March is Women’s History Month. Throughout the month, we’re telling the stories of the Women of Citrix, how they found their home in the tech industry, and what makes Citrix special. Join us all month (and beyond!), as we celebrate these bright, brilliant minds and the ways they’re opening doors for girls in STEM.
Since she was in seventh grade, Christine Harkin, Director of Citrix Brand Strategy, has been madly in love with science. Her teacher back then, Mrs. Zimmerman — because she taught science AND math — was her hero. Science and math, for Christine, took a back seat only to reading (her first love). A lover of words, Christine readily admits she loves science and math so much, she sometimes enjoyed their pursuit more than she loved to read (often, even), which is really saying something.
This is the story of how a woman, a storytelling scientist armed with razor-sharp wit and powered by coffee and sarcasm and brilliance, found her way to the tech industry. Christine Harkin, in spite of the fact that she does not like pie (I KNOW, RIGHT?), is one of the brightest stars here at Citrix.
Thinking she had to choose between science, math, and reading (though this might be hard for some to imagine) actually caused Christine stress in high school and college. In high school, she was strongest in biology, happiest in English. Then happiest in chemistry, but stronger in literature. She majored in Molecular Cell Biology in college, but decided in her senior year to drop medical school applications during the second interview phase.
Being a physician, I’d be far too sleepless for my tastes.
She abandoned med school, really, after a deep panic wrought by foreseeing a career that didn’t include enough time for life. Or sleep. And she went straight from college into management consulting. Then advertising (for those of you playing along at home, neither of these careers is known for short days or plentiful sleep). She continued walking the line between the worlds of science and storytelling and her materials science clients and biomed clients and healthcare clients…and high tech clients (she says she doesn’t prefer IT over biosci, but that it’ll do in a pinch).
Find an advocate. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Christine gives all the credit for her love of science to Mrs. Zimmerman. Her parents were in medicine, but Mrs. Zimmerman was straight up, full-time, needing hard for biology. Christine told her she loved science, too, and Mrs. Zimmerman gave her ideas about where to find more, learn more. Mrs. Zimmerman got Christine interested in science magazines and science conferences. And whenever she asked for it, gave her the support she needed (this is a great time to give a giant shout-out to teachers and their collective awesomeness). And Christine never looked back.
There was Mr. Ness when she was in high school. There was Marian Diamond at Cal. There was Glenn Seaborg, whose story about briefing President Bush about cold fusion at the moment Barbara Bush was undergoing radioactive iodine thyroid diagnosis, which is based on Seaborg’s own discovery about therapeutic applications of isotopes taught Christine the important lesson that not everybody, no matter how smart they are, is going to get a Nobel Prize. Christine’s teachers — real humans with real senses of humor and real interest in telling stories about science — were the foundation of her success in and love for science. They were “her people.”
Telling the Stories of Science and Technology
Today, Christine has married her love of words to science and technology; using psychology and data analysis, she helps tell the Citrix brand story. “This is, I guess, the legacy of Madeline L’Engle,” Christine says. “Storytelling about science was legitimate because of authors like her, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein.”
She says that the best advice she could give to young girls who are interested in science or math (or anything else!) is this: “Find someone who loves what you love and who supports that excitement. And when that person isn’t a fit anymore, find someone new; find someone else who’s fascinated by what you’re fascinated with.” She says that if you’re driven by words (I am!) or puzzles or anything else, live by what drives you and learn about everything you can. When it seems normal to geek out on your nerd-love of choice, you’re more willing to stick with it. Even when people around you, in competitive environments, make it seem like there shouldn’t be room for you.
“There is room for every woman in science, in tech, in engineering. Just keep finding the people who take it for granted that you should be there. Ignore the ones who rather wish you’d leave.”