A: My dad taught at Purdue, so I grew up there. I started at Oberlin College as an English major. But during my freshman year I started to think seriously about how I could earn a living in that field and became doubtful. I had taken an introductory CS class at Purdue the preceding summer (Fortran! punch cards!) and done OK, and for an independent winter term project at Oberlin I learned C and wrote a random poetry generator. I had a lot of fun with that, and in the spring I decided to transfer to Purdue and switch to computer science. In a way it was a contrarian move, to prove to my family, and perhaps myself, that I could do this thing that I wasn’t expected to be able to do (I admit a hometown boyfriend also factored into that decision).
Maybe a more interesting question is what led me to electronic design automation, or EDA. When I graduated from Purdue, I could easily have landed in some Indianapolis bank’s payroll processing department. Instead I had the good fortune to be hired by Betty Shanahan, the only female member of Data General’s Eagle engineering team, whose race to bring a new minicomputer to market was famously documented in Tracy Kidder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Soul of a New Machine. This book describes a corporate culture of tossing new grads into the deep end—which, in my case at least, was an exhilarating and confidence-building rapid-growth experience. After three years at Data General, I was hired by the startup Viewlogic Systems (now part of Synopsys), and from there went on to Mentor Graphics and, finally, Synopsys. I was very lucky to get that first chance, which I think I wouldn’t have without Betty Shanahan’s interest. She went on to become the executive director of the Society of Women Engineers and an active public advocate for the engineering professions generally.