My first job was at Young and Rubicam Advertising in Manhattan, where I moved about 30 seconds after I graduated from college. I was a liaison between the computer department and the account execs. My job was to sell the account execs on the fact that they could sell their clients on using computer services that we would develop for them to enhance their advertising efficiency. When I started, in June of 1967, only two advertising agencies in New York had computers at all. I looked at J. Walter Thompson and Young and Rubicam. I liked the setup at Y&R, so I went there.
I had been a philosophy major at Wheaton College in Massachusetts. Between my junior and senior years in college, I took a three-month course on computer programming from a local company. They didn’t offer it at my college. I loved logic and reasoning things out. And that’s really what programming is all about. I realized that if you have something like technology as your base, you can really look for jobs in all different kinds of industries. I figured advertising would be the most fun. There were about four women programmers out of 15. If you went to a big bank, they were almost all men in the computer department. But advertising was a different creature. I liked almost everything about that job. I was in a really fun climate with a lot of fun people. The agency had only had this computer for about two years when I got there. It was at a time of tremendous change. My boss at Y&R went on to develop a sort of precursor to Nielsen and I moved with him to that company, called TelMar. We were bringing together databases and writing software that analyzed what products people bought in various parts of the country. The data helped companies know how best to spend their advertising money—why General Foods should buy an ad in Time magazine, for example. It was the birth of an industry, really.