Hannah Lily Postman comes from a long line of independent women. Raised by a single mom in a small house in New England, she credits her mom and her sister for motivating her to pursue her diverse interests. She went to college in Ohio, where she studied math and comparative literature, and arrived in the Bay in 2016. She is currently leveraging her unusual combination of skills in computer science and writing as a Technical Writer Intern at Google, where she was selected from tens of thousands of applicants to help Google write developer-facing documentation for one of its oldest and most innovative offerings, Google App Engine. She lives in Berkeley where she loves to visit local book stores and marvel at California farmers markets year-round plethora of fresh fruits.
I wasn’t interested in the tech industry at first - I was interested in math. Math led me to computer science, but only after my high school physics teacher led me to math. I used to ask him questions after class, and sometimes he’d give me an answer and then I’d have a question about the answer, and oftentimes it would go on like this for quite a while. One day we got to a point where he told me that the questions I was asking should really be answered by a semester long course in number theory. When I got to college, I saw that number theory was a 300-level math class so I started taking the prerequisites and really enjoyed the material. A few people suggested that I might like computer science, but I’d never met anyone I could relate to who studied it and the term “computer science” made me think of the clunky old desktop my family had when I was a kid.
Eventually I took the intro computer science class as part of my math major. I could see why everyone had told me to take it! The problem-solving felt really intuitive, and I loved that the puzzles let me use logic and creativity at the same time. But I still wasn’t sold. As a woman I think it’s easy to just never recognize your own achievement -- I assumed I got an “A” because it was an introductory class. I was totally taken aback when multiple people told me that it was actually one of the most challenging classes at my school. Hearing that made me realize that I might have earned the “A” because I did good work. That was the moment where I kind of said “Oh, maybe I do belong here.”
Source of inspiration: My grandma. When I get bogged down, I just try to think of my grandma raising my mom while going to medical school when the field was almost entirely dominated by men. She was one of four women in the first class at her school to accept women, and the only single mom. Her decision to go to medical school changed things for our family. Like so many of the ceiling breakers in her generation, her determination to excel in the field despite the mistreatment and double-standards she faced changed things for a whole generation of women -- both in terms of opening up professional opportunities for women, and in terms of offering patients the option of a woman provider. Thinking about this reminds me that if I stick it out, things will change -- for me personally and (hopefully) for future women engineers. I also believe that having more women in engineering will allow us to build better products for women consumers, because engineers influence products at the design level, not just through purchasing power when a product reaches market. I really believe in the importance of diversity in all its forms.
Book recommendation: Oh there are so many good books! I recently read Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. I don’t usually read cookbooks cover to cover - I actually don’t usually read cookbooks at all because I don’t like to follow recipes - but this was such a fun and informative book. It’s full of diagrams and is meant to help you not need a cookbook. So if you’re not a cookbook person, this might be the cookbook for you - especially if you’re an engineer, because it’s very much a book of logic and method. I also love Barbara Kingsolver’s books (especially High Tide in Tucson and Small Wonder), Rachel Naomi Remen’s My Grandfather’s Blessings and Kitchen Table Wisdom, books about business and entrepreneurship, and most fairy tales.