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Interview

[Techie Tuesdays] How Motherhood Made Lynn Langit a Big Data Expert

Raghu Mohan
11th Dec 2012
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In a recent mobility meetup, a concern was raised on the dearth of women speakers. That concern is an extension of a larger problem; the dearth of women techies. Many a woman will accredit domestic responsibilities to their discontinuation of the professional carriers in technology, but here's Lynn Langit, expert programmer, big data specialist, Mongo DB expert, author of 3 books on databases and mother, 

who says the right opposite.A Self Taught Expert with a Very Different Motive 

While talking with Lynn, a specialist in database technologies, author of three books on SQL Server Business Intelligence, she said, "Profile me as a woman first. I want to help in more women taking to programming." We knew we were in for an inspiring story and we weren't disappointed. Lynn is a regular writer at popular tech blog, GigaOm, has a large collection of Database tutorials which you can find on YouTube and is a mongo DB expert. Apart from owning a successful consultancy, Lynn has spent a good amount of time working with Microsoft and has created a set of courseware to introduce children to programming at TeachingKidsProgramming.

With all these accolades, her major in linguistics came as quite a surprise to us. "I've had 3 careers in my life. I graduated with a major in linguistics and worked in management posts in the retail sector. I was quite successful at it, but I had to work very hard for it. And then I wanted to have a child and a retail job wasn't going to give me the time that I needed. So I started afresh, and took to computers as it is a field that wouldn't require too much time away from home and at the same time it pays well. I slowly took all the certifications and took up careers in training, freelance programming and consulting. But yes, I only took to computers to spend more time with my girl; she's 13 now."

Here's Lynn speaking about Big Data -

'Fast' 

Having worked in the Silicon Valley, Lynn describes it in one word - Fast. "There is no patience in that place and runs on the culture of intelligence like how New York tuns on the culture of money. One of the main reasons why I left Microsoft was because of the Valley. I was at Strata, a technical conference in the Valley, representing Microsoft and I felt so out of place there and Amazon's Werner Vogels was treated like a God there. Even when compared to a company like Microsoft, the valley is just so much ahead. There it's all about, what's new, who is smart and where should I put my money and these decisions would take place so fast! I really admire that about the Valley."

Indian Devs - More Intelligent but Very Little Knowledge Exchange

At her talks, attended by Indian developers, Lynn feels that Indian developers listen more carefully and ask more meaningful questions. She says, "American developers want 'edutainment' while Indian developers are happy listening to whatever the speaker has to say. This is good as they do a lot more listening and ask more meaningful questions. But through the discussions that we have in an american audience, there is a good measure of knowledge exchange that happens between them. I haven't seen this happening with Indian developers."

'Girls Don't Do Maths'

However, she did share that she was always good at maths. "My parents were farmers and they discouraged me from further pursuing it. They'd say 'honey girls don't do maths'. This has changed drastically over the years and I am quite old, but I believe that to a large extent the belief still exists." To address this, Lynn wants to work for the women in technology and her work with TeachingKidsProgramming has been picked up to be a part of the curricula for schools in New Zealand.

As we concluded the interview with her, she left aspiring women technologists with some words of advice "As a woman, I have had a problem of not doing something till I was absolutely sure about it and I wasted quite a lot of time doing that. I think it is very important, at least in this field to learn to be good enough. Study hard and ask a questions and finally, if you want to do it, then just do it."

Get in touch with Lynn on her blog

You can buy Lynn's books here

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