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what i did with my summer vacation

2010/09/28

sarahnovotny

this summer has been an exciting one of opportunity and fostering new beginnings.  to this end, i’m super excited to say that my role at Blue Gecko is changing!  before i dropped off the virtual world, back in august, for a month-long vacation i handed off the operational support part of my day-to-day work.  today is my first day back to focus on business development and evangelism.  so, yes i’ll be out on the conference circuit more as well as schmoozing and making introductions left and right.

the second big change that becomes official today is that i am now co-chair of OSCON with the esteemed Edd Dumbill.  as his announcement suggests, i’ll be harassing everyone i know for feedback, suggestions, proposals, etc.  i’m also soliciting unsolicited feedback (if that makes sense) so find me on the internet and let me know what you think.  i’m very excited about the opportunity to shape the 2011  version of this venerable open source institution.

statistics

2010/09/27

sarahnovotny

domains in my netsol acct: 29
gb available on my laptop: 66.5

Mount Point : / Capacity : 148.7 GB (159,697,911,808 Bytes)
Format : Mac OS Extended (Journaled) Available : 66.5 GB (71,350,788,096 Bytes)
Owners Enabled : Yes Used : 82.3 GB (88,347,123,712 Bytes)
Number of Folders : 200,588 Number of Files : 1,098,353

It’s nursing for the future trans-humanists

2010/07/11

sarahnovotny

these are the notes i wrote for a talk i’m giving today at ideawave.  the audience was fairly non technical, so there was a bit of time spent laying the framework for the problem of too few women in technology.

——–

my world is IT operations.  i spend a lot of time thinking about how to bring more women to programming and operational management of software, hardware and work that generally requires a computer science background.   if i draw parallels to the world of science these would be the theorists, the experimentalists and the mechanics that make all the tools and technology work.  the number of women working in technology has been decreasing since the mid 80s by most measures.  i want this to change.

a pencil is technology, your watch is technology.  the text message on your cellphone and correspondence in your gmail account are only new variants of old technology the optical telegraph and the pony express.  the Chappe telegraph sent information over long distances through a character set that was defined by the position of the arms on a semaphore relay system.  this is not that different from characters rendered on a screen today.

these are simply examples to frame that there is nothing new or inherently scary about technology.  Today we have an awful time recruiting girls and women into jobs avocations and careers that are developing or even managing what is commonly referred to as “technology.  I don’t think there isn’t interest.  and this hasn’t always been the case so, what has changed and how can this be reversed?    there is outreach to girls —Barbie can now be a computer scientist.  There has been research about the leaky pipeline that loses girls and women from the field at every turn from childhood through retirement.  For anyone interested, there’s a fantastic book written about this research called “unlocking the clubhouse” by MIT press about the extensive research done at Carnegie Mellon University.  But the problem still exists. not enough women come into the pipeline and it leaks the entirety of our lives.

Technology is everywhere. network access, data access and data capture are all becoming ubiquitous.  our culture is becoming more reliant on external storage and services to stitch together our days – for example google maps helped me to get from my hotel to here, i’ve been tweeting 140 character summaries of these talks all weekend, and I use wikipedia to end more arguments in bars than i’d care to admit.  this information exists in the ether, the tools to access continue to become smaller and eventually become parts of our selves be it metaphorically or physically. (in fact as i was preparing this talk, a tweet came in to just this point).
it’s not a stretch for me as an apple fangirl to say–  I currently consider my iphone, ipad and ilaptop part of ime.

which leads me to nursing!  my mother is an RN and i say the parallels between the skills of a nurse and a database or system administrator are remarkable.

  • i frequently have an an opportunity to give family of the technologically deceased  (say the CTO of a large company whose server has just melted) bad news.
  • i also get awakened at odd hours to answer questions from staff and clients.
  • the first thing I do in the morning is check on all the open concerns from yesterday and do a sort of rounds with the overnite staff for handoff.
  • after major outages, I’ve walked c-level execs through the 7 stages of grieving.
  • i’ve stayed on many-hour long conference calls that could be called suicide watches for other ops staff that were at the ends of their ropes talking them out of doing anything technologically foolish.

just as nursing isn’t for everyone as evidenced by the extreme shortage of nurses in the US at a minimum, perhaps the women who are choosing not to follow IT operations have some reasonable points.

