Category Archives: Hopper – Anita Borg Institute

Postcast Interview

Katy Dickinson Sun Microsystems badge 398 in 2010

I very much enjoyed being interviewed by Akshay Birla for his “Life of the Mind” podcast last month. He just published the interview as “Episode 19 | Katy Dickinson on Technology, Mentoring, and Religion”.

Katy Dickinson has been around the tech-block. Hired by Eric Schmidt at Sun Microsystems, she literally wrote the book on the software development lifecycle that Sun used for release of almost 10,000 releases. She is a technologist, entrepreneur, mentor, and writer.

In our conversation Katy talks about her work as a technologist on creating processes:
A process has to not assume that you have world-class people working on it. A process assumes that that not everybody — while they are good-intentioned and competent — [is] perfect. You have to have a system that allows for lack of perfection but can work if you have the best that there is.

and the futility of only having excellent coders:
A good coder is a wonderful thing to have but you have to create something that the customer wants and feels comfortable with. Good coding and user experience are sometimes at odds.

But we spend the most of our conversation talking about mentoring programs that deliver high return-on-investment, and the intersection of religion and technology.

On the importance of example and networking provided by the Grace Hopper Celebration:
While they may be the only women in the room – which has certainly been my experience in 30+ years in the Silicon Valley – there are a lot of rooms.

Listening to your own recorded voice is always surprising – it sounds so different from the inside!

Happy New Year!

Sun Microsystems gate Menlo Park California in 2010

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Extra Gear? Gifts for Sierra Leone

Gifts for Sierra Leone trip June-July 2017

My daughter Jessica and I will be visiting Families Without Borders in Sierra Leone next week with Terri Khonsari. If you have any extra laptops or smart phones we can bring – no matter how old or dead – the students will be delighted with your donation. Please contact me soon!

I have visited the inspiring and fascinating continent of Africa at least once a year since 2010. With TechWomen Delegations, I have been to Morocco and Tunisia in North Africa, plus participating in Delegations to Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and South Africa below the Sahara. With People to People, John and I visited Ethiopia. My only actual vacation in Africa was to Egypt in 2010 – a much longer trip than planned since our family was stranded there by the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano.  This will be my first trip to West Africa.

I bring gifts on each trip for our generous hosts and for new friends and colleagues. For my first TechWomen Delegations, I had custom pencils made but more recently, I have brought San Francisco keychains and geeky pens and toys given away at events like the Grace Hopper Conference.  For this trip, I bought keychains, the Willow Glen Wells Fargo Bank branch gave me a big bag of red pens, and I am also bringing packages of stickers for the children.

However, the best present for the students in Sierra Leone would be empowerment and greater connection to the wider world.  Your outdated computer gear can help them.  I hope to hear from you!

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Image Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

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TechWomen Mail

Katy Dickinson and Janet Fofang Hopper Conference 2015

The TechWomen mentoring program participants often travel among our 21 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.   On our journeys, mentors and mentees often bring each other things, calling such deliveries “TechWomen Mail”. Sometimes the generous TechWomen carry local treats (like cookies or honey), or souvenirs from their country (like pen holders or coffee mugs).  Earlier this year, a traveling mentor bought a rug in the souq only to find it too big for her luggage.  In the next few months, I am sure that rug will arrive in the Silicon Valley with a visiting TechWoman.

Souvenirs from Egypt and Lebanon, coffee and pen cups

Since I would be seeing the Cameroon “Angels Tech of Africa” Technovation team in San Francisco, Janet Fofang (TechWomen 2013 Fellow) asked me to send her some electronics to use when teaching her Tassah Academy or WeTech girls in Yaounde, Cameroon. My husband, John Plocher, put together a box of interesting electronic boards and chips for exploration. Dorothée Danedjo Fouba  (TechWomen 2014 Fellow) kindly agreed to carry the box to Janet. I left the box loosely packed and openable so that Dorothée and customs inspectors could see what it contained – I am sure it looked odd on airport scanners.

This week, Janet wrote me that the box had arrived safely. (Thanks to Dorothée!) Janet and John are now in email discussions about what was in the box, and about software and hardware open source projects he has published on our family website, We may have more TechWomen Mail headed to Cameroon soon!

Teaching Materials - Electronic Parts July 2016

Cameroon Technovation Team with Katy Dickinson and Tara Chklovski 2016

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Images Copyright 2015-2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing – GHC15 in Houston


At the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Houston, Texas, with my daughter Jessica and 12,000 other geeks, mostly women – including over 20 TechWomen mentors, fellows, and emerging leaders! Jessica and I presented a custom playing card to US CTO Megan Smith (and took the photo below with her).

15 October 2015 Update: We planned to sell our Notable Technical Women and TechWomen playing cards and posters at the GHC15 Duke University exhibit hall table (with Dr. Susan Rodger) on 15 October and 16 October.  We are very disappointed that the shipment of Notable Technical Women and TechWomen playing cards did not arrive – although the posters did.  The posters will be for sale on Friday 16 October until 2 pm at the Duke University exhibit hall table. Playing cards continue to be available for sale on the Notable Technical Women website.  We apologize for any inconvenience caused by this shipping mess up!






Photos Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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History of Women in Computing and Women Leaders in Computing


Last week, Dr. Telle Whitney (CEO and President, Anita Borg Institute), Dr. Susan Rodger (Professor of the Practice in the Computer Science Department at Duke University) and I gave talks on the “History of Women in Computing and Women Leaders in Computing” – as part of the Microsoft Research Gender Diversity Lecture Series, in Redmond, Washington. We were joined at the event by Jody Mahoney (of ABI, who lives in San Francisco) and my daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman, (who lives in Seattle). We were invited to speak by Dr. Rane Johnson-Stempson and Dr. Jaime Teevan took good care of us while we were at MSR.

Susan, Jessica, and I have been working together since last summer on the Notable Technical Women project but (even though we created a successful Hopper Conference October 2014 Poster and Kickstarter together) we three had never met in-person before.  We had great fun talking and walking around Seattle together after the Seminar.  We are looking forward to getting a link to the video of our talks.

19 June 2015: Microsoft Research posted the video with Dr. Telle Whitney, Dr. Susan Rodger, and me speaking: “Microsoft Research Gender Diversity Lecture Series 5: History of Women in Computing and Women Leaders in Computing”




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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson and Jessica Dickinson Goodman

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TechWomen at ABI Women of Vision


At least 12 TechWomen mentors -Hoda Eldardiry (Xerox PARC), Meredith McKenzie (Juniper Networks), Shalaka Prabhune (Symantec), Shawne Van Deusen-Jeffries (Juniper Networks), Rekha Pai (Juniper Networks), Claudia Galvan (Anita Borg Institute), Myra Nawabi (Lockheed Martin), Ruth Davis (Santa Clara University), Lisa Ramirez (Juniper Networks), Erica Lockheimer (LinkedIn), Audrey Van Belleghem (Anita Borg Institute) and I – were in the audience for tonight’s inspiring Women of Vision annual awards gala by the Anita Borg Institute, held at the Santa Clara Convention Center in the Silicon Valley.  5/15/2015 Thanks to Jeannice, here are more names of TechWomen mentors who attended: Jeannice Fairrer Samani (AACSB University), Felicia Mayo (Juniper Networks). Please send more names if I have missed anyone!

2015 WOV Awards honorees were:

  • Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, Founder and CEO, Drawbridge – for Technology Entrepreneurship
  • Julie Larson-Green, Chief Experience Officer, Applications and Services Group, Microsoft – for Leadership
  • Camila Fernandez Achutti, University of São Paulo, Brazil – Student of Vision Award

Student of Vision Award Finalist Julia Edwards (of Smith College) was also acknowledged. It was a pleasure to see so many of my remarkable and accomplished sister mentors present to honor our technical community leaders.







Photos Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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108 Technical Role Models and Mentors

As of January 2015, these cards and posters are available for sale on Notable Technical Women.

IMG_1379 . IMG_1380

I am proud to present 108 role models and mentors.  Each of these technical women has earned her place through remarkable accomplishments and experience:

You may know that after selling out the first edition of Notable Women playing cards at the Hopper Conference, Dr. Susan Rodger (Computer Science, Duke University), Jessica Dickinson Goodman, and I created the Notable Women in Computing Kickstarter, which was crowd funded by generous backers at five times our original asking. Since then, Jessica has ably managed our production and shipping. Card decks and posters shipped last month to not only our backers but also to 500 educators around the world (USA, Netherlands, Scotland, Nigeria, Lebanon, New Zealand, India…). We are now getting many photos of the cards and posters “in the wild” from teachers and schools, companies, and even from honorees. Susan and Jessica and I are discussing our next steps for the project, since we are still getting new requests for decks and posters. Jessica is setting up an ecommerce site for future purchases and new customers. More news on that soon…

“Notable Women in Computing” has also inspired many daughter projects – including the “TechWomen Emerging Leaders” poster and card decks (for which Jessica was also the designer!) – now in production to go to South Africa for the TechWomen Delegation next week.

A role model is a person whose behavior, example, or success is emulated by others, especially by younger people. That is, a role model can inspire without ever communicating directly with the person whose life they have touched. Mentors, on the other hand, advise and inspire directly. In short, practical terms:

  • Mentors make introductions.
  • Mentors give recommendations to resources.
  • Mentors give feedback for the mentee to consider.

I am lucky to know many of the 108 women honored here personally. My respect for this group could not be higher. Most of the “Notable Women in Computing” group have been role models and mentors to generations of students and rising professionals. When I have served on the selection committees for TechWomen Emerging Leaders, one of the most common hopes I read in their application essays is for an opportunity to give back to their community and to help girls learn to use and love technology.  I have also heard this aspiration over and over from my own amazing TechWomen mentees.

Please help spread the news of these amazing technical leaders.   In August 2013, I wrote about Getting Beyond Marie Curie – developing information and awareness about other great women tole models. Here are 108.

Both Posters: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 U.S. License

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