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Real Technologists: Helen Beal
Episode 18th February 2024 • Real Technologists • Trac Bannon
00:00:00 00:20:24

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Trac Bannon: A few years ago, I was introduced to Helen Beal through our work with the DevOps Institute. Helen was the Chief Ambassador and I was submitting my credentials for consideration as an ambassador. 

We are both combed-shaped people and naturally had so many topics and passion areas to talk about. What is a comb-shaped person, you may ask?

It's more likely that you've heard the metaphor of a "T-shaped person". The horizontal bar of the letter "T" represents the breadth of skills in multiple areas... the vertical bar of the "T" represents exceptional depth in one area. T-shaped folks are very very competent in their primary field. Their breadth is a little more shallow though it is this mix that helped "Ts" to collaborate with a wider context.

Well, what, then is a comb-shaped person? The spine of the comb represents competency and awareness in a bunch of topics... much like the horizontal bar for the T-shaped person. Each tooth of the comb is a different area of depth. This is Helen Beal. She is particularly valuable in situations with rapid change... she is that person who can synthesize with many different deep specializations. 

I admire this life force named Helen Beal. We have a shared commitment to technical expertise, continuous learning, and community engagement. But it is her ability to juggle roles and interests that makes me simply a fan girl. It was time to learn more about this Real Technologist. 

Helen was born in Yorkshire in the North of England. The countryside, history, and distinct regional character remind me of Vermont. When she was six, her father left the Royal Air Force and took a job with a civilian airline that included moving the family closer to Gatwick and the international airports.

Her mother was a science teacher, and it was her mother who decided to teach her to read along with her older brother Simon when Helen was barely three... 

Helen Beal: So my mother taught me to read when I was three. I was holding books up when I was one. I held them upside down. I can actually read quite effectively upside down, which is quite handy when you're opposite someone at a desk or in a restaurant and there aren't quite enough menus to go around.

Simon is 18 months older than me. And the reason my mother taught me to read at 3 is because she was teaching him and she could see that I was also ready. So she taught us both together.

I've always been a bookworm. And that's kind of my first love really is reading and storytelling and writing with, you know, they're so intertwined.

And I think at school I was a swot, frankly. I was a nerd. I really enjoyed school. I really enjoyed learning. I was the girl that would finish the maths exercises and ask the maths teacher for more maths, please.