Technical writing was new. In 1981, it didn’t have a name. I was a pioneer. I didn’t chop down forests or slaughter aboriginal inhabitants, but I went where no one had gone before. Breaking new ground was exciting and risky.

The president of the group was named Micah. He was the “money guy.” Micah knew less about computers than me, but wielded serious clout. His money was paying our salaries, rent, and keeping the lights on. The definition of clout.

As the day approached when the team from IBM was due, it was time for me to present the materials I had created with Ruth, a graphic artist who had been my art director at the failed newspaper I’d managed the previous year. (This was well before computers could generate graphics properly.) Ruth was amazing with an airbrush. I’ve never seen better work.

The presentation materials were as perfect as Ruth and I could make them. I had labored over that text and she had done a brilliant job creating graphics that illustrated the product, its unique capabilities and benefits. And so it came time for the pre-IBM all-hands-on-deck meeting.

ABC News

Micah didn’t like me. His dislike wasn’t based on anything I did or even my disputable personality. He didn’t like women in the workplace. I was undeniably female. As was Ruth. Strike one, strike two. At the meeting, he looked at our materials and announced “We need better material. I’ve heard there’s a real hot-shot in Jerusalem. I’ve seen his work. It’s fantastic. We should hire him.” And he stared at me and sneered.

Onto the table he tossed booklets as well as other promotional and presentation materials for a product being developed in Haifa at the Technion. I looked at the stuff.

“That’s my work, ” I said.

“No it isn’t,” he said firmly. “I’ve heard it was created by the best technical writer in the country.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Me.”

He was not done with humiliating himself. He insisted a phone be brought to the table and he called his friend Moshe in Jerusalem.

I’d worked for Moshe. I had quit because though I liked the man, he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. I had a bad-tempered, jealous husband — something I didn’t feel obliged to reveal.

Moshe gave Micah the name of The Hot Shot. It was me.

“Oh,” said Micah.

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t have to. The deadpan faces around the table were perfect examples of people trying desperately to not laugh. Micah wasn’t a guy you laughed at, not if you wanted to keep your job.

It was a moment of triumph so sweet — so rare — nothing else in my working life came close. I won one for The Team, for professional women everywhere. It felt good. It still feels good. We sold DB-1 to IBM — and for those of you who know the history of databases and how they have come to rule the world, the rest is history.

Today, considering the mass of protests by women against the men with many arms who think having a penis makes them extra special — Hah!


Categories: Computers, Photography, Research, Software, Technology, Work, Writing

Tags: , , , , , , ,

14 replies

  1. Just loved this…. Put a smile on my face… Good reason for it to put one on yours after all these years!!!! a pioneer!!


    • Moments like this are so terribly rare. We all — as working women and for that matter, most men too — put up with a lot. We sometimes work for such AWFUL people. So when finally, the worm turns … it’s so rewarding.


  2. The eighties indeed broke ground. I tell that to young women that I know and they stare at me, mystified. Because they think how it works NOW is how it always worked. They’re getting a bit of our schooling I think, with the resurgence of the ‘men with many hands’ arms/ attitude who think having that extra dangly bit gives them entitlement and superiority over women. Ha! indeed. You are a star! I’m so impressed that I got to meet (even virtually) a woman who forged what many young women take for granted now.


    • My whole generation did it. We were at peak professional age when we hit the 1980s. I was in my mid thirties. We’d served our time and we were ready. It wasn’t easy because no matter what was legally true, reality has never been the same — especially not for women or for anyone without white skin.

      The two key questions I was ALWAYS ASKED — no matter what I was trying to do professionally –was “How fast do you type” and “who takes care of your child.”

      Imagine them asking any man those two questions? And I didn’t get hired a lot of places because I had a child. The kid might get sick and that meant I wouldn’t come to work — which was absolutely true. I wouldn’t. Because my son was sick. But some days, his father would stay home instead … but ONE of us would be out of work. No one asked his father about it, though. I doubt it ever crossed their minds and anyway, he also typed faster than me.

      We just plodded along until one day, we were part of the work force and there were too many of us to get rid of.

      It’s still lopsided out there. Men still have many arms and genuinely believe having a penis makes them very special ’cause mama told them so. And women get paid less and until something huge changes, I don’t expect to see that change more than minimally. There are plenty of other injustices in the workplace, too, mind you. Women get a big chunk of them, but there are more than enough to go around.


  3. Ah that was sweet, Marilyn. Peter knew some fellows who worked at the Technion.


  4. There is something so evilly gratifying, watching the biggest jerk in your life bring himself to the flames and jump in. You don’t even have to help. And yeah, you can go for a lifetime on that one.


  5. Is that Roberta in the last shot…?


  6. I DOUBLE love you. A pioneer in your own time.


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