Grandmothers Who Code


Age, Gender, & Technology

a blog by Sari Jozokos Morninghawk

Back-in-the-Day App Engineer to Web Developer

Or Why I Started Coding (Part II)

January 13, 2018

So there I was, my first job as a programmer, working at a large financial institution where my title was Senior Applications Engineer! Just the day before I was ringing up customers at the Green Grocer down the street, mopping the floor if I had the closing shift. Why did I start coding? My income was 4-times what I was making at the grocery. That's 400% in one-fell-swoop with no more floor mopping! But, I must admit, I was a little over my head. I had to learn a lot of things on the job — and very quickly. Fortunately, most engineers are wonderfully helpful if you're just willing to ask.
(Read Part I)

Back-in-the-Day Programming

There are always buzzwords. Currently they include “mobile first”, “artificial intelligence” (AI), “microservices”, and “framework”. One of the buzzwords at my first tech job in the ’90s was “client-server”, mostly because small businesses and even individuals could now own a computer, creating desktop applications or “clients” that never before existed. (Learn more about client-server in the ’90s.)

Read more…

My job was to write C code for the middleware which connected a small business owner's desktop application on a PC to a mainframe. We were a team of about 25 engineers. There was one other woman aside from me but, I'm sad to say that she was terrible at her job so she couldn't help me — or effectively promote our cause of encouraging women in technology.

Back-in-the-Day A Newbie Needed Books

C is hard, all this memory management that I only dealt with in classroom assignments made me nervous. My code could bring the desktop application, along with someone's whole computer to a crashing halt. I requested a lot of code reviews, but none of the guys seemed to mind.

One of the very helpful engineers with whom I worked, suggested that I solve for a particular problem using a linked list. What?! Back-in-the-day, there was no Google to find some appropriate code to get you started. I had to look for the relevant O'Reilly book at the local bookstore, which luckily, was only a couple blocks away from the office. Did I need the one with the cow or the magpie? (Those books are famous for their covers with a black and white illustration of animals.)

Back-in-the-Day A Woman Was in a Man's Engineering World

Did it help me or harm me that I was a woman in this man's engineering world? In retrospect, I think it helped at first while I was in desperate need to learn on the job. My male peers didn't feel threatened by me, or a desire to compete, so it was easier for them to teach me what I needed to know. Later, as I was trying to advance my career and have impact on the products we were coding, I ran into issues — but that's a blog for another day. But in this first job, I figured out the linked-list issue along with many other programming concerns and successfully developed software there for about three years.

Back-in-the-Day and The World Wide Web

Then… with the birth of the world wide web, the dot–com boom really took over the Bay Area. A computer programmer could make twice the money for half the work by switching from software engineer to web developer. There were many more jobs than there were qualified candidates. In fact, a popular joke in the tech community was “Can You Spell ‘HTML’?”

Needless to say, I made the switch. I've been a web developer ever since.

Past Blogs

Avatar for Sari Jozokos Morninghawk

Sari Jozokos Morninghawk has been writing code professionally since 1994. For the past two decades she has worked as a front-end engineer with a specialty in user experience (UX). Having worked at several start-ups as well as a number of large corporations, Morninghawk’s background has given her a wealth of work-place experiences regarding age and gender. View resumé

She has volunteered for Girls Who Code helping to close the gender gap in technology, and Citizen Schools creating opportunity for success through hands-on after school classes for kids in middle school, where she designed a program to teach sixth and seventh-graders how to build a website.

Morninghawk is an active grandmother of three children (who don’t necessarily have an interest in technology). Together they enjoy movies, board games, cooking, outdoor activities, arts & crafts, books, and hanging out.

Sari Jozokos Morninghawk and grandchildren