Margaret Burnett on pioneering, mentoring, changing the world & GenderMag

Margaret Burnett is a professor of Computer Science in the School of EECS at Oregon State University. She is a pioneer woman in computer science whose work has been honoured with numerous awards, including ACM Distinguished Scientist. Her passion is to change the world by designing more gender-inclusive software. In this conversation, she shares experiences being the first woman software developer at Proctor & Gamble Ivorydale in the 1970s, and creating two start-ups as well as a women’s business network in the 1980s. She also talks about her work in academia, in particular about her GenderMag project, as well as practical experiences including mentoring and management using dove-tailing strategies as well as managing family life by drawing fences. She also tries to do one thing every day to make the world a better place. An inspirational person in so many ways!

“Don’t ever say yes unless you know why you are saying yes. ” “No one person can do everything.”

“Try to do something every day that makes me feel like the world is a little better”

 “Please help me change the world! … When people change their products [to be gender inclusive] everyone likes them better.”

She talks about (times approximate) …

1:30 Being the first woman software developer hired by Proctor&Gamble Ivorydale and navigating how to fit in as a women in this era and in this industry, “not having a vocabulary”

8:00 Pulling up roots and moving to Santa Fe New Mexico, following husband; starting up a new business, and doing freelance programming

11:54 Dealing with reactions to being a woman in IT and a client who didn’t want to deal with her because she was a woman

13:27 Moving into academia – influence of professor as an undergrad; being dragged ‘kicking and screaming’ to a new town pregnant with first child, doing a Masters degree at Uni of Kansas and starting another business; dealing with two careers and daycare issues

15:30 Going to social events where everyone wanting to know what husband did for a living but not wanting to know what she did for a living; deciding to start an organisation of professional women to help them network, the ‘Lawrence Women’s Network’; starting to teach a course at the university and discovering she really liked teaching, which became the motivator to go and do a PhD

17:45 Doing a PhD to become a faculty member, the second woman to ever get a PhD; Going back to university to get a PhD from Uni of Kansas in Computer Science

18:25 Starting in faculty job, promoting women’s issues but almost sub-consciously and serving own interests, bringing women into her lab, win-win-win team working style; how she includes her undergrad researchers into work;

21:35 Her academic children and grandchildren all over the world

22:30 Now 25 years at Oregon State; Taking more academic risks after tenure; Considering it a badge of honour if she gets all 1s on a paper ... 5s are good too … but shows she is ‘out there’;

24:45 Whenever she says ‘yes’ she has to have a reason; Reasons for saying yes and for not saying yes

27:25 Reflecting on ways she has changed – loves taking risks academically. GenderMag as an example; the beginnings of GenderMag, with Laura Beckwith, looking at software and whether there were gender biases at the user-facing part of it; reading literature from diverse disciplines, hypotheses ‘dropping into her lap’; clustering tendencies, women tend to take a bursty style, men tend to take a tight iteration style when problem solving; gender differences in the way people use software, spending about 10 years running studies

31:20 Working with a medical company where (mostly women) practitioners hated their software; collaborators especially Simone Stumpf very good at helping keep an eye on the practicality

32:50 Led to method, GenderMag – gender inclusiveness magnifier – now downloadable, and a CHI17 paper about research-backed personas built into a method and a vocabulary about problem solving and information processing style; study with Nicola Marsden, multi-personas that don’t invoke stereotyping

37:00 The story of a Distinguished Speaker talk on GenderMag- changing the language from ‘you’ to the personal ‘Abby’; average is 1 feature out of every 3 they evaluate they find a gender inclusiveness problem with their own software

39:18 Not advocating for a pink or blue version but thinking of it as a bug; “If there is a feature that is not gender inclusive then…there is a barrier to some segment of the population”; tooltips as an example; also risk aversion

42:15 Getting the toolkit and methodology out into the world – still learning; GenderMag teach resources; talking to industry; downloadable kit; needing top-down and grassroots interest; call to listeners who might have ideas for changing policy, changing the world

46:24 When people change their products [to be gender inclusive] everyone likes them better

47:00 “Try to do something every day that makes me feel like the world is a little better” – something ‘that counts’

49:20 Dove-tailing work strategies through setting up collaborations, and saying no - “No one person can do everything. My bit is GenderMag … that’s my corner of the diversity world.”  Drawing the boundaries, the purposeful yes.

