It’s Day #6 of the Digital Sisterhood Book 11 Day Countdown Campaign. Today’s blog post features an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Ananda Leeke’s new book, Digital Sisterhood: A Memoir of Fierce Living Online. The title of Chapter 3 is In the Beginning Was the Click. it discusses the first time Ananda logged onto the world wide web as a first year law student at Howard University School of Law in 1986.
Chapter Three: In the Beginning Was the Click (Copyright 2013 by Madelyn C. Leeke)
“I never expected to be a techie” Esther Dyson, author of Release 2.1: A Design for Living in the Digital Age
Never, and I say never, did I expect to be a techie, geek, or computer lover. I didn’t see it coming. It happened with my first click in 1986. Terrified is the best word to describe my mental state as I sat watching my first-year law classmate Lisa turn on a desktop computer in the Howard University Law Library. I had spent four years at Morgan State University avoiding computers and the computer lab despite the warnings of my computer science major roommate that they were an inevitable part of everyone’s future. Her geek girl warning made no sense to me. What did a French major like me need with a computer? It was hard to understand (said my inner technophobe). If I touched it the wrong way, I could easily break it (like the other electronic gadgets I killed in my past) and pay a fortune to have it fixed. I thought, “Hey, it’s the 80s and an electric typewriter got me through high school and college, and will do the same for law school.” My first legal writing class homework assignment required me to learn how to use LexisNexis, an online legal research and news database service. It destroyed my typewriter strategy.
Panic set in as I pulled my chair next to Lisa’s. I was about to lose my digital virginity. She made room for me to sit directly in front of the computer and guided me as I typed in my log on information. When I saw the LexisNexis logo appear on the screen, I imagined a world of danger would follow. We did several practice searches that were surprisingly easy. Then she showed me how I could access current news from the Washington Post. As a self-proclaimed news junkie, that became my piece de resistance! My fear of danger disappeared. It was replaced with what I now call the Internet geek thirst. I sat at the computer for the next 45 minutes with a goofy smile plastered across my face and my eyes pressed to the screen scanning a plethora of articles. It was official. I had made my debut as a web-utante (a phrase I discovered while reading the November 2011 issue of Glamour)!
The computer and LexisNexis became my new BFFs. My only wish was that we had more time together. I dreamed of having a LexisNexis connection at home. Our relationship deepened during my first summer legal internship at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Boston, Massachusetts. A second-year legal intern taught me how to use LexisNexis to conduct searches about potential employers, a skill I practiced frequently during my fall interviews as a second-year student.
At the end of my second year, I landed a summer law clerk position in the legal department of The MAXIMA Corporation, a computer firm, in Rockville, Maryland. My supervisor, David R. Smith, MAXIMA’s General Counsel, assigned me to work with a computer programmer in one of MAXIMA’s subsidiaries. My job was to interview the computer programmer and prepare a timeline of facts to support one of MAXIMA’s lawsuits. During the process, I developed a basic understanding of computer programming terms and how the subsidiary operated. By the end of the summer, I had become friends with several people who worked for the subsidiary and made a point to stay updated on their work. I used the LexisNexis computer in MAXIMA’s legal department to research articles about the topics we discussed.
My third year of law school began with an invitation to extend my MAXIMA law clerkship. There was no hesitation in my voice when I accepted. How could I walk away from an employment experience that felt more like play than work? How could I pass up a chance to learn more about computers? How could I deprive myself of unlimited access to LexisNexis without having to compete with my classmates for time at Howard’s Law Library? I couldn’t. There was no turning back. My summer MAXIMA crush had developed into a full-blown love affair!
You can purchase Digital Sisterhood on Amazon.com.
If you are in Washington, D.C. on October 19, please plan to attend Ananda’s author talk and book reading from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U Street, NW (three blocks from the U Street/Cardozo Green Line Metro Station). Click here to register for the event. See you on October 19th!