Friday, August 29, 2008

With Great Anticipation!

I am on the edge of my seat with excitement about this year's Grace
Hopper conference
.  The first time I went was in 1997 in San Jose. I
was a recent graduate from Purdue University and enjoying my plunge
into the  tech market place. I'd always been involved in college with
groups like Women in Computer Science and Women in the School of
Science, but wasn't sure where to find the support that I was used to
in the "real world".  My mentor from Purdue, Barbara Clark, recommended
I go to the 1997 conference - and wow, it was an eye opener!  For
reasons I cannot begin to even fathom, I somehow managed to miss all
the next Grace Hopper conferences until last year's in Orlando FL. I
have been missing out! I love the camaraderie, getting updates on
fascinating technical topics, and learning about new job skills and job
markets.  This year I'll be a panelist on women in Open Source, as well
as blogging.  I'm a staff engineer at Sun Microsystems, currently still
heavily involved with computer security and in particular the Solaris
Cryptographic Framework project.  You'll see me a lot on the mailing aliases, and often making updates to the
documentation for external (and internal) contributors.

(a copy of this blog appeared on  the official Grace Hopper blog)

Valerie Fenwick

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pat Mitchell talks to Sun Women!

I was so lucky to get to attend in person the talk by Pat Mitchell, a Sun board member, given to women at Sun a few weeks back. Ms Mitchell, an energetic and intelligent speaker, captivated the "in studio" audience as she regaled us with tales of starting her own production company for women, starting her own talk show, Woman to Woman, and acting as an anchor on the Today show. Now, you have to wonder how a woman so involved in television came to be involved witht he Sun board of directors. Her career path is a staggered one, starting out just trying to do something she enjoyed - teaching! She then moved into writing articles for Look magazine and others, finding a new path for her to release her creative juices!

Ms. Mitchell talked quite extensively about how the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) actually helped her and other women to get jobs in the 1970s - and helped her get a myriad of experience. When the EEOC first went into effect, each TV station only had to have one woman in some job, but they liked to put their token hire in a position of prominent position so that everyone could see they were compliant. This is how she was able to hit the ground running and get real experience - though she did note that having such visible jobs that she didn't necessarily have all the training up front for did lead to extra scrutiny and occasional negative attention.

Ms. Mitchell found that women in media in the 1970s and early 1980s were expected to dress like men (we all remember those power-suits, right?), lower their voices to sound more like men, and to never discuss women's issues - but she decided to follow her own voice, which led her in very different directions! She soon discovered, though, that "talent"didn't get to make decisions on what stories were covered, who got hired or who got promoted. Feeling the frustration, she started her own production company to do things her way and to get all the experience associated with the business. Doing this led her to her first real executive position at Turner Broadcasting - a job she held for 10 years. Mitchell found Turner to be a fantastic mentor and only laments that her mentors were few & far between, and that she never had a woman mentor (as she seemed to always be breaking ground!).

When she found she no longer had a place after Turner merged with Time Warner (she notes that many women seemed to have lost their grounding), she nearly went back to teaching - only to get a call from PBS out of the blue. Mitchell loves her job at PBS, but found the pay was not quite the equal of a company like Turner. That is when she began taking jobs on corporate boards to make up the pay gap, and found she really enjoyed being able to contribute to companies she otherwise would've found unapproachable. She finds many boards appreciate her communication skills, knowledge of the entertainment business and her general business acumen.

Mitchell gave some fantastic advice for us all as well. She stated that women need to be comfortable with their own power - not only is it okay to have power, but you should use it and be able to redefine it, to have it work for you in a way that is not intimidating. Do all that and still be authentic.

She notes that you should also not be afraid of taking risks and that she's never seen anyone win anything through patience.

Related to that, Mitchell shared some of her grandmother's wisdom with us all: "Falling on your face is at least a forward movement."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Whatever happened to NRM Music?

I was just completing my LinkedIn profile (finally), and was saddened to find that one of my favorite companies seems to have disappeared off of the face of the earth - NRM Music (aka National Record Mart).  It was retail, but I loved working there. The No Risk Music guarantees alone - I mean, who lets you return open CDs for a different title anymore? (to be fair, the No Risk Music was limited to specific selections every month that we knew did not suck).  The last article I can find on the store is on potential expansions in 1999. I can only guess this place was a victim of the MP3 (aka "let's not pay for music anymore") revolution.  I was able to grow from a lowly annoying teenage salesperson into a manager all before turning 17. I learned respect for merchandise, for myself, for others and for corporate America.  I also learned about how Federal tax incentive programs (like automatically reducing withholding but not reducing your tax bill) really impacted minimum wage earners. I also got to see first hand what happened when the Federal minimum wage was raised.  I gained an understanding for how the big picture works, and how every individual can impact the environment around them.  I could see first hand how being a helpful and courteous employee raised our sales by the double digit percentiles.  I also learned that several of our employees could not alphabetize merchandise with much accuracy, which led to my strange obsession with alphabetizing my own CDs, DVDs and books.

I've seen my favorite music stores disappear out here. It's a shame, I always find new things to listen to by just browsing or getting recommendations from a real human that has an actual interest in music.

Through my job at NRM, I was eligible for and received a college scholarship from the National Association for Recording Merchandisers.  It wasn't a full ride, but definitely made a difference, helped me focus on my studies to maintain the gift and made sure I kept my credit hours up to par.  Anyways, I'll miss you NRM, wherever you have gone.

Monday, August 18, 2008

And a hush fell over the crowd....

I experienced something new this weekend - I was in the Opal Ultra Lounge in the MontBleu in Lake Tahoe.  Every TV in the casino and club was tuned into the Olympics, which people had been idly watching while waiting for drinks to be made. Then the men's 400m medley relay came on.  Suddenly, the crowd quieted. Bartenders stopped making drinks. People stopped talking. Dancers stopped moving on the dance floor. We all just stopped and watched, many holding their breath while others softly chanted "U S A. U S A."  Everyone was totally riveted until the race completed, America taking another gold - Michael Phelps receiving his 8th.  It was surreal.

I'm not a huge sports fan, but I do love watching the Olympics. These sports are just not normally aired, and this is my first time watching them in HD - an awesome experience  (I do love my TiVo!).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

We've switched!

Things are starting to settle down now that mercurial is up and working for ON's Solaris development. I've yet to have done a push myself, but have approved several RTIs, updated the RTI nits documentation, and am preparing more updates to other sites as well.   I'll be returning my focus to FIPS and US Governement export regulations on cryptography shortly, and hopefully doing a few more blog updates.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Mercurial or bust!

Things are so crazy for me right now, getting ready for ON's switch to Mercurial next week. To get ready as ON CRT chair, I had to update the RTI nit documentation, so folks would know what they were expected to do.  Thank goodness for all the great help from the SCM migration team! Now that that's done, I'll try to get back to my "real" work and all my missing blog entries... :-)