Ada Lovelace Day, Part II: An Ode to Nancy Lyons

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to celebrate women in technology and science. Learn more at and check out a list and a map of all the other blog posts around the world!

Last year, Nancy wrote an embarassingly glowing post about me for Ada Lovelace Day. And she doesnt know I’m doing this, but I owe her back. Big time.

Here’s the deal: I literally would not be where I am today without Nancy Lyons. Forgive me in advance, but this is a long story.

When we met, Nancy was President of Bitstream Underground, an ISP and web development shop in Minneapolis. I was working in account services at a marketing agency, finishing my Bachelor’s Degree at night at the University of Minnesota. I majored in Advertising (copywriting was my focus) because it’s essentially the “family business” and I didn’t know what else to do. In all honesty, I was a little lost (like most people in their 20s, I guess).

The company I worked for had invested in Bitstream and Nancy came to talk to the account services team about how we could best work with her team. She told us about the company, what they did, their culture, their philosophy, how they worked. I was awestruck. The only thought I remember having when I left that room was, “I have got to work for that woman.” I immediately sent her an email that said something like, “I am in love with Bitstream and I want to marry it.” She replied that it was important to her that Bitstream stay single. A correspondence ensued over the next few months in which I relentlessly pursued her for a job and she relentlessly tried to blow me off. At one point she said, “You have got to stop spamming me.” So I couriered a can of SPAM to her office. And that’s how I got my first real interview.

What she gave me when she eventually gave me a job was a chance. Nancy didn’t look at me and see all the things I hadn’t done yet — she looked at me and saw my potential more than anyone else in my life (including me) ever had.

When I started working for her, I had a lot to learn. Like, a lot. But, I did it. I figured it all out and in doing so, I found my calling.

Over the last ten years, Nancy and I have developed a remarkable friendship. If you’ve ever met us, or seen us speak, you know we’re pretty different. Not entirely opposites, but different in many ways. The difference in our approach to things has taught me more than I can probably write here. (Plus, I’m Irish. We’re not an emotive bunch, this is hard for me.)

Nancy believes in leadership through service and I see her live that value every day. Her job is often thankless, and she handles it with grace. She has a generous heart and is truly concerned with the well-being of those who work with and for her. She turns the spotlight on those around her far more often than she shines it on herself. She’s passionate (if you’ve seen us speak, you know what I’m talking about). She’s taught me that you don’t always need to say everything you know. You can have confidence in your own abilities without having to prove yourself to anyone else. You can write your own rules for how to run a company, how to work, how to live. I admire her passion, her intelligence, her unwavering concern for other people. As a business owner, she puts people before profit. Doing the right thing is more important to her than doing the easy thing. She’s incredibly smart about business and technology but posesses sharp emotional intelligence and an ability to read a room and adjust her delivery to the needs of her audience. She speaks her mind fearlessly even when she knows that what she’s saying might piss people off. She doesn’t apologize for being who she is. Also, for a girl, she’s pretty good with computer stuff.

Ada Lovelace Day is about acknowledging the women in technology who have literally shaped our lives. And if you ask me how I got where I am today I can point directly to the moment that Nancy offered me that job at Bitstream and say, “There. See that? Right there, and because of that person, is how I got here.”

I don’t know that I tell her thank you enough. So, hey Nancy: thank you.