Gayle Spiess grew up in Minneapolis and attended Valparaiso University (in Indiana), graduating in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics. She had worked for Sperry Univac one summer during college, then after graduating took a full-time professional position at Plant 8 (Eagan, MN) doing programming for a Navy ship project. She notes support from her direct supervisor as well as self-study in 16-bit assembler code, which she used for more than a dozen years. Her working group was stable for 3-4 years, even when she physically worked on a top secret project in Building 6 near the original Engineering Research Associates (ERA) plant in St. Paul. Back in Eagan, she worked on a Navy communication system (NAVMACS) and assisted with warship installations in Virginia, Japan, and Australia. Later she did programming with the high-level language ADA as well as C, which became the dominant programming language. A major responsibility was software for the air traffic control (ATC) group from 1993 to 2002 (eventually part of Lockheed Martin), then first-line management and project engineering for ATC (2002-7). She discusses recruitment and characteristics of successful project teams and managerial strategies for them. She also relates observations about changes in corporate culture with the Unisys merger, Loral acquisition, and Lockheed Martin purchase.
This material is based on work funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation award B2014-07 “Tripling Women’s Participation in Computing (1965-1985).”