Wednesday, January 7, 2009

well, this is it

So it's finally happening. Next week, I will be confronting mathematics and computer science for the first time in more than twenty years. And I'm going to blog about it here.

I don't know how original the premise of this blog is, and frankly, I don't much care. I'm a woman in her late thirties, married, no children, a nontechnical professional surrounded by developers and engineers, married to a physical scientist, with an advanced degree in English literature, and I haven't had any math since I struggled through Algebra II in tenth grade.

Well, maybe that's not entirely true. I seem to recall, during accelerated physics that same year, getting some rudimentary trigonometry, which I've all but forgotten. But the fact is that throughout my elementary and secondary years, math and I were enemies.

Now, I want to take computer science--to really learn to program and administer computing systems for the first time. I want to study networking and computing security. I'm at a crossroads in my professional life, and I want to be better at what I do, be a better colleague, get more respect from my co-workers, and my current plans are to get a certification in network security at a local community college--even if it isn't enough to help me break into the field, it will, hopefully, make me more valuable. But for all that, I need to shore up my skills in basic math and finally move beyond it into calculus.

And I'm a technical writer. Communication is supposed to be my gift. (It isn't always.) But what I'm hoping is that by writing about my studies here I'll be able to understand better what I'm learning, retain more of it, get into a mindset that helps me confront this whole enterprise without being so afraid of it. And I'm wondering, too, if there are other people--particularly women--like me. Women who were told early on that math and science and computing weren't for them, who accepted and believed that, and who spent their whole lives behind an invisible barrier of innumeracy. Women who are held back from further advancement, treated as lightweights, paid significantly less than younger, less experienced men with technical backgrounds to do the same work. Women who lack the confidence to stand up for themselves professionally, who are relegated to support positions, considered expendable when the need for job cuts arises.

And it's really not getting much better: the numbers of girls who enter computer sciences continues to drop precipitously, for one reason or another, resulting in the obstruction of an important road to economic and social parity. I suspect that there continues to be a general culture of hostility towards women in technical fields. And it seems to me that the only way to combat it is to start to populate these fields with older women who can help make mostly male, highly technical workplaces and educational programs more receptive to young women just coming out of high school.

So what I'm going to try to do with this blog is to describe what I learn, work out problems I'm having, talk in some detail about what it's like to return to a subject that was my bĂȘte noir when I was a teenager, and, hopefully, slay this dragon once and for all--or--perhaps this is a better metaphor--put it to work for me. And if I can do it, maybe others can, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment