I'm a geekette who enjoys playing with new technology for software developers. I work as a Developer Evangelist for Microsoft. My current focus is on machine learning and big data on Azure.
Toi B. Wright owns her own consulting business, One Stop Designs, which does web development for small- to medium-sized businesses. She started the company in 2003 and is the sole employee. "Right now that makes sense for me, even though I occasionally have to turn down jobs." She primarily does intranet sites.
Toi is extremely active in the software developer community in Dallas, Texas. She is a Microsoft MVP for ASP.NET. Toi also serves as the President of the Dallas ASP.NET User Group, which she founded in 2003 while she was on maternity leave for her first child. She started the group because she was looking for a group that focused solely on web development. Toi also organizes the "We are Microsoft" Charity Challenge Weekend, which is a weekend-long event in which software developers donate their time to work on projects (such as a new website) for non-profit organizations. On top of all this, Toi has two young children, ages 2 and 5.
Prior to 2003, Toi worked at a consulting company. When she became pregnant, she experienced a change in the way the company treated her. "They were so happy for the men whose wives were having babies, but they acted like I had betrayed them." She went back for a short time after her maternity leave, but then she decided to start her own company.
Toi is extremely happy with her decision. "I've been doing professional software development since the mid-80s, and I really like making a difference in these small companies and helping them solve their problems. It's really cool to walk into a company and see your screens up on everyone's machines, and know that you are helping them to work more productively."
How does Toi manage to run her own company as well as be extremely active in the developer community? "I have a house husband! My husband is the primary caregiver for our children and takes responsibility for our home." Toi asserts that this type of arrangement is becoming more frequent with working women. "There are three families on my street in Frisco, TX, where the husband stays home with the kids. It's becoming more acceptable in our society that men have this responsibility."
Toi also enjoys working from home as a great way to stay connected with her family and balance her work and home life. "Today, remote work is more acceptable. If you ask, many clients will let you work from home. I can arrange my schedule so that I'm able to go to my son's activities at school." Toi had one client that she didn't actually see for five years; they did everything via phone and email. "Take advantage of that!"
Toi was introduced to computer programming in the seventh grade when she took a Pascal 4 class with her mother. Her parents owned a home computer, and she programmed in Basic throughout high school. Her first big program was a space game that was wildly popular with the other kids in her neighborhood. "It was actually impossible to win, so most of the neighborhood got addicted trying!"
Toi earned her Computer Science and Engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then earned her MBA from Carnegie Melon University. "I identified many years ago that I learn best by seeing. In college, I actually went to all of my classes." That's why user groups are so helpful to Toi. At monthly user groups, knowledgeable presenters demonstrate new technology which allows you to see it in action. "It's a good way to get excited about it. Then I'll go buy the books and watch the webcasts." User groups also help you keep up in the rapidly-changing world of technology. "Every three years, I completely change my toolset." Toi recognizes the importance of user groups to the developer community and has been running user groups since 2000. While pregnant with her second child, she was running two user groups, but narrowed it down to one after the baby was born.
Toi's advice to other women in technology: "Don't let yourself get pigeonholed as the 'note taker' or 'coffee maker' on the team. Women can feel more free to participate in the meeting if they are not distracted with other responsibilities. Work harder and be better prepared than your male counterparts. Not fair, but still true."