Women in Tech in the 1980s: One of the few

How does one go from a career as woman in tech to the opera? Hear Esther Massimini’s story this week on the podcast. She served in the Air Force from 1979 to 1984. She was one of few women to work in tech. At the time the government was on the leading edge of the changes in technology and she had the opportunity to see how things changed and have an impact on these changes. She continued her career in tech after leaving the military spending most of her career at Honeywell. She got involved in Opera though a veteran organization that highlights the stories of service members through opera.

Women in tech in the 1980s

Esther joined the Air Force in 1979 working in IT. She was one of very few women not only in the military but in the tech career field. She commissioned through Officer Training School and then went to training at Kessler Air Force Base. The top students of the tech school were required to stay behind and teach. She did not want to follow that career path so she worked to do well, but not too well so her career would give her opportunities outside teaching.

At the Pentagon

She worked in a small organization that was originally started by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara known as the wiz kids. It was a group of men who were focused on moving forward in tech. Rank was secondary to innovation. Often members would wear civilian clothes instead of their uniform because they did not want rank to squash a good idea. She was one of the few women part of this group in the 1980s.

Going back to school

After being at the Pentagon for four years she was able to get accepted in a program to get her masters full time while continuing her time in the military. After graduating she went back to the military to serve her commitment required for school. She worked at ??. Then when she transitioned she got a job working for her old boss at the Pentagon at a company called Semiconductor. A few years later she started at Honeywell and had an opportunity to do a number of different jobs for the company.

Being part of the opera

She always had a love for opera but she never considered it a career option. Instead, she went the sensible route and got her degree in tech. But that love never went away. Today, she is connected with a group of veterans working to share the stories of those who had served through opera. And the protagonist is a woman. You can watch the performance on YouTube. The next live performance is scheduled to be in San Diego, May 12-14, 2023.

She gives this advice to women considering the military. Know what you are signing up for. It requires a lot of sacrifice and you never know how quickly the world will change and what the military will ask.

Mentioned in this episode:

Opera: upcoming in San Diego https://www.sdopera.org/shows/the-falling-the-rising/

About the opera https://operawire.com/q-a-staff-sgt-1st-class-ben-hilgert-and-soprano-tess-altiveros-on-the-upcoming-arizona-opera-production-of-the-falling-and-the-rising/

Grace Hopper:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper_Celebration_of_Women_in_Computing

Women of the Military Mentorship Program

Girl’s Guide to Military Service available where books are sold.

Signed copies of A Girl’s Guide to Military Service

Girl’s Guide to the Military Series

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