My parents were first-generation, working-class American Jews. Culturally, they were an immigrant-influenced mix of American activities and Old World tastes: yes to BBQ but Brontosaurus-sized beef ribs instead of pork. Brunch? Of course: smoked fish, salt bagels, Yiddish, station wagons, abundant polyester, & kids just back from Hebrew School.
I had one of those totally wild & free ride-your-bike-everywhere-and-don’t-come-back-until-5PM childhoods. In the last decade of wide-open desert that edged the post-war suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona, a kid could ride their bike without seeing an adult for the entire day. Before the incoherence & anti-grammar of the cardboard McMansions, the pox of condos, & and the audacity of golf courses, you could see for miles in every direction, plot a course, then go. Riding through the desert (almost always alone) by bike made me imaginative, adaptable, independent, unafraid. It allowed me time & space to learn self-guidance, judgment, comfort with the unknown.
It was good I had that foundational self. I would lose both parents & both sets of grandparents before I was 16. What held me together after that were librarians. I had social & emotional support where I didn’t have financial or familial– from libraries and librarians.
If I say that librarians saved my life, I am not being hyperbolic. Librarians had a sixth sense for the million tiny hairline fractures in a human being. They intuited my questions, picked out my wants from my inarticulate requests; they nurtured me into adulthood by supporting my curiosity. They taught me the right questions to ask, encouraged risks, & showed me the benefits of non-binary thinking. If you ever doubt the import of librarians; I am proof these folks & institutions make a difference. I am further proof that it takes fewer resources to care for people than to punish them.
Librarians helped me (literally) understand how to apply to college. They offered me things I didn’t know I needed, all of which are too tender to name. When I found out I was accepted to Bryn Mawr, 15 years after starting community college, I told the librarians before my family. They also taught me how to research everything and anything, which is a colossally under-rated skill but one I have leveraged many times in my career.
In 2002 I left for Bryn Mawr & graduated in 2005. Bryn Mawr –from the groundskeepers to the President– support the ambitions of women in ways that cannot be imagined, only experienced. I will be indebted to Mawrtyrs for the rest of my days;. From the women of Bryn Mawr I learned confidence & the out-of-control-crushing love for rigorous intellectual work.
In 2010 I started an MBA program at California College of the Arts for its emphasis on Systems & Design Thinking. I believe that Design Thinking, Systems Thinking, & Human Centered Design are how we can solve our most complex, intertwined, seemingly unsolvable problems. I am a product of Design Thinking; my life could have & should have turned out very differently.
CCA was more emotionally demanding than intellectually rigorous; it required opening my mind, being vulnerable to the heart-breaking problems of a damaged planet full of social imbalances & scarce resources. It was a a very, very appropriate training for the 21st century.
In 2014 I found SF Women of Product to help more women enter & achieve success in the discipline of Product Management. In 2016 I started formally writing about Product Management with the intent to write a book about making software as a creative practice that involves risk & skill practiced together with artistry. It’s called The Craft of Product. Who knows when it will be done.