Celebrating Women of Technology, My Mother and Her Sister


World's Most Dificult Jigsaw Puzzle, Leprechaun StyleFor Ada Lovelace Day, I was all set to write a post on making the tech industry more welcoming to women. I was almost done with that post when I decided that it was the wrong focus for today. I want to celebrate inspiring women in tech. Instead of picking from a slate of relatively well-known women or scrounging together some research on lesser known ones, I thought I’d target some people closer to home.

My mother and her sister.

I could say that a PhD in Biochemistry and a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering is enough to inspire, but there is more. Diplomas sit on walls. It is their journey to those degrees and how they live their lives that show the impact.

What was that impact? Three of my four women 1st cousins work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). In fact, in my generation, if you earned a college degree, the men were less likely to be in STEM than the women.

That is an impact.

Long Road

Neither had an easy road to their degrees. My parents married after two years of college at Auburn University. They had been dating 3 years and made the decision to get married after an engagement of a week. They only waited that long as they needed to get legal permission from my Dad’s parents. Needless to say, my mother’s parents were not thrilled with such a quick process. Afterwards, my Grandfather Jones told my mother,

Old enough to get married, old enough to pay for college.

Of course old enough did not equate to rich enough. My mother had to drop out of school and get a job. She wouldn’t return to school in earnest in 15 years after my brother and I were both in grade school. My father, being a Naval officer, forced us to move quite a bit, but my mother managed to squeeze in her Bachelor’s degree in Virginia Beach. We stayed in town an extra year with my dad living by himself commuting home on the weekend from DC in order for her to finish her degree.

After two years in DC, we returned to Virginia Beach where my mother earned her PhD. This also involved multiple cities for my parents for two years while she finished her research thesis, becoming a Doctor of Biochemistry.

[Fun Fact: My father was always on a Navy ship during finals. Strangely convenient for him.]

Her younger sister, Aunt Jackie, also had a long route. She married young, had a daughter, and became a single mother. Things were not easy for her. When I arrived at Auburn University, she had made her way back to school and was wrapping up her degree. She finished it up and has been working as an engineer ever since.

Tech In Action

These women serve as an example to all the women and girls in our family in the same way my Great Aunt Nancy served as an example for them. Aunt Nancy was also an engineering graduate of Auburn University and spent her career up in Huntsville, AL, The Rocket City. Space Camp anyone? Of course, there was more to it than simply degrees or careers. Aunt Jackie has mad skills with puzzles and my mother…A Panasonic Senior Partner

My mother got me into computers.

When we moved back to Virginia Beach and she started her PhD program, she needed a computer. She had to dial into the school for her Biometry class so we went out one Saturday afternoon and bought a computer. The Panasonic Senior Partner wasn’t the best computer out there, but it met her needs.

I learned to code three languages on that old, bulky, monochrome, lovable device.

My mother was the master of that computer. She was the DOS expert, upgraded the memory, and picked the accessories like a real printer and monitor. When that computer was replaced, she ordered the necessary parts and built it herself. I don’t think my mother bought a fully built computer for 20 years.

[Fun Fact 2: When my mother asks my brother or I for computer help, we are both skeptical. We both know she can do it. The request is just a front for getting us to visit.]

Thank You

For this year’s Ada Lovelace Day, I want to acknowledge my mother and my Aunt Jackie for inspiring the next generation of women engineers in my family. I know that they, along with my cousins Heather, Katie, and Christina, will inspire the next generation.

Now we all need to make sure that the STEM industries are a better place for the next generation than it is for the current one.

EMC’s Faulty Perception of Content Management


How I Met Your Mother Spit TakeWhile at the Monktoberfest last week, I had the luck to run into some people from EMC.  Not just any folk from EMC, they were from “core”, the storage side of the business. After convincing them that I knew enough about EMC to have a real conversation, we discussed Documentum and the Information Intelligence Group (IIG) where Documentum sits.

The talk quickly turned to why Documentum did not live up to the potential they had when EMC acquired them. While I have many opinions, I thought I’d get their opinion. It was a little surprising.

They didn’t adopt Virtual fast enough.

There have been a lot of missteps over the years, but that wasn’t one of them. I was selling Documentum during the rise of VMWare and I can state this for a fact, I NEVER lost a deal because Documentum didn’t support virtual machines.

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Why Should We Get Out of Email?


