Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Passionate, Adventuresome Heroine

In honor of Ada Lovelace Day, I'm blogging about a woman in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). I chose Megan Smith this year. Megan is a VP at Google[x], the branch of Google that is bringing us Google Glass and the driverless car!

Megan joined Google in 2003 and led the acquisition of some of Google's flagship technologies, including Google Earth, Google Maps, and Picasa. 

Before joining Google, Megan was CEO of PlanetOut. She also worked at General Magic and Apple Japan. As a student at MIT, she was part of a team that designed, built, and raced a solar car 2000 miles across the Australian outback. She earned a BS and MS in mechanical engineering from MIT, where she now serves on the board. She completed her MS thesis at the MIT Media Lab

I chose to write about Megan Smith, not just because she's awesome, but also because I love her post here, which is based on her keynote speech at this year's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. The keynote was called "Passion, Adventure, and Heroic Engineering."

I love the fact that Megan applies passion to her work at Google and elsewhere. We should all be passionate about our work! And I love the fact that she sees STEM work as an adventure

Another thing I love about Megan's post is that it mentions the fact that we women were in computing, before so many women disappeared en masse in the 1990s and 2000s. I get irritated when people act like women in the computer field is a new thing. Most tekkies have heard of Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper.

But there were also the code-breakers at Bletchley Park, and the women in the US who calculated ballistic trajectories during WWII, six of whom were recruited to become digital programmers for the ENIAC, and many, many more recent examples

(Why did women disappear? It's complicated, so I won't answer that question here. I cover it briefly in my talk here, though.)

To get back to Megan Smith, let's talk about Heroic Engineering. Wouldn't technology be a lot better if the developers of the technology all saw themselves as heroes? We aren't just making stuff work. We are solving global problems. Megan Smith knows this. She co-hosts Google's Solve for X, a forum to encourage and amplify technology-based "moonshot" thinking and collaboration.

By the way, I blogged about some of my other heroines for previous Ada Lovelace Day celebrations, including Melissa Hathaway and Radia Perlman

I also put together an entire page about heroines when I made a list of professors whom I would like to see teach a Udacity class. 

I look forward to reading many more stories about women heroines in STEM as people post them in honor of Ada Lovelace Day! 


  1. Great post! Thank you for sharing it :)

  2. :) the post is my introduction to Megan Smith