So I thought I would write about a woman in tech or science who has inspired me. Who has caught my imagination and taught me to understand that being a geek is not unusual, a role model and mentor who I can go to and bounce ideas off, without needing to dumb down the technical terminology because they wont understand.
The problem with that, of course, is there is no one. Not one single person, that I can think of, who is female and codes, sysadmins, network configures or security defends and is out and proud about it enough to inspire or act as a role model.
So I thought I'd write about Lucy (not her real name, I'm not going to embarrass her, she works with me). The reason I want to write about her despite not being a geek, is the way in which she deals with things which she doesn't understand the mechanics of intimately. Most people are aware of ICT. They understand the meaning of the initials. They understand who they are calling when they have a problem and need the helpdesk. Most people don't understand much further than that and make no effort to.
Lucy makes an effort. A really big one. She is not a geek, but she analyses. She is not a geek, but she puts the jigsaw pieces together and quickly. She is not a geek, but she can see the overview faster than most, and sees how everything intertwines, understanding where ICT must fit into that puzzle. She is not a geek, but she problem solves in a way which gets straight to the point, fixes the cause and lets the rest take care of itself. So in some ways she is a geek, but not in the way it matters when understanding the intricacies of system resource management, network speeds and their impact on responsiveness or the nightmares of security. So she asks. Something so many other people fail to do. She doesn't go away and quietly Google it for fear of losing face, she just asks the question, and asks you to qualify and simplify anything she doesn't understand. She goes away with a proper understanding of something in the context it's relevant to and makes decisions and writes proposals based on the correct information.
For me, watching someone unashamedly admit to not knowing something but using the resource around her to gain the information and understand she needs has been exactly what I needed. Lucy gets straight to the point and doesn't get distracted, perhaps because of the sheer amount of information she is taking on board. And in this she is inspirational, because she has taught me the value of owning up to something, that you do not lose respect for admitting to not knowing something, that choosing the parameters within which you will operate in the business world is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.
It is odd, perhaps, but the person I have found to be most inspirational, helpful and who has provided the most mentoring to me as a geek, is not a fellow geek but someone who is teaching a geek how to operate in the world with no apologies for not knowing something. As much as I am Lucy's translator and interpreter for geek things - software, hardware, connections, requirements etc - she is my translator and interpreter for how to operate in the world outside geekery, where etiquette, social interaction and getting beyond my shyness and expressing myself and my opinion are things which were challenging but are becoming less so because of her.
Our working relationship may look odd from the outside, I have no idea. But from where I'm standing it is a perfect balance and perhaps demonstrates the massive value of surrounding yourself with non geeks as well as geeks.
So ultimately, this post isn't about women in tech and science at all. Except, actually, it is. It's about me. It's about learning from other people and sharing with other people, and us geeks need to do it more often. So, today, I celebrate the women who mentor us and who are our role models despite not being geeks. In the absence of any one else, they're all I have, and I am thankful for them.