March 8th, 2020
International Women’s Day Tribute
By Rich Uhl

Meet Winnie

With International Women’s Day and an opportunity to reflect upon the very influential women in my life, I decided to share the story of a woman who shaped the direction of my career and introduced me to computer networking.

Meet Winnie, a now retired elementary teacher from Centerville, Utah. Winnie is one of my mom’s best friends; they were teachers together at Centerville Elementary. Winnie is a gifted teacher. She was trained on the network for the school and was the school’s local network administrator. In 1990 there weren’t many people in networking technology and even fewer women. Winnie is a trailblazer; she was an early adopter of network technology. If I stopped here, this alone is an incredible accomplishment.

In my youth I was fascinated by computers. Winnie found out that I loved computers and took the opportunity to introduce me to the school’s computer lab. Winnie taught me that a network was a number of computers connected together. She showed me how their network was providing the school with shared printer and file access. She showed me the network cables, network cards, and the server that ran the school’s computers. She introduced me to relatively new software called Novell NetWare. Winnie explained the benefits, connectivity, and various technologies to me at a level that I could understand. Winnie taught me the basics of NetWare including how to start, shutdown, and troubleshoot basic connectivity issues.

One summer as my mom was preparing for school to start back up, I was with her at the school and on the overhead paging system I heard a call for me to go to the office. I found out a networking problem was stopping work and Winnie wasn’t available. I was asked if I could fix it. I walked into the school lab and issued a shutdown command on NetWare, and then restarted the computers. I logged in to check connectivity and functionality and the computers came back online. I can’t tell you how excited I was, I was hooked!

Shortly after this experience I found used network cards and cable in a newspaper classified ad (no eBay or Amazon yet). Much to the distress of my very supportive mother, I drilled holes in the walls of her brand-new home and ran cables between two computers. I installed Personal Netware and ran my first network, I shared our printer and started filling both hard drives. 

I don’t know if it was that first day with Winnie or shortly after, but I began to think of the possibilities with the world’s computers all connected to each other. I could see the potential for the future of how computers could provide services to each other. I knew I wanted to be a part of that future.

Since that day in the school lab I have designed, built, and implemented computer network systems for some of the world’s largest businesses. 1Strategy and my growing Seattle engineering team—consisting of 50% women—most certainly exist because of Winnie.

As a father of three daughters I recognize the potential and power of women in my life. With extreme gratitude I thank my Mom and Winnie for believing in me. The teacher inside of you both has led me to be a better person. Your belief in me and desire to learn inspires me.

Please take a moment to reflect, recognize, and then thank the women who have helped you get to where you are today.