Two Victories

After all the intensity of the past four months, I’ve now gotten the payoff, in a big way. First, my swapoff project is finally working correctly, and can be considered tentatively complete. I’ll be meeting my mentor face to face at the Linux Collaboration Summit tomorrow, and he’ll be introducing me to some other Linux and mm folks. We’ll sit down together and walk through the code, looking for ways to improve it. Plus, of course, a piece of software is never complete, it keeps evolving throughout its useful life. Still, I can now count this as a finished project.

Second, I competed in another Toastmasters Area contest, and this time I won First Place. I’ve won Second twice, and have now graduated to the Division stage. One club elder who has been a big help to me says that if the club can be compared to elementary school, this is like a junior high graduation, and I’m ready to go on to high school.

1stplace-area

Thanks so much to everyone who helped me, in both areas. I’m keeping names private; you know who you are. You rock.

Fridie Spidie: Safe and Protected Nest

Regal Jumping Spider - Phidippus regius

“Phidippus regius is a common spider in peninsular Florida. The first impression made upon the casual observer is of a moderately large, black, hairy spider; to the uninformed, this impression leads naturally to the conviction that the spider is a black widow. The black widow, however, is a globose, shiny black spider with long, spindly legs that is not noticeably hairy at all. Jumping spiders are harmless, beneficial creatures. The larger species, such as P. regius, are capable of delivering a painful bite, but will do so only if held tightly. The bite itself causes a sharp stinging sensation which subsides in a few minutes and requires no treatment. These spiders are easily tamed and can be induced to jump back and forth from hand to hand.”

Yes, that’s an egg sac she’s protecting.

Photo by Jim.

It’s Not Over

My OPW internship period may be over, but my project definitely isn’t. The new swapoff implementation, the project that is specific to the internship, gave us a little surprise that not even my mentor anticipated. I’m fixing that now; then I’ll present it to the mm community, and guided by the feedback I receive, I’ll polish it bit by bit until it’s accepted (or rejected) for inclusion in the mainline kernel. The times in between will give me the perfect opportunity to segue into more work, broader involvement, and maybe even another project.

I’ve learned a lot about the kernel and about the development process, for sure. I’ve seen a big change in who I am with respect to my work, but I’ve seen an even bigger change in who I am as a person. This is the first time in my life I’ve been paid more than pocket change to do work that I care about and enjoy, and the first time the chance of a career at it has been real. Crossing that threshold requires a fundamental change in my self-image. This was the real challenge of my internship, and it’s one I will continue to struggle with for some time.

For that reason, I wish I’d have involved myself in the community more. I wish I’d spent more time on the Planet and on linux-mm, reached out more at SCaLE, and connected with people in general, both that I knew before and encountered during the internship. My fears and sense of inadequacy drained a lot of my energy and productivity, and kept me in relative isolation, as they are wont to do.

Still, I’m glad to have been through it all. Ostensibly, OPW is designed to get women into Free Software; but in order to do that, it has to nurture its inductees through changes like the ones I’m going through. That’s its deeper purpose. It fulfills it well.

I’d like to give a big thank you to my mentor, who has gone above and beyond for me; to the program administrators; to the sponsors; and to everyone involved. You’ve done a lot of good for me, and for the world, and I’m sure you will do a lot more. As I said, it’s not over.

The Reward of Learning

When I first started reading my copy of Linux Kernel Development it was slow going. Even the old information in the preface took disciple. Although I could understand each individual quantum of information, I felt lost, confused, and foolish.

The other day, though, I was surprised at how quicky I could move through the text. I could read it almost as fast as I can read fiction–the new information later in the chapters, even. Although I shouldn’t be, I’m always amazed when I get to this point.

It seems uncanny, and even unfair. When I think back over the past several months, though, I can at least intellectually understand how it happened. I’ve put in the time and the effort, even though I didn’t think of it that way in the moment. I’ve written code, deleted code, copied and pasted code, ran code, and broken code (sometimes on purpose even). I’ve become a programmer.

It wasn’t a gratuitous gift from the universe, and I didn’t steal it from anyone. I earned it. I didn’t do it alone, though. I’ve tried that before; but although I rarely got hung up on a technical problem for long, the feelings of powerlessness held me back. This time I’ve had incentive, support, and feedback. It’s made all the difference.

Thanks, OPW.