Life Without Ceilings: A Woman’s Career in Computers
Life Without Ceilings is the memoir of Mary L. Gorden, describing her early life as a Navy child in the years following World War II, and the fascinating and unique story of her path to a career in the emerging field of computer programming in the 1960s.
In a twist that many of us may be familiar with, being told what she couldn’t or shouldn’t do from an early age proved to be a catalyst rather than a hindrance, and Mary’s interest in science, mathematics, and engineering survived through multiple moves and a series of religious schools that either didn’t offer those subjects, or didn’t understand why a girl would want to study them. Mary graduated straight into a computer programming position with Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and found herself in a niche perfectly suited to allow her to make use of her strengths.
I’ll be up-front and admit I don’t read a lot of memoirs. When I do, I’m often pleasantly surprised by how engrossed I can get in someone else’s life. Life Without Ceilings definitely fell into that category. I found myself grinning in sympathy over the ‘girls don’t’ sections, and drawn in by interests touching my own career as Mary described her time working with Visa in the early days of chip encoding. Above and beyond the fact that Mary’s story is well-worth the read, the book is very well-written and full of insights that take it far beyond a bare recital of facts.