Ada Lovelace Day

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Happy Ada Lovelace Day! 

 “Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852), born Augusta Ada Byron, was an English writer chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognized as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine; as such she is often regarded as the world's first computer programmer.” Wikipedia
To celebrate, the blogosphere is getting together to talk about women in technology. For more information check out Finding Ada.

Lucky for me, all I had to do was look right and left! Here’s an interview with Lisa Wong aka Solo Lisa, and Sandra T.

Photo by Grace Lau

Lisa, your background is not in computer science. How did you end up working in Software? 

My degree is in English literature and International Relations. While in university, I applied for writing-related co-op jobs and one of them happened to be as a technical writer at a software company. I enjoyed it so much that I returned to the company after I graduated.

What particular challenges do you face working in the Software Industry? 

My biggest challenge has probably been my non-technical background. I really admire what developers and software testers can accomplish with their programming skills!

In addition to working in software you’re also a prolific blogger! Why did you start blogging and why do you keep doing it?

In my final year of university, I started reading fashion and beauty blogs as a way of procrastinating…anything to put off writing those term papers. After a while I thought it might be fun to start my own. Solo Lisa was initially called “Solo Lisa Y Nada Mas” (“Only Lisa and Nothing More”) to reflect my ongoing obsession with Latin pop culture, but gradually the focus shifted to fashion, beauty, and lifestyle so I shortened the name to “Solo Lisa.” As for why I keep doing it—it’s fun! Blogging has become such a big part of my daily life and my routine that I can’t imagine not doing it.

P.S. You can visit Lisa's blog here: Solo Lisa

Where do you see blogging going in the future?

Your guess is as good as mine. Some people say vlogs are the way of the future, but I personally hate watching videos online. Videos force you to sit and watch them at a certain pace; I like to read quickly and I’m impatient if something forces me to go at its pace rather than my own.

Lisa, how many stuffed animals do you currently have on your desk?

18 (I think).


So Sandra… you’re a little bit famous! I hear that as an undergraduate you published a paper that discusses the Reliability of Planar Multigraphs. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

I figured out something new, but kind of unimportant, about the likelihood of networks failing. There was a theory about how to set the networks up to make them the most reliable, but I showed that the theory fell apart if you constrained the networks to be planar. Planar networks are networks that you can draw on a flat piece of paper without any of the lines criss-crossing, like a road map or the surface of a microchip. Well, anyway, I found this out in 4th year and my professor made her grad student write it up as a paper, and it actually got published, so now it is part of the approved mass of human consciousness. I had actually forgotten about this paper until I googled myself the other day, and found my name in an academic database. Neat-o.

Your undergraduate degree is in Computer Science. Back when you were in university, what was it like being one of the only women in your classes?

Well, you never had to wait long to use the washroom. Most of the time I had female professors telling me how awful it was to be one of the few women in Computer Science, and that we should band together to form some kind of disgruntled group, but I didn’t really mind being one of the only women in class. Computer Science guys are pretty timid, and are easy to boss around. Of course, it took me a while to learn how to not be “one of the guys” and that pushed back my dating life by about a decade.

What kind of qualities make a good programmer?

It helps to have good problem-solving abilities and be able to pay attention to detail. You need to be able to concentrate, and to be persistent, because bugs don’t go away until you fix them.

Nerd, Geek, or neither?

I think I’m probably more of a dork.

Thanks Sandra! Thanks Lisa!
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