October 21, 2015

P4 Tech Women: Automating Everything


This is part of a customer spotlight series designed to highlight Women in Tech.  It's been fun and inspiring getting to know to each one of these women. As they share where they've been and how they came to where they are now, it is my hope that others will be encouraged and inspired too.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know Teresa Kosinski over the years. I can usually count on seeing her at MERGE or running into her at other various Perforce events. Teresa is a Senior Configuration Manager at McKesson, where her dream is to automate everything. She has over 20 years of experience in the software industry. She loves following sports, and enjoys playing golf, basketball, and bicycling.

What was your first tech job?

My first tech job was working for Berkeley Systems, the creators of the After Dark Screen Savers (think Flying Toasters) and You Don’t Know Jack! At first I was supervising Data Services, then later Customer Support (had to keep those toasters flying!).

What were some of your first challenges as a woman on that team?

It’s funny—there were so many women working in tech at Berkeley Systems that it didn’t seem to be an anomaly. My coworkers were very eager to share knowledge, and there were many, many opportunities to expand my skills. The first time I noticed any sort of weirdness at all was when I attended a class with two male colleagues. I was the only woman in the class, and the instructor was quite patronizing toward me, so much so that one of my colleagues commented on it.

When did you realize you loved working with software?

Prior to working at Berkeley Systems, I was an administrator for a small university, and one of my duties was overseeing the telecommunications systems for the 60-acre site. After the breakup of AT&T, eventually the university was responsible for all of the phone cabling on campus. We couldn’t afford to pay Pac Bell to make every change needed by faculty and staff, nor could the students afford to pay the high fees it would cost to get their phones hooked up. I purchased the tools that I needed and started making these changes myself. When we started to bring in a computer system for some of the staff, I handled the cabling for their terminals, too.

It was during this time that I realized I needed some sort of database to track all of this. I spent a quiet Saturday designing and populating a FileMaker Pro database. At the end of the day, I sat there and said to myself, “This was the best day at work EVER!”

What was your first programming language?

I started off teaching myself BASIC on my Commodore 64, does that count? The time spent learning BASIC paid off, I think, when I started to create installers using Wise Script. It was very similar and I loved its flexibility. I used it to handle hundreds of tasks besides installers—anything I could automate, I did.

Did you have any mentors that helped you along the way?

SO many folks have been great mentors. My first was my dad. He was a TV technician and worked late evenings at his workbench in our garage. I was always taking things apart to see how they worked, and he patiently answered all my pestering questions.

One of the co-founders of iKnowMed (which was subsequently bought by US Oncology, which was bought by McKesson), Bob Barcklay, would routinely assign me tasks that seemed beyond my skillset. It would always surprise me that I was able to successfully complete them. That experience taught me a lot and it also encouraged me to do the same for others.

How did you get started with Perforce and version control?

We had tried a few other version control systems, but started using Perforce 15 years ago. We were looking for a robust yet flexible system, and it far exceeded our expectations. I like that it is continuously being updated, it’s wicked fast, and we use it for so much more than just versioning our code. If that weren’t enough, Perforce has the best customer support, not only in the software industry but in any industry.

What is your role now at McKesson?

I’m currently the Senior Configuration Manager for the iKnowMed EHR (Electronic Health Record) application. I administer our Perforce environment, manage all of the software builds, write installers and documentation, and provide high-level support to our product support team. I set up Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery before I knew they had names. Sometimes I get to fix bugs or add small features.

What language do you code in today?

These days I’m mostly writing bash scripts, although I find myself doing more and more Python. I dabble in JavaScript, and long for the days when I got to do a lot of XSL.

What resources would you recommend for people interested programming?

Find a class or a group that will support and inspire you. There are many free or inexpensive classes available, as well as Meet Up groups where you can work with people with similar goals.

What advice would you give to women getting into the software industry?

If you see a project that might seem interesting, go for it! Challenge yourself. If you run into people who are not supportive or helpful, take a detour around them. Learn something new every day.