Jan Sharpless graduated from Principia College in southern Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in biology. Her father, an executive at Bell Labs, encouraged her to apply for a programmer training position and she was hired by Bell Labs in 1972. She describes several early programming experiences, aimed at solving practical problems experienced in the AT&T phone system. Working in New Jersey, she completed a master’s degree at Rutgers in 1976, and describes working with Chen Foo, a talented scientist-programmer-manager who served as a valued mentor to her. One memorable multi-year project was Cosmos, which assisted with the assignment of phone numbers to subscribers. In 1981 she moved with her husband to the Chicago area, and joined the Indian Hill (Naperville IL) facility to work on 5ESS call processing. Promoted into management and soon becoming an executive, she describes performance reviews, affirmative action, and career management strategies. She retired from AT&T in 2006.
This material is based on work funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation award B2014-07 “Tripling Women’s Participation in Computing (1965-1985).”