Tech & Work

Breaking the gender code: Builder talks to DataGrid girl

Marcie Robillard, a.k.a. DataGrid girl, tells Builder AU why more women should be cutting code but why most leave the industry.

Builder AU caught up with ASP.NET developer Marcie Robillard — better known to those who visit her site as DataGrid girl — at TechEd2003 in Brisbane this week. While most personal Web sites are built in homage to a favourite recreation or to keep in-touch with distant loved ones, Marcie has dedicated her pages to demystifying an ASP.NET programming technique the DataGrid control. She was also one of the only two female developers invited to present her work at TechEd this year.

Marcie talked to Builder AU about ASP.NET, DataGrid controls and women in the software development industry.

How did you find the migration from ASP to ASP.NET?

I thought it was fairly challenging — it was a little intimidating coming to the framework. At first it was a little overwhelming with all the new libraries but when you migrate a page it is not tremendously difficult as you use so much of what you will already have. If you want to take advantage of ASP.NET there is a lot to learn.

So how did you get into DataGrid Controls?

I was an ASP developer and I was really interested in ASP.NET as it seemed to make things a whole lot easier. Then someone said that I should find an area to specialize in and, I thought, the DataGrid control seemed to be pretty useful. It seems to me that it is a control that can be used in so many different types of [situations] because nearly every application involves data for either displaying or editing, and it makes the code a lot shorter than ASP [could].

If there was a question that you wish you had a dollar for every time you heard it, what would it be?

Not necessarily one question, but a series of questions that have the same answer. There's good example of this with the DataGrid:

-I'm working with the DataGrid and I have it editable and I go to click update and the new values the user typed in are not saved, it has to be old values".

The problem here is that when they are binding their grid they are not checking for the postback property of the page and that is the key when working with databinding and any of the rountrip postback situations. That is an example of an answer to about six common questions.

The IT industry — and the developer section of it in particular — is male dominated. Why do you think there are not more female developers?

I think a good bit — say 20% — of developers are female, but they are not well represented at these events. As speakers there are even less represented — at TechEd 2003 there are only two female speakers.

Is it disappointing that it appears you are one of the only woman speaking at TechEd 2003?

Yes, I am. I would love to see more women speakers here. I thought I might have been the only one. I think at least 10% would be good.

Could the industry do more to support women in the software development industry?

I don't know how they would go about that but I would like to see anything that encourages more women to come to these events and present. One thing they had at the Dallas TechEd was a luncheon for women in technology. Getting women together helps — I try to encourage other women to get up and speak at events.

I think they are less likely to get up in front of a group unless they are really sure on a topic.

Do you ever see a situation where there will be an equal ratio of male to female in the software development industry?

It seems women who go into technology leave the field, which is unfortunate...women have a lot to offer because a good software development project requires good communication and I think women are very good at that. The number of women in project management has increased in the past few years, but not as actual coders.

Any words of advice for female developers in Australia?

Get involved in communities, like user groups and find an area you are comfortable in and can become an expert in. Share what you know and get out there and talk to your local user group, no matter what technology it is and get more visible; don't be shy.

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