51:40 Managing the group: weekly group meeting, project sub group meetings, various GenderMag meetings, one-on-one meetings with graduate students; collaborative writing style; involving students in reviewing papers (mentoring dove-tailing with professional workload)

55:10 Other mentoring strategies – ‘pushing’ people forward, encouraging people to consider ‘the brain is a muscle’ and it’s ok to be ‘bad’ initially;

59:30 Managing life and work with kids – drawing fences around the day, avoids “always feeling like it is the wrong thing”, but no extra hobbies until after the kids graduated; “don’t have the fences anymore because I don’t need them so much anymore and energy patterns have changed”

01:04:04 End

Related Links

Margaret’s home pages - http://eecs.oregonstate.edu/people/burnett-margaret ; http://web.engr.oregonstate.edu/~burnett/

The Lawrence Women’s Network - https://www.lawrencewomensnetwork.org   

The GenderMag Project - http://gendermag.org

Laura Beckwith - http://hciresearcher.com//

Simone Stumpf - http://www.city.ac.uk/people/academics/simone-stumpf

Nicola Marsden - https://www.hs-heilbronn.de/nicola.marsden

CHI2017 paper: “Gender-Inclusiveness Personas vs. Stereotyping: Can We Have it Both Ways?” - http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=3025453.3025609

ACM Distinguished Speaker - http://www.dsp.acm.org/view_lecturer.cfm?lecturer_id=3543#lecturer_id#

Saul Greenberg on supervising, building a lab, creating good work life balance

Saul Greenberg is an Emeritus Professor and Faculty Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Calgary in Canada, where he led the GroupLab, doing research in the area of HCI/CSCW/Ubicomp. He discusses his experiences picking and supervising students, strategically building a research lab and community, taking control of our own work-life balance, publication strategies, remote working, and moving into retirement. 

"Work will never end and it’s up to me to balance my life. [...]  The question I would ask myself is: if I said yes, which I really want to do, what should I stop doing?”

He talks about (times approximate) ...

02:43 Being a supervisor, how you pick good students (or not) and still learning right to the end

07:05 Students finding their own topics or working on yours, growing a lab, nurturing promising students

12:50 The strategic things to think about when designing/creating a lab, creating a community and a culture, and what wasn’t so successful in setting up the lab

20:50 Choosing where he wanted to live to do the outdoor activities he loved, then choosing the job

23:00 Tele-commuting, partitioning work, walking the talk with remote working and lessons learnt

29:00 Realising work will never end, making choices, and his strategy for deciding whether to say yes or not

36:00 Sharing teaching materials as a by product of making teaching easier – “you can be both selfish and give things away”

38:00 How academic life has changed, increasing pressure to publish, and making hiring decisions

43:20 Making the decision to retire and move into emeritus status

45:30 Final tips (lots of pearls!) – no easy solutions, being strategic, scheduling time, not being driven by the next conference deadline, don’t let your work take over, don’t get into the vortex of more intense colleagues, and it’s a great job, we’re our own worst enemies

48:50 End

Related links:

Saul’s Grad Tips: http://saul.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/pmwiki.php/GradTips/GradTips

GroupLab: http://grouplab.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/

Judy Olson on her career and blooming where you are planted

Judy Olson is Bren Professor of Information and Computer Sciences in the Informatics Department at UC Irvine. Judy reflects back on her career, on changes she has seen particularly the increasing expectations of hiring committees, on common issues people deal with, on blooming where you are planted, on paying it forward, on dealing with imposter syndrome, on the value of good colleagues/collaborators and on her work plans after retirement later this year. 

“What would Olson do? Follow your passion. Hang out with good people.”

She talks about (times approximate) …

01:40 Her career trajectory

06:20 Changes in academia, embracing interdisciplinary work

08:00 Being proud of working 25 years on long distance collaboration and broader impacts

10:10 The stress of getting a job now and the increasing expectations of search and promotion committees; Needing to talk to senior faculty, start a dialogue and collect data to change this

17:00 Common issues she has mentored people about – when you can say no, time management

19:55 The T-Shirt – ‘What would Olson do?’ … finding the things you really like to do

23:20 Bloom where you are planted, figuring out where you fit, what you can do and the choices along the way

25:10 Imposter syndrome, getting nervous before every talk, always rehearsing a talk

27:55 Retiring, getting to like writing grant proposals, and writing about couples who work together

32:10 End

My summary of what Judy says is about being authentic, being strategic, not being afraid to make changes and finding good colleagues.

Final notes:

Learning from Notes’ was a CSCW92 paper written by Wanda Orlikowski 

Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time’ is a time management book by Brian Tracy, published 2007. 

ACM-W 'Ask Judy' column - example post

Liz Gerber's project - Design for America