LiTTeral Issue 1: Maigh Houlihan
Turner recently debuted LiTTeral, a new monthly interview series featuring members of Ladies in Tech at Turner, aka LiTT. Each month one LiTT member interviews another, enabling you to see these innovative Turner employees from a unique perspective.
So just who are the Ladies in Tech at Turner?
They are a group of Turner technologists who gather for community and professional development. Their mission is to increase retention and recruitment of women in tech through compelling and authentic programming.
LiTTeral’s inaugural issue features Maigh Houlihan, interviewed by Abbe Wiesenthal. Read their exchange below, and check back for future editions of LiTTeral.
Abbe: When you were a little girl, did you say, "I want to be a lady in technology" or did you think you were going to be a ballerina or a master chef or something?
Maigh: I grew up in Alaska, the youngest of four children. My sister is eight years older so she wasn’t interested in playing with me, but my two brothers were; I hung out with them a lot. Growing up there, I wasn't surrounded by stereotypes, I never had any of those traditional female-y things. I could just be a kid. I do remember my parents saying things like "you can be president if you want," which is interesting considering it was like, 1975.
Very. So, where does tech come in?
There was a lot of money in our school district because of the oil and gas industry, which meant that we had computers in our classrooms and libraries in the late '70s and early '80s.
I met my first computer in third grade. It was an Apple IIe and I loved it.
Out of high school, I moved to California, got a job just down the street from Apple Computers. We were one of the first Apple retailers. We were just starting to network computers then. I learned Quark. I was having fun. And then I kind of put it away for a while when I moved to Atlanta right around the Olympics, '94 I guess.
'97-ish, I got back into it. I’d taught myself LANs, WANs, token ring, all that good stuff, and web design. Web was still so primitive. Taught myself how to code because I just thought it was interesting. That’s still how I am.
There were so many frustrating things about being a woman in IT then, and I still say “IT,” does that make me sound old…so I fell into what we call the "glass hole" where women get to a certain point in their careers in technology and there's either nowhere else to go or people above them don't look like them and they don't know that there are options— if there are options. I was a woman in my early 30s and I was petite and I was—
Smart and assertive.
Yeah. And that didn't go over so well. I landed at Turner as an executive assistant for three years, no tech. And then, Turner being the great place it is, I dipped back in.
I asked about the path your career has taken and you were describing it as whitewater rafting ...
Kayaking, because you’re alone. I've always operated independently, not never, but rarely part of a team. So, yeah, kayaking. It’s fun, I love being there. You never know what will hit you next, what the next wave will be like. You may get stuck in an eddy. You may capsize. I’ve had to Eskimo roll. There was that point where I “took out,” where I pulled off the river and hung out for three years, did something completely different. Then I got back in my boat and here I am.
That’s a terrific metaphor. You said you work on non-roadmap tech solutions, and ladies in tech.
Mmmhmm. My role is evolving. I’ll be leading our technology efforts around community. That's things like LiTT and the SquirrelCon hackathons and other communities where there are opportunities. We used to do Android developer and VR meetups.
How about external community?
Absolutely— we’ll be building off of what we've done with LiTT and our partnership with the Anita Borg Institute. We’ll continue to expand on our relationship with General Assembly in Iron Yard as non-traditional opportunities to get new talent in. Oh, and because of LiTT and our relationship with Anita Borg, we also have a board seat with ABI Local, which is a brand new [yet to be launched] local chapter of Anita Borg.
Let's geek out a little.
How do you geek out in your spare time? What charges you up that feeds your work, which in turn feeds you personally?
It’s funny—a few people have recently asked "how do you have the energy to do all these things?” And my answer is—and this is not a sharp or a snide answer—that I don't have kids. I have more free time than the average bear or my peers. At home, I’m binge-watching competition television shows, binge-watching our content. I'm on social, I'm listening to what people are saying about our content, our platforms, our experiences out in the wild like Comic-Con. I'm watching trends in tech, I'm reading Tech-Crunch and Mashable and, you know...
Exactly. I'm reading the trades and I’m a consumer of the things I'm building and the competition is building—and not just NetFlix and Hulu and Amazon, tech companies overall. And the things that I have ideas about building are because I'm passionate about those things. I make it a point to go out—less since we moved to the mountains—to hang with people who will challenge me, people who inspire me, people who can coach me.
You just reach out to people and set meetings up?
Absolutely, but these are also largely the people in my tribe. There's a great article—it's a Medium article about the idea that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. So my investment in myself and spirituality and my philanthropy, and all of the things that I steer towards, are the sum of those few people.
Okay. Maigh's Rec's. I know you'll find it hard to narrow this down to just one, give me two or three [sites you frequent] that you feel are that important—blogs, Twitter feeds, websites.
Plenty of great articles on Medium. Most of my news comes from Twitter and folks I admire and follow there... always love Mental Floss's Twitter account, for just your nugget every day. Love Emergency Cute Stuff. That's a go-to.
Photos by John Nowak.