I saw the movie Hidden Figures recently. It’s the story of the black women “computers” who did the calculations for NASA during the 1960’s. Yes, you read that correctly, the women were referred to as “computers.” Women. Computers. Interesting.
From the time engineers (male) began solving problems requiring complicated calculations, women served as computers. It’s one reason women came up with the idea of programming machines and one of the first programming languages. Women were performing the computations (ergo, computing) and they figured out how to feed a machine the information to do the calculations (by programming in the information) for them.
In one of my favorite scenes in Hidden Figures, one of the black computers (the computers worked in a segregated offices in Hampton, VA), Dorothy Vaughn, found out an “IBM” was being installed at NASA – it wasn’t called a computer because a computer was a person. She asked some questions about the IBM and found out it would replace the human computers.
Don’t panic; act!
Did Dorothy panic? No. Did she cry? No. Did she go look for another job? Nope. She did something better than that. She created a new job for herself and her team. She decided to learn about the IBM and how to use it. She taught herself and the women she worked with how to program. And they were the only people at NASA who could do it. The first group of NASA programmers was a group of black women who taught themselves to code. They refused to be left behind.
Oh, and Dorothy wasn’t 25 years old, either. She was a veteran computer who decided she wasn’t going to become obsolete. She decided not to be scared of the future, of what she didn’t understand, or any other thing that gets in our way when we’re faced with monumental changes. She adapted. And she helped the people around her adapt, too.
Change is constant.
You know, we’re constantly faced with change. And, in 2017, the pace of that change accelerates constantly. We have multiple opportunities to choose whether we embrace change or run the other way.
Be part of the change.
I believe passionately that there are huge advantages to embracing change. There’s the opportunity for growth; the chance to learn new things to make your life more interesting; the chance to learn new things that can make your life better; the opportunity to feel like part of the change, instead of left behind.
What does it take to embrace change? Courage, determination, a sense of adventure, and support. Dorothy led the charge for the computers to learn how to program the IBM, and then she supported them. That support gave the women the courage not to give up, to try something new.
She also provided a model of determination – as in, No machine is gonna make me obsolete! And, I can only imagine that the fact that they moved forward together made it an adventure instead of a trial.
Make yourself valuable to somebody.
Learn all you can and make yourself valuable to somebody. – Dorothy Vaughn in Hidden Fences
Is there a change you can embrace to make yourself more valuable? To make your life better? How will you summon the courage, determination, and sense of adventure to go after it? And, most importantly, who will support you in your quest?