Leslie Martinich doesn’t get discouraged easily.
In the mid-1960s, when she was a high school student, Martinich told her biology teacher she was interested in becoming a scientist. The teacher replied that scientists had already figured out all the problems, so there wasn’t much need for her to be a scientist.
Then, while on a field trip to then-bustling Litton Industries in Canoga Park, Calif., the tour guide told the boys in Martinich’s group that when they grew up, they could be scientists or engineers. Taking Martinich aside, the guide told her, “And you can be a librarian!”
A few years later, and now a mathematics major at the University of California at San Diego, Martinich asked a counselor whether to switch to applied physics and information sciences, the precursor to computer sciences. The counselor advised that by the time she graduated in 1971 there would be “a glut in the market for computer programmers.”
Despite these experiences, Martinich’s fascination with science, and her passion for math and problem-solving remained undiminished. Following marriage and motherhood, she obtained an M.S. in computer science and went on to have a successful career in distributed systems, operating systems and communications. Now an IEEE Senior Member, and a consultant with more than 25 years as a practicing technology professional, she has written about her experiences and growth in Women in Engineering - Book 6: My Career, Your Career, part of the IEEE-USA Women in Engineering eBook series. Except for the first book — an overview of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) occupations — each is a first-hand account of how a notable contemporary woman professional built her career. Each author discusses the difficulties she has overcome, and the opportunities she has found, while obtaining her education and advancing professionally.
Gerard (Gus) Gaynor, chair of both the IEEE-USA Communications Committee and IEEE-USA eBooks, notes: “The first-person stories of each of these authors can help to motivate and inspire the next generation of female technical professionals.”
Georgia Stelluto, IEEE-USA Publishing Manager and Manager & Editor, IEEE-USA eBooks, adds that each author shares practical, no-nonsense stories about how they overcame stereotyping or inherent biases in the STEM professions.
In the first chapter of Martinich’s book — aptly titled “Perseverance and Curiosity” — the author recounts a few of the incidents that easily could have stopped her career aspirations. Martinich also pays tribute to the math teacher who encouraged her in her studies. Emphasizing the need for persistence, she says, “When others tell you your passions and dreams will lead to a dead end, don’t give up. Your plans may change but you can still achieve your dreams.”
The author uses her wide-ranging professional experiences to illustrate important lessons for almost anyone who aspires to a career in technology — or for that matter, to almost any other field. For example:
The art of a successful interview, whether as a candidate or a hiring manager. With humor and honesty, Martinich recalls several anecdotes that demonstrate some of the ways applicants can tell whether the organization would be a good place to work, as well as telltale signs managers can use to help determine a candidate’s honesty about past work experience and depth of knowledge.
The importance of diversity in problem-solving teams. While she was a senior engineer at Novell, Martinich and her group were tasked with designing the functionality of Remote Procedure Call (RPC) technology, the underpinning for today’s cloud computing. The team included individuals from widely different parts of the world, and with vastly dissimilar approaches to problem-solving. The author points out how each person’s differences provided them with the perspective to see things from different angles — and ultimately, to make progress.“
Be open to new adventures. In 2012, Martinich applied for, and was subsequently named an IEEE-USA Government Fellow. Her year in Washington, D.C., as a legislative aide in Congressman Steven J. Israel’s, D-N.Y., office was both exciting and fulfilling — and since then, has inspired Martinich to collaborate with other technical professionals on programs to encourage more talented young people to consider engineering careers.
One more volume in the IEEE-USA Women in Engineering eBook Series is scheduled to be published this year:
- Women in Engineering – Book 8: The Art of Self-Empowerment: Becoming Your Own Best Friend, by Cisco software quality leader Punam Nagpal.
The first seven books in the IEEE-USA Women in Engineering eBook Series are:
- Women in Engineering – Book 1: Inspire and Close the Gender Gap by L-3 Warrior Systems systems and software engineering manager, and IEEE Women in Engineering International Chair, Nita Patel
- Women in Engineering – Book 2: Passion, Perseverance and Making a Difference by Microsoft data analyst/program manager Maria Vlachopoulou
- Women in Engineering – Book 3: Passions Can Sustain You--A Personal Career History by consultant Sherry Gillespie
- Women in Engineering – Book 4: Follow Your Curiosities--Finding Success through Learning by James Madison University assistant professor Jacquelyn Nagel. Nagel was also the National Engineers Week Foundation's New Faces of Engineering — representing IEEE/IEEE-USA (2012)
- Women in Engineering – Book 5: Finding Self and Growth by Broadcom integrated circuits packaging engineer Melissa Lau
- Women in Engineering – Book 6: My Career, Your Career
Women in Engineering – Book 7: Having It All: One Woman’s Journey, by international marketing and business management consultant Tanya Candia. (Book 7 will be reviewed in a forthcoming article.)
More information about all seven Women in Engineering eBooks is available at: http://shop.ieeeusa.org/. The member price for each volume is $7.99; non-IEEE members can purchase them for $9.99 each.
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.