Kate Gregory, P.Eng., Ph.D.
Gregory Consulting Limited
I’m a founding partner at Gregory Consulting Limited, which I founded with my husband in 1986 and incorporated in 1989, just before my first child was born. Partner’s not a very informative job title: I help clients with issues related to software development and the business of software. I also write and speak on my topics – lately that means lots of C++ — and create courses. I run my business, too: selling and managing work, managing my staff and so on. Because I am the only one in the firm who does publicly visible things like writing books, speaking at conferences, or blogging, sometimes people assume it’s a one-woman company. It’s not!
What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My parents both had a strong science and math background (both earned Ph.Ds and worked at universities during my childhood.) All the adults I knew were scientists or engineers. I don’t know if it occurred to me to do anything else! I went to the University of Waterloo to do math because I loved math in school, transferred into Chemical Engineering after a year because I liked the engineering courses better, and went forward from there.
In retrospect, I just always knew the sort of work I wanted to do. My younger siblings are not all scientists by any means, so it’s not just a matter of following your parents. One of my children is a chef and the other is spending a year as a musician and then will do Physics at Waterloo, so it’s a similar pattern in the next generation – some do what their parents did, and some don’t.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
We have a client who asked us to write them custom software as a fixed-bid waterfall project, and then when it was done, asked us to maintain it in a more agile way. Over a five year period their business model changed entirely – they transitioned from putting things in boxes and calling a courier to an entirely electronic approach, one of their business partnerships ended, they went into new markets, they offered products that didn’t exist when the software was first written, and through it all we were right there with them adapting the software to work with whatever marketing thought up.
They’ve made a ton of money, they employ dozens of people, and it’s all feasible because they know their software (and their software developers!) will support them. I liked that project a lot because it really showed how software affects people’s lives. I hate it when someone says “The computer won’t let me help you.” Software should not be like that.
Role models and heroes:
That’s something that changes a lot over time. Some people who were heroes of mine have become peers and friends. I truly admired Arfa Karim, (Kellabyte, Wikipedia) who accomplished more in 16 years than many people do in a lifetime, and who was polite and poised and truly nice when I met her 5 years ago. She would have grown up to be a world-changer and she may have already made a difference for girls and women in Pakistan.
Advice for future STEMinists?
Look around you. Nobody does it all by themselves. Support groups are normal and natural. Join them. Maybe it’s other women, maybe it’s a mixed gender group, maybe it’s a whole pile of guys and you, but be on a team and help each other. You do not have to be the person who does all of everything every time.
Also, make human connections that transcend where you happen to work or what you’re working on and find the time to keep them strong. There are a few people in my life who I met in 1977 and being with them is always a treat. My mother has been having lunch once a year with the same group of women for over 60 years now. It’s something very special.
Favorite website or app:
I am cheerfully addicted to the StackExchange family of sites including StackOverflow.com and Programmers.stackexchange.com. I enjoy the nontechnical sites in the family too, like travel.stackexchange.com. They “get” how to motivate people not only with gamification, but with great information and great opportunities to share what you know and help others. It’s all about making the Internet better.