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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Laura and Ada

When I saw the call from my friend Suw for people to post about women in technology on Ada Lovelace Day, I didn't have to look far. The woman in technology who most inspires me is my lovely wife, Laura Lombardo.

I love being able to tell people about what Laura does for a living. Say the magic words "my wife breaks in to computers for a living," and eyes get wide. My wife is a white hat hacker.

Her interest in technology probably manifested itself first in high school when she got her ham radio license. She's maintained it all these years, although it's been a long time since she was active (okay, she was never all that active). No doubt that had something to do with her being accepted into one of the toughest and most prestigious colleges in the country, Cooper Union. She received her Bachelors in Engineering (BEng) in Electrical Engineering.

After receiving her degree, she started work designing and implementing turnkey solutions for a piece of electrical test equipment. From there, she moved through a variety of jobs, including working as a C programmer and programming SAP solutions. That's what she was doing when we started dating. From there, she moved into security, where she has performed a number of functions. For the last several years, she has been part of a Tiger Team, specializing in penetration testing for her company and outside clients. In the middle of all this, she managed to study for a masters degree via telelearning and received a M.S. in Telecommunications from Southern Methodist University without ever travelling to their campus in Dallas.

Laura has been on the net since the mid 1980s. We first met online in 1990, and started dating in 1995. I couldn't be prouder of her, and I love having a partner I can discuss technology with.

Posted at 6:28 AM
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Eleanor Baum (Ada Lovelace Day)

(Editor's note: this is a guest post by my wife Laura on the occasion of Ada Lovelace Day.)

Dr. Eleanor Baum has been Dean of the Albert Nerken School of Engineering of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art since 1987. She was the first female dean of engineering in the U.S. in 1984 when appointed to that post at Pratt Institute and the first female president of the American Society for Engineering Education.

In addition to being the Dean of Engineering at Cooper, she also sits on the Board of Directors of a couple of companies and works as an engineering consultant. Her list of accomplishments is amazing.

But this short biography with a big list of accomplishments doesn't give you a sense of who she is. Here are some words I would use to describe her: Nice. Friendly. Approachable. Tough when she needs to be.

For at least as long as she's been an engineering school dean, and I suspect a lot longer than that, she has been a tireless promoter of getting more women and minorities to enter the engineering field.

Her life story, including the story of how she came to be a female engineer in the 1950s, is fascinating.

Although I graduated with an engineering degree from The Cooper Union, it was unfortunately a few years before Dr. Baum became the Dean! I only had the occasion to meet her once. It was 1990 and I was plunked on to my company's Engineer's Week committee as a last minute replacement. I was told that my responsibility was to quickly find a speaker. I immediately thought it would be a great idea to have Dr. Baum speak about recruiting more women into the engineering field. She graciously agreed to speak. I just can't tell you how wonderful it was to meet her in person and to hear her speak so convincingly to an audience of mostly men about the need for more women and minorities in the engineering field.

Who knows how many people have been influenced by hearing this wonderful woman speak? The engineer in me wishes there were some figures or statistics I could quote. "Nine out of ten young girls surveyed now believe an engineering career is possible for them." "Five thousand high school girls decided to major in engineering because of Dr. Baum." But as far as I know there are no statistics available, so I'll just have to go with the warm fuzzy feeling that this woman has touched a countless number of lives!

Posted at 6:20 AM
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This site is copyright © 2002-2017, Ralph Brandi. (E-mail address removed due to virus proliferation.)

What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio


There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

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