Ada Lovelace Day (#ALD14): Garann Means

Was it on css-discuss? A List Apart? I’m not really sure; that seems so long ago. I remember, though, being impressed by these detailed, well-written discussions of various aspects of front-end web development. The author was Garann Means.

She kept a useful blog that I relied on, and I always looked forward to the slide decks she posted from her conference talks. She wrote a practical book, Node for Front-End Developers. And, then, around 2010-2012, Garann Means really found her stride, and what she wrote and posted was more relevant to me than how to create ellipsis dots in CSS.

Her subject became women working in technology. She examined how women enter the field, how we struggle to remain in it, how we could improve it. And, to my regret, this summer she discussed how we leave it.

I read that post on a foggy Bay Area morning, and couldn’t stop thinking about it for the next couple of weeks. I’m also at that mid-career point where many women drop out of the tech industry. What happens when someone as accomplished as Garann Means “leaves” the tech industry?

(I’m keeping the verb in quotation marks until I find this out: did she jump, or was she pushed?)

It’s time to stop asking, “Why?” Somebody must benefit when Garann Means and other women leave tech–why else would such horrendous attrition rates be tolerated?

I think the task now is to inform women at the beginning of tech industry careers that we have only a decade or so to work them. We are like football players or fashion models: we have tiny windows–more like pet doors–of opportunity. We should be planning our inevitable exits all along, saving up our money for that dread day when nobody will hire us, nobody will promote us, or…we just flat-out can’t take the bullshit anymore.

What I’m reading into Garann Means’s account is that she left her tech career on a high note. I really hope that is the case. She and I have never met; now I’m not sure how our paths would cross. Were we to meet, I’d thank her again for her freely given advice, guidance, and opinions. Start to finish, hers is an example I will always find inspiring.