How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Programming

The women of Silicon Valley are making waves both as business executives who deny or embrace feminism, but it’s widely known that most of the women in the tech-industry do not perform highly technical work. In How to Be a ‘Woman Programmer’, Ellen Ullman, writes eloquently about the challenges and discrimination she faced as a woman in a male-dominated field, but also, of her love for her work, her curiosity and inquisitiveness that led her to want to “probe the mysterious space between human thoughts and what a machine can understand.”

For those of you who find computers boring, stay with me. Because the second requirement Ms. Ullman describes as being crucial to her success as a software engineer is essential for us all. She wrote that what she and all programmers possess is a “high tolerance for failure” or what the legendary programmer John Backus called “the willingness to fail all the time.”

The article brought back vivid memories from the first time I attempted to load data into R, a simple yet daunting task necessary to fulfilling the programming components of the requirements of my econometrics course. My heart was beating with anxiety and fear, as if I had been asked me to crash-land a helicopter in the fog so that I could rescue a litter of kittens from a burning building. The fear and intimidation of learning a programming language had me convinced that learning this language was something I couldn’t do. But then I recognized the problem – it was just fear. Fear, unlike programming, was familiar to me. Why should this fear be any different?

*Blog title credits to the New School Computer Language Workshop Fall 2013.


Categories: Angry Feminists, Lady Business, Women at Work

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2 replies

  1. I love! A light bulb just went off! ‘I’m in a computer science program and i have been having trouble yes it is because I have a fear, I need to get used to the idea of failure and work through my problems. Thank you!

    • Hi Rachel, I’m so happy to hear that this post resonated with you. Yes, programming can be intimidating, but you can do it. I have found once I get over the fear, it’s actually fun. Best of luck to you! Thanks for reading.

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