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From Umbrellas to Query Based Volume Determination: My Life as an Inventor

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Last night was a big night for me — I’m extremely honored to be inducted into the Women in Technology International (WITI) Hall of Fame where I will join fellow IBMers including Harriet Green and Marie Wieck.

While I didn’t know it at the time, I started down this path a long time ago… as a kid! Children have a way of looking at life with a fresh lens and unbiased attitude at how things work today and the potential for what the future might hold. When I was in second grade, I created a prototype of an umbrella that not only covered my head but also my pants to protect me from the cold, harsh Montana rain. Those creative thinking and problem solving skills are something I brought with me as an inventor into my career at IBM.

For me, technology has always been a passion of mine both at work and at home. I’ve come a long way since that umbrella, moving from creating next generation rain wear to writing code and developing new and innovative technologies. It’s this deep seeded desire to code, create and tinker with tech that led me to IBM.

IBM is the ultimate destination for anyone with a never-ending thirst for innovation. I started here as a Speed Team Summer Intern and it’s been a non-stop technological blur ever since. I’ve been an engineer working on server side, front-end, cloud and mobile, I’ve contributed to open source, and today I work in the Cognitive Incubation Lab as part of the Watson Customer Engagement business unit at IBM. I have a very big imagination, so it won’t surprise you when I tell you that I’ve kept the patent office quite busy. As of today, I have filed close to 600 patent applications within the United States and abroad. Almost 300 of these have been granted in areas such as instant messaging to social, cloud, mobile, GPS and cognitive, thanks to IBM’s inventor community and the ingrained culture of supporting innovation.

The road of technology innovation is not always easy. When I was accepted into the computer science bachelor’s program at Carnegie Mellon University, I had literally zero programming experience and naturally I struggled to quickly convert the 1s and 0s of binary to decimal. It was time consuming, mostly because I didn’t have it memorized, but I got through it.

In fact, the experience inspired me to do what I could to help ensure that other budding computer scientists would not have to climb the same mountain by writing a book titled, “A Robot Story: Learn to Count to Ten in Binary,” and funded the whole thing using Kickstarter. And just this year I self-published my second book, “The Internet of Mysterious Things“, which is the first children’s book ever to use NFC tags. It teaches children and their parents about the underlying technologies described in the story through the tap of a smart phone – Yay recent Apple iOS NFC reading support announcement!

I believe we all can touch the lives of others by sharing our stories and technical projects from both work and play. It’s critical that senior technical leaders become role models and inspire the next generation by giving our time and lifting them as we climb in our careers – especially young women – showing them that they can do it too. Because you never know if one of them is encouraged enough to follow their passions and end up standing center stage someday soon themselves.

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