Interview with Molly Holzschlag
Molly talks about the dismal Web economy, the Web Standards Project and the role of women in I.T.
An Interview with Molly Holzschlag
Bruce Lawson 23 June 2003
In addition to writing for DMXzone, Molly Holzschlag currently serves as Communications Director for the World Organization of Webmasters. As a steering committee member for the Web Standards Project (WaSP), Molly works along with a group of other dedicated Web developers and designers to promote W3C recommendations. She also teaches Webmaster courses for the University of Arizona, University of Phoenix, and Pima Community College.
You've been on the web since it was steam-powered. How did you get into it, and how've you stayed so long when others have fallen by the wayside?
I inherited my brother's Commodore 64 back in 1988 or so. For Christmas, a friend gave me a modem-300 baud Hayes external-almost as big as a phone book. Okay, not a phone book, but definitely as big as a telephone. It came with some software for QLink, an online service long defunct. I got it all hooked up and suddenly I saw chat for the first time. What was intriguing to me was that it was worldwide, with people chatting all times of day from all parts of the world. I knew I was looking at a revolution, but I couldn't fathom the profound affect it would have both in my own life and in the world at large.
Before long, I was running my own BBS and became involved as a sysadmin on another now defunct service: GEnie. For those unfamiliar, GEnie was at one time the largest online commercial service a la' Compuserve and AOL. I gained a lot of experience working for that service, and one of the things that happened while I was there is we began to build an Internet gateway for our customers, which included access to a new part of the Internet known as the WWW. This was 1993, and the Web was all text-based, so it was an amazing opportunity to get into HTML from its earliest days.
|"This was 1993, and the Web was all text-based, so it was an amazing opportunity to get into HTML from its earliest days."|
Insofar as staying power, well, I'm just one of the most tenacious bitches on the planet. Can I say that? Seriously-I am hanging on because I am passionate about online technologies. The Internet and commercial online services have changed so many lives, including my own, in positive, dramatic ways.
What is it about the Web as a medium that inspires you?
The Web specifically inspires me because I've always had this sense that it mimics the way humans think. Hypertext and hypermedia are much more in synch with the biochemistry of human memory and thought than we might realize. That fascinates me and makes me think we can empower ourselves-especially in Western cultures-if we get out of thinking linearly all the time and play in the non-linear world.
If that isn't esoteric enough a reason, I'm also intrigued by the Web because it was created in a particle physics laboratory by a physicist. A brave new world indeed.
Are you a developer, or a designer?
Well, what I do seem to do really well is communicate technical ideas to creative people and vice-versa. So I would say I'm really an educator, and of course I've been writing since I was able to hold a burnt-sienna Crayola. And, as you can see from me being enchanted about particle physics, I'm really a frustrated scientist.
Your website says that you're "one of the Top 25 Most Influential Women on the Web". Are there any barrier to entry for women in this wired world?
This is always a question that interests me because I'm a loud-mouthed maverick and a lot of people perceive me as aggressive. That can be abrasive and make for barriers regardless of gender. Yet in my personal experience, being a woman, and such a forward one, has almost always worked in my interest rather than against it.
I have experienced precious little gender prejudice and in fact, have often made more money for doing jobs than male co-workers, which strikes me as unfair and a type of reverse prejudice. I'm not a feminist as a result of my experiences because I haven't had a need for feminism. I'm the feminist poster child-the manifestation of opportunity that those feminists of my mother's generation struggled so hard for. I do think it was much, much harder for women technologists a few years my senior (I'm 40)-they had a much higher barrier to entry. Now, the opportunities that do exist, at least here in the U.S., are rarely influenced by gender. More than anything, it's a woman's self-esteem, confidence, ability to be both leader and team member, and her skill set that will help her compete if she desires a career anywhere in IT.
|"I've often made more money for doing jobs than male co-workers."|
What's your take on the frankly dismal web economy?
That it's dismal, that I resent the fact that it's dismal both personally and for my fellow Web professionals. I know I'm supposed to be the cheerleader-people are used to me being the cheerleader-but the economic woes of the Web as well as issues in the world at large have really put a burn on my optimism. I do think we will come around, and I think that as long as people are really working hard and are passionate about being involved as Web professionals, then we'll all be okay. This is a dark passage, I'm just about ready to see the light and I'm sure others feel the same.
|"As long as people are really working hard and are passionate about being involved as Web professionals, then we'll all be okay."|