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Inspiring stories: Linda Lawton

As a society we tend to focus on titles and roles, we tend to forget that behind each title there is a person, a person who has a story to tell and every person’s story is unique.
In honor of International Women's day, we are interviewing inspiring women from our community who are going to share the story of how they got into Tech and how they got to where they are today.

In this post, I am interviewing Linda Lawton who is currently based in Aalborg, Denmark.

Twitter: @LindaLawtonDK
LinkedIn: linda-lawton-640b582a/

Meet Linda Lawton

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My name is Linda Lawton, I was born in New Bedford Massachusetts and immigrated to Denmark 21 years ago. I currently live in Northern Denmark and enjoy talking with the local university students about programming.

Growing up I was not the best student. I was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age but with the help of a number of dedicated teachers I was able to overcome. I have always been interested in technology and trying to understand what makes things work. Occasionally to the annoyance of my parents after taking apart a tape recorder when i was 13.

I am myself very passionate about learning new things and I really want to spread the joy of learning to others. I enjoy helping others learn whenever I can. I am an avid user of Stack Overflow and I have started using the #WomenOfStackOverflow hashtag a few weeks ago to make a point that there are women helping on the site as well. I have been helping out on a number of Open source projects over the years. I have also had a number of websites where I post tutorials and samples to help others learn about programming. My current Website has been running since 2013 and explains mostly about .Net and google development.

When did you become interested in technology and what evoked this interest?
When I was around 9 years old my father and I built a CB radio from a Radio Shack kit down in the basement. We went on to build a radio as well. This probably leads to me having the confidence to take that tape recorder a part and fix it.

My mother was a computer programmer as well. She started in the 70’s working on the IBM mainframes for AT&T in the USA. This is where I got the idea that it was possible to program computers.

What education do you have?
I have an associates degree in computer science from Newbury college brookline Massachusetts from 1994.
We may go to college and get a degree but what you learn there will quickly be outdated. What you take with you is the knowledge of how to learn new things. Computer science is not a profession where you will learn everything you need to know in college and then never have to learn again. With computers since you will always be learning.

Describe your way towards your first job in tech; how did you land this job?
My first job in tech was probably not what you would expect. In the early 90s just after starting college I was hired to do data entry work. I logged the sale of glasses for a group of eye clinics around the state into their computer system. This was my first experience using a computer day to day and where i got a taste of what they could be programmed to do. This led me to want to learn how these programs were created and I promptly changed my major to programming.

My first job programming my stepfather helped me get. He was and still does work with Oracle for one of the biggest insurance companies in the USA. At the time they were having trouble finding developers and I had just graduated from college. He helped me get my foot in the door and gave me some of my initial Oracle training.

Do you have any role models that influenced you?
I think my top role model was my father. No matter what happens he never gave up. Your life doesn't always go how you planned it. His surely didn't but that never stopped him. He kept right on going. I know it must not have been easy for him raising two daughters on his own but you wouldn't have known it unless you asked him. He kept food on our plate and a roof over our head, and he loved us and at the end of the day that's all that really mattered.

Who were/are your biggest supporters in your career?
This answer may also surprise you. I think I have been my own biggest supporter. As a woman programming in the 90’s and early 2000’s we were invisible no one bothered us much. If I wanted to learn something I had to stand up for myself and do it. If I saw a problem I had to speak up because no one was going to ask my opinion. If I wanted something else out of my career then I had to say to myself I'm not happy doing this anymore its time to find something else.

Developers are lucky now there are so many more of us around. The internet and social media give us the ability to talk to each other and get feedback from someone and some support from others.

Tell us more about your current job – e.g. what do you like most about your role?
I am currently working remotely for a consulting company SKARP based in Copenhagen. What I do changes from week to week. One week I can be working on the backend system for a company ensuring that images are uploaded properly. The next week I could be helping to set up a Google smart home integration for their devices. I am really enjoying it because I never know what I might get a chance to learn next.

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How does your typical day look like?
Being that i work remotely its quite relaxed. I have a small parrot for company. I am normally at my desk around 8 am. I work until around 11 and take a walk usually for an hour and then I am back coding again until around 16:30.

An interesting aspect of working for a consulting company is that you never really get really really good with any code base. You are always looking at a new code base and there is no way of knowing who wrote it or when. So 60% of your time is just figuring out what to change and 30% wondering why someone did it like this and if touching it will break something, and 10% is actual coding.

Being that I work remotely is really nice if I need a break I can go start a load of laundry or vacuum a room. I also enjoy starting nice dinners, something that can just sit on the stove and cook all day long.

What do you do in your free time?
In the summer a lot of my free time is spent out working in my garden. I have both flowers and vegetables. As I mentioned i do enjoy cooking, especially baking. I also knit and crochet which I find works really well on the stress.

In your opinion, do you think that it’s more challenging for women to work in tech?

Getting themselves past the stigma. For so many years women were raised to get married, have children, be the perfect housewife and mind what a man tells them. Many women still do this in part, even though they work. If you think about it technically some women have two jobs. Super programmer by day followed by super mom / house wife by night. I still live like this. I do most of the cooking and cleaning in my relationship. I have accepted this as part of me. I like to do it (most of the time) but its hard ...

Most men when they come home from work they can go into their home office sit at the computer and learn some new technology. For me and many other women like me they feel the need / obligation to do the cooking, cleaning, laundry and help the children with homework ect. Women don't have this opportunity to spend several hours each night in front of the computer coding and learning something new. Even though we may want to drive off this obligation it may be too strong.

You should probably know I am 49 years old, I raised a daughter as a single mom. I know there are probably some of the younger generation who don't have this compulsion to do these things. I am speaking from my own experience. This is how I have always lived my life.

What advice will you give to women and girls who dream about a career in tech?
Go for it. Tech is a very broad field. You are bound to find something that peaks your interest whether it be creating devices for smart homes, creating applications for big businesses or websites for small ones. There is so much other there, and don't be afraid to change your specialty.

Tech is changing so much and so fast that there is always something new popping up giving you the chance to become an expert in it without having had to work with something for twenty years.

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