Career Profiles

Explore profiles of real professionals and students to learn how they got started, what they love about computing, and all about the fascinating work they do.
David Walden

David Walden

Retired Computing Professional

Degree(s):

B.A. (math), San Francisco State College, 1964
Graduate coursework, Computer science, MIT, 1966-1968
“Start reading the computing literature and find a way to begin building hardware or writing software now; don’t wait until you start taking formal computer courses. Practice so you write prose fast and well; it will help your thinking and give you an advantage over all those computer people from whom writing is hard.”

I discovered an IBM 1620 computer while studying math, at which I was not very good, and thereafter I spent a lot of time writing programs. Upon graduation, I applied for jobs as a computer programmer and was hired by MIT Lincoln Lab. There, I evolved from a novice to a journeyman computer programmer under the mentorship of Will Crowther, the author of the first computer adventure game. I then moved to BBN where I had to good fortune to become part of the small team that developed the packet-switching technology for the ARPANET, the precursor of the Internet.
Read Dave’s computing memoir for the IEEE History Center Global History Network:
http://walden-family.com/cshc/archive/pubs/walden-memoir.pdf

As I became an experienced computer programmer and learned about designing overall computer systems, my career evolved step by step: programmer, software project leader, department leader, assistant division director, and general manager. In these latter jobs I was involved in sales and marketing as well as management. An important lesson was that I couldn’t simultaneously be a manager and remain a top rank technical person. However, I could accomplish bigger things as a manager, and was able to see a variety of business situations: contract R&D, product start-up, growth system business, and business shut down. It was interesting and exciting.

I am a serial hobbiest, spending vast amounts of time on whatever hobby I have been interested in. Over the years these activities have included contract bridge, musical theater, postal chess, juggling, sailing, playing Irish traditional music, and now (in retirement) writing, editing, and self-publishing about computing history and business management. Curiously, the most recent area of interest involves lots of computing (website development, typesetting, publishing workflow, etc.). In addition I read a lot of fiction and try to see at least one movie a week: http://walden-family.com/public/movie-index.htm

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Punch card from a COBOL program
Jean Sammet

Jean E. Sammet was one of the first developers and researchers in programming languages. During the 1950’s - 1960’s she supervised the first scientific programming group for Sperry Gyroscope Co. and served as a key member of the original COBOL (COmmon Business-Oriented Language) committee at Sylvania Electric Products. She also taught one of the first graduate programming courses in the country at Adelphi College. After joining IBM in 1961, she developed and directed the first FORMAC (FORmula MAnipulation Compiler). This was the first widely used general language and system for manipulating nonnumeric algebraic expressions. In 1979 she began handling Ada activities for IBM’s Federal Systems Division. Ada is a structured, object-oriented high-level computer programming language, designed for large, long-lived applications, where reliability and efficiency are paramount. Jean has a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. from the University of Illinois, both in Mathematics. She received an honorary D.Sc. from Mount Holyoke (1978).

RISC processor
John Hennessy
John Hennessy

Have you ever wondered how computers can execute complex commands in mere seconds? John Hennessy is a pioneer of reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architecture which employs small, highly-optimized sets of instructions to greatly enhance computer performance. He was instrumental in transferring the technology, specifically MIPS RISC architecture, to industry. He co-founded MIPS Technologies and co-authored the classic textbook with David A. Patterson, on Computer Architecture.

As Stanford faculty he rose to be the Chairman of the Computer Science Department, Dean of the School of Engineering, then Provost and finally the President of Stanford in 2000 (and till date). Hennessy holds a Master’s and Ph.D. in Computer Science from SUNY Stony Brook. He is an IEEE Fellow and was selected to receive the IEEE Medal of Honor in 2012. Hennessey also launched significant activities that helped to foster interdisciplinary research in the biosciences and bioengineering at Stanford.

Bletchley Park
Dr. Sue Black
Dr. Sue Black

Dr. Sue Black has demonstrated the power of social networking. She used Web 2.0 technologies to help raise awareness of, and critical funding for, Bletchley Park, the UK World War II center for decrypting enemy messages. She has also been an active campaigner for equality and support for women in technology fields, founding a number of online networking platforms for women technology professionals. A keen researcher, Dr. Black completed a PhD in software measurement in 2001. Her research interests focus on software quality improvements. She has recently won the PepsiCo Women's Inspiration Network award, been named Tech Hero by ITPRO magazine and was awarded the first John Ivinson Award from the British Computer Society. In 2011 Dr. Black set up The goto Foundation, a nonprofit organization which aims to make computer science more meaningful to the public, generate public excitement in the creation of software, and build a tech savvy workforce. Read Sue's blog about The goto Foundation: http://gotofdn.org

Router
Sandra Lerner

It is difficult to imagine a time when computers were not capable of sharing information and resources with great ease. Sandra Lerner pushed the boundaries of network computing as one of the co-founders of Cisco Systems, which introduced one of the first commercially viable routers. The router was born while Sandra was working at Stanford University in the 1980’s after earning her Master’s degree there in Computer Science. To avoid the tedious task of transferring information between computers using floppy disks, she and co-founder of Cisco, Leonard Bosack, created a local area network, or LAN, between their campus offices using a multiprotocol router that Bosack developed. Shortly thereafter the pair started Cisco Systems, and began selling the router which was a success, because it could work with so many different types of computers. After Leaving Cisco in 1990, Lerner started the trendy cosmetics company Urban Decay and became a philanthropist and avid activist for animal rights.

MATLAB graph
Cleve Moler

Cleve Moler improved the quality and accessibility of mathematical software and created a highly respected software system called MATLAB. He was a professor of mathematics and computer science for almost 20 years at the University of Michigan, Stanford University, and the University of New Mexico. In the late 1970’s to early 1980’s he developed several mathematical software packages to support computational science and engineering. These packages eventually formed the basis of MATLAB, a programming environment for algorithm development, data analysis, visualization, and numerical computation. MATLAB can be used to solve technical computing problems faster than with traditional programming languages, such as C, C++, and Fortran. Today, Professor Moler spends his time writing books, articles, and MATLAB programs.

Listen to what Professor Moler has to say about his life’s work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT5umwNSAxE

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