Jennings Web Developer Profile
Patty Tompkins, 58
President, Autumn Software, Inc
Applications Developer/Web Developer
Patty Tompkins started at University of Bridgeport, graduated pre-med three schools later, went to intern at a programming company, took a left turn as a ski instructor, and then worked her way up to building her own company that she runs today. Her career has seen the beginnings of client-servers, PCs, and the internet, and she has had to change along with the technology.
Tompkins feels that only certain people can be good programmers, and that it is a state of mind rather than a simple learned skill. “I don’t want to stereotype men or women either. I have met many men who were terrible developers, and I have met many women who were terrible developer,” she said, “I think that it is a matter of how they think; how they solve problems that makes them good.”
Owning a company puts Tompkins in a position where she has to be the PR representative as well as the president. She is always thinking about how she is showcasing herself and her company to possible clients.
Being a woman in a male-dominated profession has not been lost on Tompkins, as she has felt the need to prove herself to men who haven’t seen her work. “They were like, ‘She can’t do that,’ and I think they pre-judged me before they even met me,” she said. She has made significant contributions to the programming community, leading multiple seminars a year to give developers experience in many different languages or skills, teaching at New Hampshire Technical Institute, and helping those developers in her employ to gain new skills that will help them be more marketable.
Tompkins wonders what effect the next generation of developers will have in the programming careers. “They have grown up with the internet always being there, and we have gone from having nothing, to having all of this,” she said, “They might be great or they might not understand.” She thinks that a lot of the things that are hard for someone older will come more naturally to a younger developer, but that they might not have the experience of how it all came to be, and why things are put together the way they are.
Many people go to college with no experience and little idea of what they want to do as a career. Tompkins was in that boat. She was a pre-med student who got disillusioned with the university, took a year off and then took classes out of the University of New Hampshire, Notre Dame, and Saint Anselm’s, ultimately graduating as pre-med but finding an internship programming for a database company.
Once she started programming, she found that the work was more fun than simple work, and she wanted to continue in that career path. “The guy asked me at the end of the six-month internship if I wanted to make some money at it,” she said, “I was like, ‘YES!’ and from then on I’ve been doing this.” After a few years, she started a team for her company that was based out of New Hampshire, and when the company got sold to Lockheed Martin the owners wanted her team to move to Texas. Since no one on the team was willing to do that, they started their own company, Chestnut Hill Software, with Tompkins as their president, and worked on in artificial intelligence for six years, until the company finally folded and she rebooted with her current company, Autumn Software.
Tompkins finds the freedom of having her own company to be its greatest asset. “I’m not becoming a millionaire with my own company,” she said, “But I am able to stay on the cutting edge of technology because I can decide which direction to take the company.” She enjoys the work because it is always changing. “In a company with a lot of employees, you can get bogged down in maintenance, where the development is all done,” she said. It’s easy to find developers in situations where they aren’t doing anything new, just maintaining the status quo, and she doesn’t like that. She prefers to find the projects that test the boundaries and challenge her company to keep up with the current trends of technology.