Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science. Find out more on findingada.com.
If I were to look back at my long journey as a web professional spanning over a decade and to identify my key influences, the person who truly set me on the path I am on today…is Dey. Young and naive as I was, a relatively fresh Computer Science graduate at the time, fate had me share an office with Dey. Our web department for a major university was made up of a grand total 4 people. Our job was to keep the main web site (and some web services) running and alive. I was the web developer and code-monkey; Dey worked on usability, interface design, liaising with marketing and communications — the stuff we simply used to call “web design”.
At the time, the job of maintaining websites for Faculties and Departments often fell onto the shoulders of administrative staff who had little or no web training. It was Dey’s idea to create free weekly (or was it fortnightly?) lunch time sessions to give free coaching to staff; faculties and departments didn’t quite have money for training. It was the web, right? In 1999, it was hard to understand that the web would be as important as it is today. Then Dey started up a webgrrls chapter at the university, except we had to be “web girls” in order not to be in conflict with the Melbourne chapter. (My memories are fuzzy, I don’t remember the details…. but oh look, the website still exists.)
Dey taught me the beginnings of everything that shaped my work all these years: web standards, accessibility, usability, information architecture and design. Even after I left the university, and even when my job title was technically “web developer” for a long while afterwards, I brought best web practices with me and taught fellow colleagues wherever I went, because Dey showed me that the only way we could create a better web was to cultivate a culture of continuous learning. Dey got me motivated into grassroots movements, mentoring younger girls still finishing up their computing degrees. Dey brought me to Melbourne Web Accessibility Group meetings, which later spurred me to get involved with projects like MACCAWS, and the Web Standards Project, which I still contribute to today after many years of active involvement.
One day, Dey brought her new camera into work to test it out before taking it with her on a trip to India. She showed me a few websites she found on photography shooting tips. Just like that, she simultaneously inspired me to learn photography (today, I still shoot film) and incited an urge to visit India (something I haven’t managed to do yet). Dey taught me how to identify a corked bottle of wine. For some unknown reason, Dey liked to see me on bourbon, and would generously feed me a couple of bourbon and coke after work every now and again. Let’s not underestimate this skill — years later, in professional situations, I still silently thank Dey for the unorthodox training when I can outdrink my client, my boss, or my manager.
I have no idea where I’d be today if it weren’t for Dey and her generosity in imparting what she knows, and for inspiring me to continue doing the same. Thank you, Dey!