Finding Ada

This should be easy. I work in a software company, I’ve only ever worked in software companies so, in honour of Ada Lovelace Day (what do you mean, who?) I should be able to join in “sharing stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians — who have inspired you to become who you are today”, right?

I work directly with many smart and inspiring women and, indirectly, I’ve been lucky enough to get to know many more in my profession, but how many of them have inspired me?

When I sat down to write this I did wonder if I would be able to think of any women to which I could assign this claim. But then it’s not every day that you take a step back and think about who inspires you, is it?

So, who has inspired me through my career?

My first boss can lay claim to that, but alas, he is a man so I can’t count him here.

My next boss, Kingsley, was certainly influential, she took a chance on me and gently guided my (short) career in her team. She inspired me to be inclusive, and to trust in myself and my opinions, and that it was ok speak up. Looking back it was her coaching that laid the groundwork for that part of my ‘work persona’ as it stands today.

But it’s in my profession that I look for day to day inspiration, and it’s here that I’m lucky enough to have met some amazing women.

In no particular order:

  • Anne Gentle – I’ve mentioned her before in this context but Anne continues to crop up in conversations. She remains a leading light as the technical communications industry pushes further and further into the social media landscape. If you’ve ever seen me speak at a conference, you can thank (blame?) Anne for helping inspire me to speak at my first back in 2007.
  • Karen Mardahl – as a consistent, intelligent and thought provoking speaker, her passion and enthusiasm for usability and desire to ‘do better’ is a constant inspiration to me.
  • Leah Guren – having spent time in a workshop with her, and witnessed her passionate opening keynote at a recent conference, I can attest to her inspirational characteristics.
  • Dr. JoAnn Hackos – last but certainly not least, I think everyone in the technical communications field has been inspired by JoAnn at some point or another, and many of us still look to her as a leading light in our field. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if it were not for her generosity in sharing her knowledge and expertise.

The problem with this type of list is the fear that you have missed someone out, and whilst these four amazing women have inspired me professionally, many more inspire me in my daily life, and I’m lucky to count them as friends.

As a man, working within a profession that has a healthy split of gender, I find it heartening that in a heavily male-dominated industry that such women are pushing forward and making themselves heard. One day parity will be achieved and I, for one, look forward to that day.


  1. Thank-you so much for sharing this, I hadn’t heard of it and I think it’s a wonderful idea. I have shared the FindingAda site widely – mostly with my female friends who work in science, technology, engineering or maths – and none of them had heard about it either. Hopefully we will see and hear more with each passing year!

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