Moses from History of the World Part 1Last week I had the privilege of having dinner with a brilliant gentleman from my college days, Alex. Some may know of Alex as he the person who is responsible for my moniker, “Pie.” We had a great conversation that was mostly devoid of ‘remember when’ threads.

Alex is an independent lawyer in a city in the southern US. He has been practicing for quite some time and after delving into what I do for a living, he went into a rant on legal discovery, both paper and electronic.

He flat out accused many law firms of making large discovery requests in order to make money reviewing the results. Regardless of the outcome of the case, the billable hours accrued can turn a tidy profit for a law firm. He even shared a story of one case when the amount of discovery turned out to be very small and the firm dropped the case as they wouldn’t be able to make money from it.

While not all firms are like that, it does trigger certain behaviors and advice that in the grand scheme should not occur. We should be working to do what is right for our organization without being scared of ‘what if’ scenarios.

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Box Just Threw Down the Gauntlet


Clint Eastwood as Dirty HarryLast week, Box held their annual conference. Many announcements were expected and the announcement of Workflow coming to Box in 2015 was quite exciting. If you want a high-level look at everything that happened, check out Chris Walker’s quick thoughts on BoxWorks.

None of that is why I am writing this post.

Buried in the wave of tweets were two game-changing announcements. Box announced Retention Management and Auto-Classification of Content.

That’s right. Information Governance behind the scenes on an application that people actually use AND a way to get content in the right retention bucket without people having to intervene.

All in the cloud.

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Executing on Information Governance


I had the pleasure of attending the Information Governance Exchange in Washington, DC last week. It was a different conference from many that I have attended in the past. Attended by senior people that own Information Governance at their organizations, there were a lot of discussions about how to execute strategies to making Information Governance work.

This was not theory, it was hard advice and grounded discussions. In fact, it was the most BS free Information Governance event I had ever attended.

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Keep Your Data in Shape


Congratulations! You are finally tracking the effectiveness of your content and are starting to gain real insights into how people interact with you on your website, social media outlets, and across all of your digital efforts. The data is really starting to pour in, revealing trends that are helping you plan for the next step of your evolving marketing strategy.

As the data piles up, you may start to notice little things. Reports are taking longer to run. Your IT staff is spending more time on performance tuning. You realize that determining the ideal audience for a campaign is requiring as many exclusions as inclusions. Meanwhile, your email bounce-back rate and unsubscribe requests continue to climb.

What is happening is info-glut. Over time, the data piles up and a growing percentage becomes inaccurate, unreliable, or both. While a simple answer is to throw a little more power at the problem and adjust expectations, there are questions that are begging to be asked.

  • Do we care who downloaded a whitepaper three years ago?
  • Is it still relevant that someone visited the site actively nine months ago and then disappeared?
  • How accurate is all that personal information that has been collecting since tracking was started?
  • When you move to a new system, how much of the data do you transform and bring over?

This is where a little Information Governance can streamline your activities from the beginning. Like you would when applying the Principles of Holistic Information Governance to content, you need to assess the data, determine its useful life, and plan accordingly.

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Writings on Sexism and Other Personal Topics


Rodin's 'The Thinker'You may have noticed that I haven’t posted on the issue of Sexism or many non-IT topics of late. That is because I have moved many of those writings to Medium.

I was hoping that these musings would be more discoverable there. I also want to keep the Word a little more focused. So far the posts haven’t been discovered as much as I like. I am going to continue the experiment knowing that it may just be a matter of time.

While you can always find the posts in the link over in the sidebar, I am going to highlight a couple of my more recent posts here. Take a few moments and go read them if you haven’t already.

  • What is Wrong With You?: Why aren’t more men stepping up and at taking a stand against sexism, or any ‘isms’? This basically a rant about men standing on the sidelines. Vowing to do more BEGINS by standing-up and being counted among those who care.
  • Right or Wrong, We Need to Make This Personal: Reaching a critical mass of men who care about sexism is going to require forging an emotional connection. In this article I trace my own journey and how it became personal for me.
  • My Family Legacy, Centuries of Racism and Oppression?: During the protests in Ferguson, I watched people slowly build a new sad chapter in our nation’s history. It caused me to reflect a lot on the history of my family and how it has likely been on the wrong side of history many times.

These are important topics to me. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t share the personal stories that are located within them.

Our society is a reflection of all of us. I’d like to think we are better than the society we live in today. To make that true, we need to step up, make a difference…

And be counted.