By Nadia Morris
More than 175 years ago, Ada Lovelace designed the first algorithm for the “Analytical Engine” – an early model of a modern computer. She was an innovator ahead of her time. Her contributions to computer science were discovered a century after her death.
We credit Lovelace as the world’s first computer programmer. And today, we’re celebrating Ada Lovelace Day to honor the achievements of women in science and tech and inspire girls to pursue STEM careers.
And let’s not forget Hedy Lamarr – who inspired me to become an engineer. She did it all. Not only was she a world renowned film star from the 1930s to the 1950s, she was one of the most important inventors in telecommunications.
At the beginning of World War II, Lamarr developed communications technology to prevent the Axis powers from blocking signals to Allied guided torpedoes. The principles of her work became the foundation for Wi-Fi, CDMA and Bluetooth.
Like Lamarr, I have a diverse background in liberal arts and STEM. I bring a mix of electronics, computer science and art to my job as the head of innovation at the Healthcare Foundry in Houston.
This year, I asked a couple of my colleagues to join me and share their thoughts on the women who influenced and supported their path to a STEM career.
Kathy Meier-Hellstern – AVP, Optimization, Reliability and Customer Analytics, AT&T Labs
My 9th grade math teacher was one of my biggest early supporters. I was bored taking Algebra II, so she allowed me to work at my own pace. By the end of the year, I finished Algebra II and half of Geometry.
That summer, she volunteered to tutor me, helping me complete the course. Her selfless dedication and support made a lasting impression. And it helped me believe I could excel at math and achieve anything I wanted.
My mother is also one of my biggest fans. She devoted her life to raising 5 children, including 4 girls. She didn’t finish college or excel in math. But all 4 of her girls pursued STEM careers, and she was so proud. She was always by our side as our biggest supporter. She showed us the meaning of selfless dedication and unconditional support.
Alicia Abella – AVP, Cloud Technologies and Services Research, AT&T Labs
My mother is both an inspiration and a large part of my support system.
A STEM degree requires a lot of hard work, perseverance and a willingness to continuously learn. She set an example for me, emigrating from Cuba on her own. She learned English by night, worked hard during the day and read voraciously whenever she could. She always said I could have any career I set my mind to, even if it was one that was considered to be a “man’s job.”
Jen Yates – AVP, Networking and Service Quality Management, AT&T Labs
My mom has always been a key inspiration in my life – both in terms of who I have become as a person and in my career choices. Before I was born, she financially and emotionally supported my dad as he became the first member of his family to get a college education. This emphasis on education shaped our family’s future, especially where my sisters and I are today. She encouraged me to embrace my strengths in math and science to pursue an engineering career—and to be passionate about my pursuits.
She also did everything in her power to provide my sisters and me with meaningful life experiences. She helped us grow into strong, committed women with strong family bonds. She showed me how to be a hardworking, diligent dream-follower. And she gave me the confidence to believe in myself and know that I can achieve whatever I put my mind to.