There are many amazing women who will surely be considered for the new ten dollar bill: Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks among them. But one woman has influenced our daily lives more than any of these trailblazers: Grace Hopper. Without Grace Hopper, you would not be using a computer to read this post, shop online, or email your grandmother. And yet, you have probably never heard of her.
Ask forgiveness, not permission
Before I tell you about what Grace did, let me tell you a little bit about who she was. You may not have heard of her, but you certainly have used a version of this quote from Grace: “If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.” No one invented anything great by asking permission. Grace had a vision, and she went for it. And we’re all the richer for her.
Programming in 1944
Grace Hopper was a rear admiral in the United States Navy who was programming computers in 1944. Nineteen forty-four. If you saw the movie The Imitation Game about another brilliant early computer scientist, Alan Turing, you know how primitive computers were in 1944. They took up entire rooms, and their function was largely limited to complex mathematics. That’s it.
“Harvard Mark I Computer – Left Segment” by Daderot at en.wikipedia.
Grace Hopper had the vision that computers could do more than mathematical calculations. She also knew that to make this vision a reality, people needed a way to give more complex directions to computers. Ones and zeros were fine for math, but to express complex questions and decisions, you need a language. Grace knew that allowing people to use a language like English to express their ideas would empower them to write more complex software. So by 1952, Grace invented the compiler. A compiler takes a more abstract language (e.g., Java, C#, Ruby) and translates it to machine code – those ones and zeros that the computer understands. By inventing the compiler, Grace invented computer programming and revolutionized computer science.
Leadership is a two-way street
Grace was also a director of programming in 1954, a time when women did not hold positions of power, especially in the field we now know as computer science. Grace was a strong leader who mentored generations of computer scientists. She also understood the essence of leadership: “Leadership is a two-way street, loyalty up and loyalty down. Respect for one’s superiors; care for one’s crew.” Grace was active through the 1980s when President Reagan appointed her the rank of Commodore (later Rear Admiral), and Congress approved her working beyond the Navy’s mandatory retirement age. An Act of Congress so she could continue her work. Amazing Grace.
Not good enough
As a woman whose entire career has been in software, I’m proud to see a woman (Ginni Rometty) leading IBM, whose computers Grace Hopper worked on more than 70 years ago. But it’s not enough. I see no more women programmers now than I did 20 years ago, even though I work and have worked for great companies that actively seek out a diverse employee base.
Get your girl geek on
Today, women make up 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce, but are underrepresented in engineering (13 percent) and computer and mathematical sciences (25 percent), according to the National Science Foundation.
Laura Sydell of NPR reported that the percentage of female computer science majors has fallen from its height of about 40 percent in the 1980s to about 17 percent now. Walter Isaacson, author of The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, said: “When they have been written out of the history, you don’t have great role models.
But when you learn about the women who programmed ENIAC or Grace Hopper or Ada Lovelace … it happened to my daughter. She read about all these people when she was in high school, and she became a math and computer science geek.”
It’s a woman’s world
Young women need to know that programming is a woman’s world. Grace Hopper on the $10 bill will be a reminder and an inspiration – at least until the programming Grace invented makes paper currency a thing of the past.
It’s no secret that Q&A software has a ton of benefits for customers and businesses. Q&A capabilities provide answers to consumers’ purchase-blocking questions and give them the little boost of confidence they may need to purchase a product. Skechers, one of our Q&A clients, said: “Because a customer who submits a question is already engaged, if we can give them the answer they want in a timely fashion, they usually buy the shoe.”
Brands and retailers adopting a Q&A solution have seen a large number of questions submitted by potential buyers. In fact, one of our IR100 clients saw more than 19,000 questions submitted in their first four months using the PowerReviews Q&A solution, Social Answers.
Receiving tons of questions from your customers shows that they’re engaged with your site and looking to make a purchase, but answering all of those questions can seem daunting to some internal teams. If you’re worried that the volume of questions will be too high for your internal and customer support teams to handle, there are ways to not only reduce the burden on your team, but also provide better answers to purchase-blocking questions from your potential buyers.
PowerReviews offers two additional answer sources: the On-Demand Answer Community and Ask a Product Owner. The On-Demand Answer Community leverages a group of researchers to answer product-specific customer questions and the Ask a Product Owner feature leverages your existing base of customers who have recently purchased your products to provide answers to questions asked by other shoppers. Some of our clients use only the On-Demand Answer Community and Product Owners to answer buyer questions.
The On-Demand Answer Community is an excellent resource to quickly answer questions, but I want to focus on Ask a Product Owner in this post. Ask a Product Owner not only ensures that your internal team won’t be overwhelmed with question volume, but provides other benefits as well.
Here are the 4 reasons to adopt an Ask a Product Owner feature if you are implementing a Q&A solution or you already have one on your site:
1. Lessen the burden on your internal team
Implementing a Q&A solution on your site will not overwhelm your team if you use multiple answer sources, especially Ask a Product Owner. Surprisingly enough, past customers love answering questions from future buyers. With past product owners’ willingness to answer many of the questions asked by potential buyers, your customer support and internal teams can focus on other tasks, while you collect more quality content for your product pages. Currently, one of our top retailers uses Ask a Product Owner to answer more than three quarters of the purchase-blocking questions asked on a daily basis.
2. Allow your customers to continuously participate
Ask a Product Owner isn’t just beneficial for your potential buyers and their conversion on your site. When potential buyers ask a question, your product owners are the first to be notified through an email to answer the inquiry and help shoppers make the right buying decision. Using the Ask a Product Owner feature also allows you to re-engage your customer base and turn your product owners into brand advocates and regular content contributors.
3. Faster answer times
Product owners tend to answer questions faster than internal teams. One of our IR100 clients saw faster answer times (median answer time of 9 hours) once they began using the Ask a Product Owner feature on their site.
4. Provide authentic and experience-related information
Internal and customer support teams are knowledgeable about products sold on their sites, but they can’t provide an experience-based answer like a product owner. An answer from a product owner adds authenticity, which provides a level of comfort for your future purchasers, especially if they are buying a high consideration item like a crib or an expensive snowboard.
When adopting a Q&A capability, be sure to use the multiple answer sources provided to ensure that your customers get faster and more authentic content without putting a burden on your team.