Thursday, July 1, 2010

Top Three Pieces of Advice

I've gone to a bunch of women in computer science focused events over the past few years. Of the many pieces of advice shared, these are the three that have really stuck in my head. They're paraphrased, but hopefully correctly attributed.

  1. While men can get away with not having a Ph.D. and still be respected in the field (see Gates, Bill), women can't yet. Get one. Then do whatever you want. - Mary Lou Jepsen at Grace Hopper
  2. The reviewer of your paper is always right. If they completely misunderstood the paper, you now know you need to rewrite it. - CRA-W Grad Cohort "How to Write a Paper" session
  3. Spend money to make your life easier - Women in Theory "Work/Life Balance" panel. Also heard at a Grace Hopper panel in the form: If your mother-in-law is coming to visit the same weekend as a paper deadline, pay someone to clean your house.

Have other advice? Do share.


Luca said...

I think that (2) and (3) is very good advice for anybody, man or woman.

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree with #1, or maybe I don't understand what you mean by being respected "in the field". Do you mean the tech business world?! I think there are several successful women in tech without PhDs. Do you mean in the academic sense? Then I'm not sure Bill Gates qualifies as a good example.

sorelle said...

I took "the field" to mean anything computer science related (academic or tech business but not IT). And I wouldn't count it if a woman succeeded in tech by running a tech business with a business background (e.g. Meg Whitman), since that's sort of a separate track.

You say there are several successful women in tech without Ph.D.s? That's great! Who are they?

I suppose here it also matters how we define success. I believe that Mary Lou Jepsen was referring to a higher standard of success than a software engineer in the background of a successful company.

Anonymous said...

First off, Bill Gates is a huge outlier in the business world. Citing him as an example isn't really saying much. Who (man or woman, PhD or not) has achieved the same level of notoriety or success that Bill Gates has? I can just as easily cite Oprah Winfrey (who is worth over 2.3 billion dollars) as an example that to achieve enormous success in day time television, one has to be a black woman. One can pick outliers to prove whatever claim you want to come up with -- but that doesn't mean it's true.

Secondly, by mentioning Bill Gates, you give me the impression that you're using monetary success as a way of measuring "respect". I disagree with this. There are a number of people in the tech field who have achieved a large amount of monetary success (although not necessarily as much as Bill) by winning the start up lottery, yet they have little, if any, respect in academic circles. For example, consider Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook). I doubt that Zuckerberg (non-PhD) has anywhere near the same amount of respect as, say, James Gosling (PhD, father of Java). In fact, I suspect that many of the people who are on the "richest in tech" lists aren't respected at all outside of the business world -- they're just entrepreneurs who managed to hit it big with a good idea and a little bit of luck.