In honor of Ada Lovelace Day, I am writing about Lynn Langit, Developer Evangelist for Microsoft.
Those of you who know me know that I featured a programmer in honor of last year’s Ada Lovelace Day, and it is no coincidence that I gravitated toward a developer again this year. I have a particular affection for the talented people who create, develop and improve software…possibly because when they are doing their jobs well, my work in technical support becomes infinitely easier! This year, with my MBA training in mind, I’ve also been thinking a lot about principled leaders, especially those who work to make technology more accessible to women – not because women need IT, but because technology needs our talents.
With these criteria in mind, I selected Lynn Langit as my (s)hero for Ada Lovelace Day.
Describing herself as a “language geek,” Langit combines a Linguistics education and a “habit of learning languages”1 with rigorous training in Microsoft technologies. She holds an impressive array of Microsoft certifications (MCP, MCSE, MCDBA, MCSD, MCITP, MCT, and MSF), and is herself a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT).2 Before joining Microsoft as a Developer Evangelist, Langit ran her own company, developing .NET applications and other Microsoft solutions in her capacity as Lead Architect.3 As a Developer Evangelist, Langit reaches out to the software development community in Southern California, both in person at talks and online through her blog, Contagious Curiosity, and through the MSDN webcast series, GeekSpeak.4 Langit has written two technical books about SQL – Foundations of SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence and Smart Business Intelligence Solutions with Microsoft SQL Server 2008.5 To keep her hand in production development, Langit serves as a volunteer programmer for SmartCare, a medical records application used in the nation of Zambia.6 All in all, a lot to admire!
I appreciate Langit’s willingness to talk about the difficulties that we face as women in technology, as well as her commitment to educating the next generation, particularly girls, in software engineering. Langit leads the Southern California chapter of Digigirlz, a Microsoft-sponsored project that introduces programming to girls in middle school and high school. Speaking at a Girl Geek Dinners event in Antwerp, Langit describes the importance of programs like Digigirlz in changing the gender landscape in IT in the United States:
At conferences in the US, I meet female developers from India, Asia…and they always ask me where ‘our’ IT women are. And it’s true: 97% of IT conference attendees in Europe or the United States are male. So if we don’t take action to do something about it, nobody will. And the situation will never change.6
I love this quote, not only for the substance, with which I wholeheartedly agree, but with the passion and commitment embodied in it.
Here’s a picture of me teaching two attending girls to code in Small Basic (they are pair programming) as part of my presentation. I am happy to report that the older girl’s mom blogged after the event that “After that session, (my daughter) went home and spent all weekend, head-down, running through recipes in Small Basic.”
Seriously, go read it. I’ll wait.
Even in a post like this, basically a how-to document, Langit writes in the present tense, giving what could easily become a dry topic personality and immediacy. Though I am not familiar with programming at all, let alone with this particular technology, these posts made me want to learn more.
Contrast this with my first formal programming lessons in college, when I took Intro to C with a friend. The class promptly convinced me that I was not destined to be a computer scientist. And yet, this semester during Excel boot camp, I thoroughly enjoyed messing around with =IF and wrote a Blackjack advice function. (I’m still working on a spreadsheet that can score Cribbage hands.) I can only imagine what my life would have been like if I had been able to attend something like Digigirlz in my formative years, with someone like Langit teaching me.
And suffice it to say that giving back is also on my mind.
On a lighter note, you’ll be glad to know that she supports Computer Engineer Barbie, too:
Lynn Langit…said she was thrilled about Barbie’s next career.
“We can use any sort of positive influence that we have, because the number of girls studying programming is abysmal,” she said.
Her only suggestion: that Barbie get a multi-touch netbook next. “If Barbie needs any training, I would be happy to provide it,” she said.8
For all of her hard work, both as a programmer and as a dedicated advocate for women and girls in technology, I sincerely thank Lynn Langit. And a Happy Ada Lovelace Day 2010 to all!
To see Langit describing her work in her own words, check out this interview from the Tech Days 2009 conference in Belgium.
1 Contagious Curiosity: About
2 SQL Server Experts: Welcome from Lynn Langit
5 Interview: Lynn Langit, Tech Days Belgium 2009
6 Op. Cit.
7 Lynn Langit wants more women in IT
8 Barbie’s Next Career? Computer Engineer