How I Survived Nearly 40 Years in Silicon Valley as a Woman in Tech
On a rainy night in December 1983, I drove to the mall in Columbia, Maryland. On the way home, the cold rain turned to freezing rain, and the roads became ice rinks. I almost slid off the road multiple times and passed numerous car accidents. Eventually, I decided to park close to a ditch and walk home before I hit a tree or worse. Icicles hung from my hair, and I could barely feel my feet. That was the night I decided to move West.
It wasn’t just the freezing rain, sleet, and snow. Lately, I had begun to get bored with my career developing and maintaining nonprofit accounting and membership packages on an IBM midsize computer. I had been working on the same types of hardware and software systems for years, doing the same kind of programming over and over. I needed more challenges and opportunities to learn and improve my technical skills. I considered moving to one of the tech hubs at the time, but Massachusetts also had awful winters, and North Carolina was too far south of the Mason-Dixon line. Even then, Silicon Valley was one of the most expensive places to live in the country, but the weather was perfect.
I felt fortunate to have chosen a career as a software developer. My high school offered a computer class when almost no one knew what a computer was. I had found my destiny. Work never felt a job, but more like solving puzzles, something I loved to do as a kid. Just the tools to solve them were different. I also have a knack for learning languages, giving me an edge to increase my skills.
There were times when Marty, the president of the company I was about to leave, would call me into his office and give me opportunities to learn the latest IBM system. He would promise potential clients we could deliver a product when no one in the office had any idea how to use the new equipment, trusting that I would figure it out. But the time had come when I wanted to get away from the world of IBM.
In January, I called a recruiter and set up some interview appointments for the next month. I stayed with my childhood friend in San Francisco. My winter coat hung in her closet as I watched the evening weather wearing a T-shirt, feeling sorry for the people shoveling…