Ada Lovelace Day profile: Allison Randal

Let’s create new role models and make sure that whenever the question “Who are the leading women in tech?” is asked, that we all have a list of candidates on the tips of our tongues… To take part All you need to do is… pick your tech heroine and then publish your blog post any time on Tuesday 24th March 2009. It doesn’t matter how new or old your blog is, what gender you are, what language you blog in, or what you normally blog about – everyone is invited.

This is a profile of a woman in technology for Ada Lovelace Day.

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Allison Randal (Three photos) by Miles Sabin, Piers Cawley, Paul Fenwick, Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License.

Allison Randal is the chief architect of the Parrot virtual machine, which, I have just now discovered, had their 1.0.0 release a week ago today. I’ve known of Parrot for a long time, because of its posited relationship with the Python programming language (see the original April Fool’s joke), but I didn’t know much about the project beyond it being a VM until Randal’s 2008 talk (see slides, Ogg Theora video, Ogg Speex audio).

I am not a Perl programmer and Randal is mostly known within the Perl (and OSCON, see below) communities, but Randal’s talk at 2008 was the most memorable for me: she talked about bringing modern compilation ideas to the Free Software programming languages community, and then about the architecture of Parrot and the various intermediate languages it is possible to target.

The most striking thing about Randal’s work for me is that she combined high profile technical coding with deep community involvement (and technical writing). She is a past president and current board member of the Perl Foundation and chairs the talk selection for OSCON. In an ideal world I’d like to be able to straddle technical and technical community work in my own life, and Randal is one of the highest profile examples of this I know of.

Elsewhere: Randal’s homepage, Randal’s O’Reilly Radar blog, Randal’s use.perl blog and Wikipedia.