combined literature and technology.

Dodie Stillman – eBusiness Consultant
Dodie is the person I refer to as my right arm. She’s a web developer (part of Kathy’s team), an accessibility expert, and often the saver of my butt. And still she finds time to raise two cool kids and bike in nearly every ride that comes around Central Texas.

Without women like these in technolgy today and pioneers like Ada Lovelace,  who foresaw the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching, who knows where we might not be today. Thank you ladies!

Other Women in Technology:

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Spring Break in Austin Means SXSW

Local schools are about to embark on the week-long recess from classes known as Spring Break and I will be embarking on “five days of exciting panel content and amazing parties” as the South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference bills itself.

This will be my third year to attend this portion of SXSW which focuses on emerging technology. It’s been a great way to learn some of the basics I needed as I transitioned from traditional corporate communications to a more online-focused job at Dell. It’s also an opportunity to bring back new trends and technologies that our business can leverage.  And, I get a cool new bag to add to my environmentally friendly collection of grocery shopping bags!

“In its 22 years, SXSW has grown from a tiny music festival in the Texas capital into a massive, unavoidable media beast that reflects, discusses and showcases trends in culture and media but also often creates them.” National Post, 3/13/08

While I’ll be attending the Interactive conference, my husband will be more interested in the music portion of the conference that follows the film festival. His band Shallow Reign played showcases the very first and second years of SXSW. Who knew then that it would have grown into what it is now!

I blogged about some of last year’s panels on Direct2Dell and will be one of several Dell employees blogging from the conference again this year. So watch for updates over the next few days on Direct2Dell!

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Do Nothing and Help End Hunger

Pledge to End HungerIf someone told you that you could help feed hungry children without opening your pocketbook, handing out a sandwich or even leaving your house, would you believe it?

Well, it’s true.  While your donations of money or time as a volunteer would certainly be appreciated, all you have to do to see that 140,000 meals are served to Central Texas children in need is pledge to spread the word about Pledge to End Hunger.

For each pledge made via the online form, Tyson Foods, Inc. will donate 35 lbs of food product — the equivalent of 140 servings. You type your name, your e-mail (that will only be used to update you on the progress of the campaign) and select your state, then hit submit. It’s really that easy.

Fulfilling your pledge simply means talking about this with your friends and family. You can do that face-to-face, on the phone, via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, your blog, a billboard, skywriting … well, you get the picture.

If the goal of 1,000 people taking the online pledge is reached, a semi-trailer filled with 140,000 meals will arrive at the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas in Austin during the SXSW ’09 Interactive Festival.

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Tempting Fate and Twitter Trolls

While giving social media 1×1 coaching sessions at Assosciation for Women in Technology’s 2009 Women’s Business Conference, I found myself telling someone that I’d never met a mean person on Twitter.

It got me to thinking this morning (in the shower, of course): are there really no trolls on Twitter? So, later in the morning when I remembered it, I asked my twitter friends if that was really the case, or was I just lucky?

Sounds like I’ve just been lucky. Not only did many tweet back to tell me they are out there, with a quick search I found them documented on Flickr, reported to and escalated to Twitter executives.

So why have I, and apparently at least one other person, not run into them? Maybe because of the very opt-in nature of Twitter. If you don’t like what someone has to say, you simply don’t follow them. If they try to talk to you via @ replies, you can just ignore them or block them if they get rude. You can choose exactly whose tweets you wish to receive on your phone, if any. And, you can choose whether or not you want to receive e-mails whenever someone signs up to follow you or direct messages you. Heck, you can even chose who gets to direct message you because it is limted to who you follow.

If you are trying to track a topic on Twitter, I can see where spam, trolls and general noise could quickly mess up the signal, though. Jon points this out as a problem with hashtags because Twitter hashtags are completely open, so anybody can post on them. It was evident today, too, as Skittles tried to experiment with turning their web site home page into a Twitter search results page. Since I’m rarely trying to follow a trendy topic, that’s probably a reason I haven’t noticed it so much. Even when I’m enjoying the Oscars or some other television event with one eye on Twitter, just watching the tweets of the peanut gallery I already follow is more than enough.

Some folks are very big on following back everyone who follows them. While I want to be as friendly as the next person on Twitter, I just couldn’t go that far. I’m not there just to pile up numbers, so I’ve been selective about who I follow (although the selection process is not set in stone or always that rigorous).

The point I’m trying to make is that the power is really in your hands. I have probably tempted fate by bringing up the troll topic. I hope not to be besieged by mean-spirited people who take this as an invitation to crawl out from under their bridges; but, if they come, I’ll just ignore or block.

And, I’ll continue to tell folks how I’ve met some of the nicest people around on Twitter.