Today is Ada Lovelace Day. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ada, she is credited for creating the first ever computer program. And she came up with it in the 1840’s – long before the computer even existed! In 1842, Lovelace was asked by a friend to translate notes taken by an Italian mathematician, during a lecture delivered by inventor Charles Wheatstone. She did a little more than that, expanding on the original writings and creating an algorithm for the Analytical Engine to compute an established sequence of numbers – and the first every computer program was born! Unfortunately, the Analytical Engine was never completed, so there was no way to test Lovelace’s theory. This said, her place in computing history has long been recognized. Google created a Google Doodle last year, to mark her 197th birthday, and today, Ada Lovelace Day, commemorates her contribution to technology and shines a light on other female pioneers in the industry, including our friends Little Miss Geek, who are encouraging others to share their accomplishments through their #HERinHero campaign which celebrates and raises the profile of brilliant women in the tech industry with the aim to inspire the next generation of 'Ada Lovelaces'.
A pioneering example of women at the forefront of technology, For a while now, the tech industry has not been a true reflection of the diverse world we live in. That’s why it’s crucial that we – as women, parents and the tech industry – are encouraging girls to consider careers in technology in whatever way we can. It’s astonishing that only 17% of women work in technology, when it affects our everyday lives and we’re so often the ones making the IT purchasing decisions in the household. I truly believe that by having more women involved, we can create technology that will only better serve the world in the future.
My father is actually responsible for my career in technology. He encouraged me (or forced as I saw it back then!) to read maths at University and while I didn’t know it then, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. It opened the doors to technology for me, as it was largely maths driven, and when I learned to code on IBM punch cards I was hooked! Ever since then I’ve worked at some of the largest technology companies in the world, including Microsoft, Compaq and now Dell. You never know where the technology industry is going to take you next; innovation is happening at a rapid pace and there’s no reason why young girls can’t become the next Mark Zuckerberg.
My technology career has allowed me to travel to many interesting places, but the best part about my job today is how the Information Technology my Dell team delivers today saves lives and impacts the world around us. We work in hospitals, with medical research, we help catch bad guys with our Digital Forensics solutions, we work in protecting citizens, Government and companies from threats in cyber space. As a woman, Dell is a fantastic place to work and it continues to find new ways to support us, be it flexible working to be with our families or encouraging us to take on leadership roles. I’m one of three female General Managers running Dell in the UK, responsible for a 4000+ workforce, which is not that common amongst large companies such as ours.
I was lucky that I found a route into technology at an early age, but it’s not necessarily an area that girls consider because of the stereotypes associated with it. It’s important that as an industry, we start talking to young girls about their future early on. This will help them see the possibilities they have to make a real impact on the world through technology before they start making decisions about A-Levels, university and ultimately their careers.
Events such as Ada Lovelace day give the industry a real opportunity to inspire others to pursue a rewarding career in technology and science. However, as an industry, we have a collective responsibility to continue this education process all year round. Only then will we see significant change start to occur across the sector.
Claire Vyvyan is Executive Director and General Manager, Large Institutions, Dell UK