Free mentoring offered on Ada Lovelace Day

Who was Ada? Ada Lovelace was one of the world’s first computer programmers, and one of the first people to see computers as more than just a machine for doing sums. She wrote programmes for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a general-purpose computing machine, despite the fact that it was never built. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software.

In celebrating Ada Lovelace Day (March 24), bigging up women in tech, I look back at those I have met since I ‘went online’ as a journalist in 2000.

It’s a short list – unfortunately – but hopefully one that will grow in time. I could choose from Fiona Romeo, Head of Digital Media at the National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory; Adrienne Wyper, deputy editor at AllAboutYou.com, Adrienne Grubb, web editor at Redwood Publishing, Joanna Geary, web development editor at The Times; and a couple of others – all journalists who have pioneered their way online in various ways.

But it’s Anita Bevan, now head of content for web and mobile at Orange UK, who I’d like to acknowledge as my first female role model of the internets. Anita gave me my first break as web producer for the women’s portal, iCircle.com, in 2000 and forgave me various freelance absences to invite me back as homepage editor for Freeserve.

I learned so much from that time that has served me well in shifting online for the second time, from sub-editor/writer to web editor. And having a female role model has definitely helped me develop the balls to ‘tech up’. In the meantime, Anita has managed to surf the changes from Freeserve, the UK’s largest portal at the time, to Wanadoo to Orange and the world of mobile content.

The funny thing is, I vaguely recognised her name when I went for that first iCircle interview. In the lift, she seemed even more familiar. I was sure I’d met her somewhere before. Well, she remembered me. Turns out, she had been my personal tutor at the London College of Printing.

So now we’ve been connected for, eek, 21 years. I hope it’s as nice for the Ada Lovelaces of the world to see their charges go forward as it is for us to benefit from their influence. In turn, perhaps we can pass on what we know and help other women make the transition that we have made or are making.

In that vein, I’m offering some one-to-one blog tutorials in my lunch hour to any women/girls/dragqueens, etc, who are thinking of setting up a blog or wondering how to get started online. I’m in the Waterloo area of London (mostly) or in Birmingham (occasionally). Tea/coffee optional. Email me at fionacullinan@hotmail.com to arrange.

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