I met Laura Thomson at ZendCon a few years ago, and we'd corresponded before that. I had read her blog and her book and knew she was one of the rockstars of my industry. I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting, but funny, warm, and welcoming to a newbie were not on my list - and Laura was all of the above. I also saw her give an excellent talk about scaling, which started with "One day I went to a meeting and someone from marketing said 'Wouldn't it be cool if the next release of Firefox broke the records for the most downloads in a day?' ... ". She gave a great overview of how Mozilla had handled that, and on a level which made sense to me even at the time, long before I'd actually used many of the technologies she mentioned. The concepts rang true however, and as I came to work on bigger systems, I was able to build on what I learned that day at an architectural level, and fill in the specifics of whichever tool I was using. I also remember some rather excellent graphs, which I always enjoy!
I don't have regular contact with Laura, although I don't hesitate to reach out if I need something; she's always the same funny, informative woman whether we're corresponding, or I'm reading her on twitter or her blog. She had a particularly excellent post recently that I saved up to share as a linktuesday, about rapid deployment. It was a great article and I felt like I learned more than I thought I could by reading it, the ideas come across as accessible rather than unattainable.
Since I met Laura, she's carried on doing interesting things (working for Mozilla, speaking at a variety of events) and also become a mother. This is what sets her apart from being an awesome technical role model (which she is!) and makes her an awesome female technical role model: she reminds me that we must each choose our own paths and that I'm not as alone as I feel. Here's to all of the excellent technical women - trailblazing and doing things their own way!