Follow HER Lead—1st Computer Science MAN of the Year

Tammy Y. Allen, Director, Marketing & Programs, The NIIC
Photo provided by The NIIC

Starting a business is exciting and scary. When 7.5 out of 10 startups fail, it can be easy to talk yourself into waiting for the right time. There’s never a perfect time. You have to make your own opportunities, which may mean charting new territory.

Consider the pioneering and highly awarded “First Lady of Software” Dr. Grace Murray Hopper. She paved the way for the information age and shaped our digital world. Here are three ways you can follow her lead.

1. Disrupt the status quo.

Hopper did not let historically low participation of women in STEM deter her. She earned her Yale Ph.D. in mathematics and mathematical physics in 1934. She was one of four women in the program.

Hopper lacked female role models so became one herself. She had a career marked with firsts. In 1969 she was bestowed with the very first Computer Science Man of the Year Award. She also became the first American, and the first woman to become a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society in 1973.

Her success in the field of computer science was exceptional. She also infiltrated other male-dominated realms. Initially rejected because of her age and small size, “Amazing Grace” persevered and had a long, distinguished Navy career. She achieved the rank of rear admiral and was one of the few female admirals in Naval history.

2. Innovate transformative solutions.

A computer language trailblazer, Hopper began her career as one of the very first programmers of the Harvard Mark I. From there she joined a team that developed the UNIVAC I, the first commercial electronic computer. She also led the release of some of the first computer languages.

Hopper had the idea that a machine-independent programming language could be based on English words, inspiring the creation of COBOL (COmmon-Business-Oriented-Language). This became the most ubiquitous language to date. The “queen of code” not only helped standardize a computer language for business, but she also spearheaded its promotion and adoption for both military and private sector use. STEM

3. Pursue your passion to excel.

The “mother of computing” was not only a brilliant computer scientist but also known as a gifted communicator and educator. Working as a spokesperson for the flourishing computer industry, Hopper’s passion helped her communicate with a wide range of audiences. She led training and the usage of new technologies.

Driven to educate as many people are possible, her passion was contagious and helped to spread innovative thoughts and ideas like wildfire.

One year before her death in 1992, Hopper was awarded America’s highest honor in her field, the National Medal of Technology. She was also posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

A visionary STEM leader and an amazing role model for women, Hopper continues to inspire today.

Lead like Grace.

Don’t let statistics, age or gender get in your way.

If it doesn’t exist, find a way to make it happen.

Follow your passion, embrace and believe in what you do.


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