Ada Lovelace Day: Catspaw

Ada Lovelace Day: Catspaw

It’s Ada Lovelace day, which is the day when we celebrate women in tech! This is an easy one for me: Michelle Levesque, otherwise know as Catspaw.

I first met Catspaw just before she started her first year at the University of Toronto. She was a scrappy teenager, with a history of sneaking into servers and testing their security without actually causing any damage. She learned code by writing it out by hand offline, and then testing it when she could get back online. She “hacked” her way into a private building in order to post up a giant-sized drawing of a stick-figure cat, just to show that hacking isn’t just a skill with code, it’s the skill of quietly finding and exploiting weak spots in security. She is scrappy, strong, intelligent, and incredibly gentle, thoughtful and considerate.

The most wonderful thing about Catsy is the way she thinks about technology. On the side of skills: she’s gifted. But that’s not what makes her special. It’s how she understands the role of technology in light of everything else. It’s the medium, not the message. Her interpersonal skills are excellent; she respects non-tech people, non-programmers, for the skills they bring to the table. She really listens to what people say. She absorbs ideas and really turns them around in her head. She sees all ideas as part and parcel of the project of changing the world. She will never, ever say to anyone: “You just don’t understand the tech.” She will instead improve the way she communicates so that you do. And she will work to make sure the tech understands you.

When she was offered a job at Google before she even finished her undergraduate degree, she wondered if she should even take it. In the same way she thinks about projects and code, she didn’t want to take the best-looking road first, in case there was another, better, more clean and sophisticated route to get there. She was still hacking her way through things, just like always.

What I admire most about Catsy is the way all the parts of her are merged into her work. She is not just a geekgirl. She is not just a programmer, just an engineer. She refuses to put her ideas or herself in a box; there is code in everything, and she won’t ignore the softer side of things because they don’t fit into the strict definition. This is why she’s able to be so much more than the sum of her parts; she merges them, she doesn’t deny them. She won’t fit the stereotype.

Catspaw is at the beginning of her career. I can’t wait to see what more she’s going to do. It will be amazing.

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