STEMinist Profile: Selena Deckelmann, Founder & COO, Prime Radiant

Selena Deckelmann

Selena Decklemann

Founder & COO
Prime Radiant, first product is Checkmarkable

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My parents often pushed me toward the sciences, helping me get into advanced classes and advocating for me when a guidance counselor in 8th grade told me that if I didn’t want to be a mathematician I shouldn’t bother taking advanced math classes.

I am so grateful to my Mom for having words with principals, teachers and academic counselors about my classes. I was a “kid that didn’t play well with others” at a young age – which I’m sure was hard for my mom, and more than a little annoying for my teachers. Without her advocating for me, I’m sure I would have ended up in a lot of trouble AND in boring classes.

Another great thing my Mom did was get me playing the violin (I’d wanted to play cello, but they ran out!) in the fourth grade. Orchestra was as close to a team sport as I was going to get until I figured out I could run cross country late in high school. She probably regretted all that music stuff when I tried to start a degree in music performance! But, in the end, I settled on computer science.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The coolest project I’ve worked on is PostgreSQL, an open source database. I’ve been invited to every continent, except Anarctica, to speak about databases and open source.

In January, I went to Ballarat, Australia to talk about learning from failure in software development! And while there, I went jogging among hundreds of butterflies and a little pack of kangaroos.

Now, I’m starting a new company. This is only a few months old, and it’s exciting and terrifying. But it feels a lot like my work on open source – where the goal is to take over the world with our awesome ideas.

Role models and heroes:
Dr. Leah Beuchley – for her focus on what’s human, beautiful and functional about Arduino
Matthew Garrett – for his appreciation of the people in free software, and his sense of humor
Karen Sandler – for her passion, dedication to freedom and careful, clear thinking
Richard Stallman – for his pursuit of freedom
Tom Lane – for his love of Postgres
Marina Tsvetaeva – for her wit, sarcasm and love of language
Sylvia Plath – for her expressive sadness and poetry
Scott Deckelmann – my husband, for his love of teaching

Advice for future STEMinists?
Find your people! When I got a job in the Computing Center, I knew I’d found the place for me. It was rarely work – even when dealing with angry customers or unsolvable problems. I always had coworkers to commiserate with, and new, fascinating puzzles to solve. Free and open source software was the second place where I found a home. It’s hard to express how much I feel at home with the people I know in FOSS communities – they’re family.

Favorite website or app: PostgreSQL

Twitter: @selenamarie

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