Dr. Sue Black starts off the morning by describing what her life was like before she made a sojourn into developing a technology career. Her life was not one of stable means, she had three small children, a broken marriage, and being a single parent at age twenty-five, with a question of “how am I going to support my children on my own?” From here, she did a degree in computing and started a PhD with three small children (I can’t imagine how she did this, to be honest, but she did 🙂 ). It took her seven years to complete it, but she did, and she focused on reverse engineering and doing research on systems measurement and “ripple effects”.
One of the biggest challenges for Sue when it came to going to conferences was the focus on talking to other people. She really struggled with trying to talk with people, especially since she was one of the few women attending these conferences. this changed when she attended the Women in Technology Conference in Brussels, and she discovered the advent of online networks. She decided she wanted to create a group for Women in Computing, where they could meet online and discuss things.
Sue was also instrumental in an initiative to save Bletchley Park (the scene for Alan Turing and the many code breakers that worked on breaking the Enigma code. For those who have seen “The Imitation Game”, this is where that all happened). Additionally, it was a neat discovery to Sue to realize that most of the participants in the Bletchley Park initiative were women. Sue and her group worked on a oral history project to capture the memories of many of these women that worked on the code breaking project.
Through a social media campaign, she was able to generate and develop interest in Bletchley Park and generate a true grassroots movement to help get people involved, including many prominent people who helped the cause. As it was Twitter that I learned about Bletchley Park and what it meant, I probably have Dr. Black to thank for the fact I received awareness about it :).
Beyomnd Bletchley Park, Dr. Black has also been actively engaged in an effort called “Techmums”, which is the idea that children, especially girls, will be more likely to be encouraged to approach technology if their mothers specifically had tech skills and a comfort with technology. Techmums is an outgrowth of that idea, and she is changing lives one family at a time, and I’m hopeful to see how the demographics for these children will change because of this initiative.
What I am taking from this is the fact that many of the great opportunities in our lives come about because of genuine interest, a passion for seeing something happen, and being willing and able to drive that passion. If you have a passion for a topic or cause, it’s a good bet you will be able to find others who share in that passion. Opportunities often arise because someone has a genuine drive and desire to see something happen. I have myself sen this in my own reality, and I’ve been grateful for the opportunities that have come my way because I’ve shared my own passions and determination to see something happen around my goals and desires. So yes, I do agree, if we can do it, you can too (my “I can do it” is a bit more modest than Dr. Black’s, but the main message is still relevant). Put your passion out there, and don’t be surprised if you find many people willing to help you develop and keep momentum going.