  • most haven’t arrived late to a dinner party they were hosting with takeout pizza instead of the meticulous menu whose component parts are still in the refridgerator because there was a database crash.
  • they don’t get 00:00 calls from midnite staff personnel who want to negotiate a raise right then and believe that they have a superior negotiating position since someone has to be awake around the clock to run a successful network operations center (and i’m sleepy).  I fired that person at 01:00 when i arrived at the office and worked the shift myself.

but i digress.

i choose nursing as my reference career for this talk mostly because it is a such a stereotypically female career that men who are nurses are called “male nurses” explicitly.  wait.  I am frequenty referred to as a female DBA. damn. while i find this ironic and  vaguely sad, the jobs are really similar.  troubleshooting and repair work on complex systems.  one organic, one silicon based. the risks are very different, but that’s one of the reasons I think technology is the better choice for me.

IT Operations is by no means all downside, there are great benefits of future transhumanist nursing most specifically as opposed to traditional nursing.  For example, I’ve never had a client die due to my action, inaction or anything relating to my work (fortunately)  and there are very rarely any unfortunate smells or nasty organic cleanup.

can rebranding and reframing this sort of work be another tool to encourage women to try it?   i’ve done and continue to do outreach. i try to write job descriptions that are more focused on the intangibles of the job than the raw skills and competitive, high risk, high reward portions of the work.  i  host women’s groups to talk about Linux, open source software and databases. i speak where i can about the work i do and talk to anyone who will listen about the fantastic puzzles we get to solve on a daily basis. and yet, there are still (proportionally) only a handful of women in this business I still have to look hard to find women who want to work in IT operations.

i’m reaching out now even further to ask you to please do what you can with girls and women you know to encourage an openness and curiousity about technology.

thank the women you know who work in IT for their skills and encourage them to keep up their good work. they are nurses for the computers of today and the trans-humanists of tomorrow.

i’m going to be one of those early adopters who augments myself early and most of the men i know in IT operations will have a crappy bedside manner — I want to know there are women with good tech chops available in the pipeline to help me out.

things to do and places to go

2010/06/16

sarahnovotny

i’m traveling a lot this summer for work and fun, and even some of both occasionally. today i sit in suburban indianapolis with my family working on talks for ODTUG Kaleidoscope and Ideawave.  still to come are in internal talk for Pivotal Labs about 5 things every developer wants to get right in MySQL,  LinuxCon,  and the new  MySQL sunday at Oracle OpenWorld.  This doesn’t even hit the three un-conferences i’m attending for which i still have define some potential sessions.   I love the focus that this bringing to my thoughts.  if you can’t distill something well, the talk won’t be good.  here’s hoping i tighten up my talks neatly.

Sheryl Sandberg quote

2010/05/17

sarahnovotny

The thing for people to remember is to really try to embrace change and not try to control it too much. It’s an instinct to hunker down and control things that makes this harder for people.

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg on Forbes.com

ignite mysql!

2010/04/16

sarahnovotny

work life balance and integration

2009/11/18

sarahnovotny

i’m currently learning the price of an unbalanced work/life existence. i love technology and technology work. but, this summer i was unable to kick a sinus infection because i didn’t allowed myself the space to just be sick and recover.

there are more than a few things that lead up to this including many things that were out of my control. but, the result of this was instead of a week off to sleep a ton and get over a basic headcold, i ended up having sinus surgery and taking an enforced 3 weeks off in september.

it was Alyssa Royce’s post naked in the board room this morning that made me resurrect this post  which i’d started it back when i was recovering from the surgery and had a bit of free time.  i was (and still am) unsure about the implications of publishing that i worked myself silly over the summer and worried about the message it gave my clients.  it’s now november; nothing awful happened, no one was terribly upset that i was out for 3 weeks, and i have a better sense that everyone gets sick.  no one expects me to be superhuman and i should just get over trying.

