Meeting the Ladies Who Lunch (& Program Java while Raising Twins and Running a Start-Up)

Our lovely table settings at the CU Women in Tech luncheon

I am a fan of lunch. Particularly, free lunch. Anytime there is such an announcement on campus I immediately check my schedule, make sure I can get to where-ever the food is, and RSVP in record time. When I was informed about such an event from our darling Help Desk supervisor Jill, I jumped at the chance. Lucky for me, this luncheon had more to offer than just tiramisu and baked chicken.

This event was the first luncheon in a series entitled “CU Women in Technology”, hosted by our very own Research Park. Held bi-monthly, this luncheon attempts to not only inform the women of the CU community (and UIUC attendees specifically) about opportunities within the tech field, but personally connects these students and staff to one another by shared interests, similar life stories (more than one programmer was heard gushing about a toddler or two), and a dedication to emerging technologies occurring both locally and abroad.

Upon arrival, we donned name tags and sat ourselves at clothed, round tables, arranged to encourage conversation, and drank iced tea and coffee. Anyone unfamiliar with the building could assume we were merely lunching debutantes with cucumber sandwiches and tiny dogs in our purses. However, after spending a few moments at the table, you could tell we were women of a different sort. I was lucky enough to be sitting with our speaker, Susan Potter, who works as a programming engineer at She is witty, friendly, and happily shared her insight about working remotely from the CU for a company based in of all places, dreaded Long Island.

Other participants, after brief introductions, were clearly of the same ilk: software engineers for Caterpillar, a newly hired engineer from Riverbed who worked on the internet before there was an internet, and a former music teacher turned HTML guru aiming to teach children coding as early as Kindergarten. These women showed me that I currently reside at a place near the very brink of technological breakthrough. From each of them I sensed a passion for their work, the continuous urge to learn technical skills, and the courage to embrace motherhood and Python in one lifetime.

I write this piece aiming for two points: to remind women in technology that they are never alone and that success can be attained in personal and professional arenas, and to encourage those who have not attended these wonderful sessions to do so immediately. The next luncheon hasn’t been planned yet (I was told they are aiming for November) so you have plenty of time to gather your burning questions and learn how to code before arriving. I also suggest bringing your phone or a pad of paper as you will be exchanging e-mail and phone numbers halfway through your meal. And don’t forget, it’s free lunch on campus. That’s a win-win.

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