"Mother of the Internet" offers advice
By RACHEL J. TROTTER
OGDEN — Radia Perlman, who some refer to as the “mother of the Internet,” gave what many engineering students called an amazing and inspiring lecture to current and budding engineers at Weber State University.
WSU’s Society of Women Engineers and the school’s Technology Outreach Center sponsored Perlman’s visit Thursday in honor of National Engineers Week.
Perlman is known for work in networking and engineering with the Internet and played a key role in the development of the modern Internet. She told the crowd that if it weren’t for her books she would not be as well known as she is today in the technology and engineering community.
“Writing books absolutely changed my career,” Perlman said.
She added that it has been easier to talk about the things she has learned and accomplished through her book writing.
“I would talk to sneeringly condescending people that wouldn’t take an extra look at me but when they realized I wrote a book and they had read the book it made a difference,” she said with a laugh. She added that today people may not find as much success with writing a book because of all the information now available on the Internet.
Perlman joked with the audience and gave tips on how engineers can work better with others. “Engineers ought to meet humans,” she joked. She said that much confusion with simple computer lingo could be diverted if engineers tried to think of talking with humans instead of computers.
She spoke to the issue of bullies and advised on how to handle them. She said she has run into a lot in her field. “Standing up to them is hard because they are so used to being worshipped for every syllable that comes out of their mouth,” she said. She told the group it is important to stand up to them and to realize that they often don’t really know what they are talking about and to remember that.
She told people that being nice in any career field is the best possible way to go. “We will have better technology if we simply discuss things,” she said.
She talked about the importance of being nice and working with others in the workplace and in the classroom, right down to where you sit at lunch, offering suggestions on lunchtime conversations and how they can be times to learn new things about the world around them.
“Criticizing on technical grounds or proposing alternative ideas is not bad behavior,” she said.
She also spoke specifically to women and how it has been to be one of a handful in most of her workplaces through the years. She has noticed that women work to be managers rather than stay in the technical field and when asked why, they say they aren’t smart enough to stay in the technical field. “It is so sad, and not true,” she said, but also noted that plenty of men feel the same way. “It is an intimidating field,” she added.
She advised women not to expect special treatment and told them they shouldn’t get special treatment either.
Niki LeClair is in the engineering field at Hill Air Force Base and came to listen to Perlman’s address because of her chosen field. “She hit on a lot of points that I can relate to as woman and an engineer,” she said. She also liked the real-world advice of how to deal with people in the workforce and in life. “She was very encouraging,” she added.
Elaine Cope is a WSU student and secretary of the Society of Women Engineers. “She was very fascinating and inspiring,” Cope said of Perlman. “It’s hard to find women as humble and as accomplished,” Cope said. She liked that Perlman encouraged the women to continue to be themselves in spite of the low numbers of women in the field.
WSU student Ashley Fern could also relate to Perlman’s speech. She is also an engineering student and felt inspired by Perlman’s words. “A lot of the stuff she said I can correlate and use,” she said. “The industry is truly lucky to have her,” she added.