Tuesday, May 19, 2009

do you know this guy?

Nick Burns, Your Company's Computer Guy.

Granted, these people seem kind of...befuddled, that's a kind way to describe them. But in the past few years I've gotten accustomed to befuddled, because there are lots of different ways to be befuddled about science and technology. And I have to admit, I've been them, at one time or another, just wanting things to work and not really caring about the underlying technology. They have all my sympathy: it is the stupid email attachment that's stupid, dammit, because everything worked fine before, and the user hasn't done anything differently, and all he wants to do is open his attachment and get on with his overwhelming todo list.

(I should add a disclaimer here: our IT guys at Major Midwestern Supercomputing Center are really fantastic. They're patient, they're respectful, they're sweet and funny and overworked, and they're nothing like this guy. But I've known lots of people who exhibit these characteristics and probably don't realize it, especially when it comes to their nearest and dearest. Our instructor tonight said he once showed this to his wife and said, "This is the worst IT guy in the world!" To which she responded, "He's exactly like you, honey.")

This is now one of the major rules of classroom etiquette in my technical PC maintenance course, which started tonight: that we respect each other and our deficiencies. At any time, someone might call "Nick Burns!" on us.

And with good reason. Some of the other students in my class already have enormous amounts of experience--they're sound engineers, self-taught IT guys, gaming programmers, honorably discharged Army computer specialists. I'm the only woman in the class (so far) and probably, even with my credentials as a technical writer at a major academic supercomputing center, the least experienced of them all. I'm prepared to learn from them as well as from my instructor.

It was a really great class tonight. Tonight I finally learned how to count in binary and hexadecimal and to convert between those two systems and decimal and octal. And then we got into the strange semantic language of logic gates, and I was excited about that too, because I'd had preparation for that twenty-one years before in symbolic logic, during my first semester of college, and I could remember and deploy some of it now.

I can do this. I can do this! I'm excited and looking forward to the next class. For once I almost felt like one of the boys, and not a silly female impostor.

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