so, taking this to heart  even though i was in portland to participate in open sql camp last weekend, i decided to take the day off on sunday to wander and enjoy powells, powells tech, countermedia, and reading frenzy the city.  i still had a pang of “what am i missing? there is so much more i could be learning!”, but i’d talked to the people i wanted to and seen a few really interesting presentations and  i really wanted to walk around and be somewhere quieter than souk with 130 exuberant geeks abuzz about databases.  walking from bookstore to bookstore, kicking leaves and leafing through books is a great way to spend an afternoon

my point though is  – more balance, more short blog posts about things that interest me, more sticking my neck out, more authenticity.

oooh, and check out the uproariously funny noSQL glossary lightning talk by Brian Aker.

 

ada lovelace day and a short tribute to evi nemeth

2009/03/23

sarahnovotny

tomorrow is ada lovelace day, and i’ve committed to write about a woman in technology who i find inspiring.

my background isn’t computer science, it’s physics. i was languishing in an phd program at unc when i first got introduced to networking, systems administration and databases. but, i wasn’t sure i wanted to make the switch. ultimately, instead of changing paths in school, i decided to leave and work at amazon.

it took me a long time to not see that diversion as a failing.

all that said, one of the first books i acquired to investigate this computer operations bent was “the red book” by evi nemeth. here was a super smart academic who was interested in and writing about things i was interested in (i’d had my full share of scattering papers).  i was so moved by someone who had achieved success (i.e. academic success) in this field, that i decided to explore more.   i pressed hard to move out of the group that was maintaining tools for amazon’s customer service group and be given an opportunity in infrastructure.

with that single opportunity and the fascination with evi’s book, i laid the foundation for my subsequent career path development. i took a leap into a world of books and computers. 

maslow not withstanding, of course. does anyone need more to sustain them?

“the red book” has been released twice more since i first laid hands on it and it’s now “the purple book” and evi has retired, but i still credit her with being a beacon for me in a fog of indecision as i was trying to understand what to do with a dream (of being a physicist) that hadn’t ever been examined closely.

my k2 will arrive on tuesday

2009/03/06

sarahnovotny

have to say, i’m excited enough about it to be checking out my whispernet available options.  i saw blogs as an option and immediately wanted to separate my fun blogs into a more pad like reader.  all that said i’m not sure i think that $2/mo is the right pricepoint for my consumption levels…   ouch.

maybe a frequent flier program?

voice of witness series

2009/02/25

sarahnovotny

i’ve read the last few VoW titles, and find them incredibly touching and telling about the political, social and cultural climates in the US today.  mcsweeney’s has spun VoW out into it’s on non-profit.  way to go!  and gotta say, big props goto dave eggers and his work with VoW and the 826 sites.

and, thanks to mcsweeney’s for giving a voice to these witnesses.

We want to tell you, as well, about something you may have seen on our website this week—our Voice of Witness series, which now functions as its own noble nonprofit, is steaming toward its fifth title, which’ll be a collection of oral histories from Zimbabwe. But—but—for that book to be the best it can be, VOW is in need of your support. A $25 donation buys a tape recorder; $50 pays for an interviewer’s food and transportation for two days; $100 covers a week’s worth of work by a translator and transcriber. If you’d like to help, their site is the one to steer toward (or to pass along to beneficent friends). And—and—those donations enumerated above will earn you a gift in return: for $100, VOW will send you a set of the series thus far (four books, signed by Dave Eggers and the other editors); for $50, you’ll receive a signed (by Dave Eggers and Craig Walzer) copy of the latest collection, Out of Exile; and for $25, you’ll have a very fine, albeit unsigned, Voice of Witness T-shirt. Not bad, right? Whatever you can do, we thank you.

i already own 2 of the series, but might get the whole series again with sigs to contribute and have spare copies for sharing!