[Courses] [Careers] Caitlyn Martin

Mary mary-linuxchix at puzzling.org
Mon Mar 7 10:48:12 EST 2005

Here's a careers lesson from Caitlyn Martin:

I was introduced to computers at 13 in a gifted program in high school.
The next year we moved out into the suburbs and I joined the school
computer club.  I didn't plan on making a career in IT.  I didn't get a
whole lot of encouragement in high school in the '70s either.

Senior year I won the systems programming gold medal at the regional
math fair.  My computer science teacher (who was also my teacher for AP
calculus) was disappointed that her favorite, the young man who was
president of the compute club, didn't win and I did.  I was treated as
if the judges had made a mistake.  I did get scholarship money out of
it, which was a good thing.

Meanwhile my high school physics teacher had been incredibly supportive
and had moved me into AP physics.  I did well and I did what he
encouraged me to do:  I picked a university with an outstanding physics
department and that's what I majored in.

Meanwhile, in high school and during summer and holiday breaks from
college I worked in the typing pool for a freight forwarder.  (Talk
about stereotypical women's work!)  In the summer of '79 the company's
manager in Boston quit and took his entire staff with him to form his
own company.  The VP of Sales was sent to try and save the accounts and
my boss was asked for her fastest typist, which was me.  I was offered
an all expense paid summer in Boston and a higher salary but long hours.
I took it.  I got to know the VP as well as the President/CEO very well.

The next summer I was back in the typing pool when I was summoned into
the office of the President of the company.  I wondered what I had done
wrong.  He told me his programmers had quit, nothing worked, and he had
three months left on the lease of the equipment.  I still remember his
words:  "You're a bright kid and you know something about computers.
Why don't you see what you can do with them?  I'll pay you double this
summer".  Later that summer I was installing my first LAN, purchasing
equipment, and hiring staff.  I had thrown out the awful code that the
previous programmers had left and in three months time I had a lot of
things working and the title of Data Processing Manager at age 19.  

My job really was coding and then implementing the code, teaching people
how to use the new software, and putting it into production.  The
President of the company used to like to take me to meetings with
customer's execs and IT people since we planned on interfacing with
their systems.  I think he liked that I was so young (I looked like I
was 15) and that I broke all the stereotypes about what an IT manager
looked like.  I was supposed to be the genius he had found.

Anyway, I built that department for five years.  At that point the needs
had outstripped the resources I was allowed, both in terms of hardware
and staff.  I was working 80 hour weeks and had enough.  I left and
started my own consulting company.

It wasn't until 1995 after I had sold my business that I was introduced
to Linux and the whole idea of Open Source.  Our network coordinator
(who was also our UNIX guru) ran Red Hat 3.0.3 with CDE on her desktop.
At the time I had zero UNIX experience.  She left on medical leave and I
was thrown into HP-UX sink or swim.  Let's just say I didn't sink.

FWIW, I went back to the company where I started my career in 1996 as IT
Director.  They were bought out the next year and the position that I
was offered was extremely unappealing. 

I first worked in a shop that had BSDi and was evaluating Linux in 1998.
Due to the changes in the IT market I've moved around more than I'd like
(two of my former employers are no longer in business) and done
everything from network engineering to security analysis, to Linux/UNIX
administration.  Recently I even had to do a little coding again and it
was nice to know that I still could.

My involvement with FOSS has increased as it's presence in the corporate
world has increased, with apache, tomcat, nagios, snort, nessus, etc...

The honest truth is that I was in the right place at the right time and
it all happened by accident.  I also don't think opportunities like I
had in 1980 exist today.

All the best,

More information about the Courses mailing list