WiT Wednesday #1: Ada Lovelace

When I was creating my History of Women in Tech presentation for StrangeLoop 2013, Ada was the first person that came to mind.  Reading up on her story, I can relate to her well.

Who was Ada Lovelace?

Augusta Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace made her impact in 1815-1852.  While her father is the famous poet Lord Byron, her mother did not want her daughter following in his footsteps and did everything she could to make sure that Ada wouldn’t become a poet.  Instead, her mother had her study traditionally-male-geared topics of maths and science.  Ada once asked her mother

If you can’t give me poetry, can’t you give me “poetical science”?

Being born with that creative mind, Ada wanted to exercise her creativity.  Ada was known for speaking in metaphors and also had a vivid imagination.  For Ada, the combination of math, imagination, and metaphors would be a magical combination.

 In 1828, Ada doodled a flying machine.  A few years later, at 17 years old, she met her mentor – the famous mathematician, philosopher, inventor, and mechanical engineer Charles Babbage.

Ada and Babbage would exchange a lot of writing, between what he was working on and what she could come up with inspired by his works.  Ada predicted in 1843 that Babbage’s Analytical Engine would eventually be used to:

  • Compose complex music
  • Produce graphics
  • Practical & scientific use

Her predictions may not have come true then, but modern analytical engines do allow those functions and more!

Ada documented Babbage’s Analytical Engine and also created what is known as the first computer program.  Her program calculated a sequence of Bernoulli numbers with the engine.

She also managed to have a personal life outside of the technical realm.  Ada was the wife of the Earl of Lovelace, hence her title Lady Lovelace.  While she was working with Babbage, she also had another important job – being a mom to 3 children under the age of 8!

What did you learn from Ada’s story?

  • Choose a mentor who you’re interested in learning from and feed off of and into their energy.
  • She had a male mentor – the mixed-gender mentoring system worked back then.  I know many people are skeptical of mixed-gender mentoring relationships.  Why can’t it work today?I have had many male mentors in my career, and I’ve found them to be great guys to learn from and also encourage.  Whether they were database admins, IT admins, business owners, software developers, public speakers, or some other background, they’ve been able to offer guidance that has proven invaluable throughout my career.  I personally have been blessed with my mixed-gender mentoring relationships.
  • Moms sometimes find a balance between their personal life and their career.I am still young and finding my footing on this one.  I have a 1.5 year old – definitely nowhere near the 3 kids under 8.  But I’m slowly finding that balance for me.

 

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