Today is Ada Lovelace Day, and along with thousands of other bloggers, I’m going to write a little bit today about a woman I have found inspiring in the technical world. This isn’t an easy task, picking one woman. Like Liz, I am blessed to personally know a huge number of inspiring geeky women, but in the spirit of the day I’m going to pick just one, who I’ve never met personally, but who has made a significant contribution to my personal success as a programmer.
Kathy Sierra was the author of the original Head First book, and that series of books has done more for my technical progress than any other single factor. I’m known by many people as a highly skilled programmer, but I didn’t learn that stuff in school – I have a BA in Philosophy. I’m not good at learning from dry crusty tomes – regular programming books tend to hold my attention through about the first 3 chapters and then I’m off to try the stuff on my own. The Head First books, of which I have 9, engage me throughout and get the needed information in my brain, so that I can dive into a programming project with the sense that I have the tools I need.
That’s not all she’s done, though. I saw her speak at OSCON a few years ago and was inspired to go find her blog and read it. For the next couple of years, I read Creating Passionate Users religiously, hoping to glean some sense of how best to engage my users and make them feel like superheroes while using my tools.
A couple of years ago, some internet trolls crossed the line in a serious way, threatening Kathy in a way that made her feel uncomfortable about continuing to participate in the blog community. She is still out there sharing her ideas in other ways, but I am still saddened and infuriated that anyone could do such a thing to someone who has given so much to our community and to our level of discourse.
Kathy Sierra is my unsung hero. Her ideas have helped me become a better programmer and a better interface designer. Happy Ada Lovelace Day, everyone!