Monday, January 02, 2006

Orthodox Mother of Five featured at Electronics Trade Show in Vegas

From Here:

It's doubtful that Las Vegas bettors would have put any money on an ultra-Orthodox Israeli schoolteacher and mother of five taking the city by storm and setting 2005's annual Consumer Electronics Show on its ear. But that's exactly what inventor and super mom Sarah Lipman did, overcoming the odds while casting a whole new light on the way users can interact with their computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.

She's not alone. Indeed, Lipman, who heads her own company - Power2Be Technology - represents part of a new generation of strict religiously observant Israeli women who are finding ways to merge their talents for technology with their strong commitments to family life. Finding that balance is producing a bounty of innovations, while at the same time allowing the women the satisfaction of sometimes seeing their child's first step just a few feet away from the computer being used to work on their latest project.

Former Los Angeles elementary school teacher Lipman, 33, says she "fell into high tech backwards," noting that while she's always had a penchant for inventing things, she never saw this one coming. She and her husband Michael were enjoying a vacation in Scotland when she literally saw the light.

Maybe it was the lighthouse she was looking at in the distance, but the idea came to her in a flash. "I was using my Palm, and I thought: 'If this thing could see me coming, it could bring me up what I wanted before I got there. Because I'm giving off all of this body language as I approach it - anyone watching me can see what I'm doing, but the computer can't...

...Interviewed in the living room of her "office," her Jerusalem home where baby toys or Lego mix happily with computers, a battery of phones, and a printer affording her the ability to be both mom and inventor, Lipman insists that the very fact that she did not have any previous experience in the high tech world works to her advantage...

...Not even a CSI investigator would have believed she was the hottest property at the Consumer Electronics Show, but she was. "It was very gratifying, because I don?t look the part. Even if people don't know I'm a schoolteacher, I still look more or less like a mom. I walked around to some of the big players, and they would hear me and all of a sudden their eyes would light up."

Through the buzz generated at the conference, a series of "very big players" whose name she won't reveal wanted to meet with her. "It turned out that these companies have been thinking about the kind of functionality that our technology provides. And all of a sudden, here I come out of nowhere and say: 'I've got this technology.' And they go: 'Wow,' and I sort of felt like an angel for them when I offered them that."...

...Upon her return to Israel, the first thing she and her husband did was "to fill the house with a lot of equipment," although now they are moving some of it out to an office.

"The kids need a house, not a laboratory," she says. Still, the interaction with her family feeds her creativity, with the children themselves now coming up with their own "inventions," including her daughter's discovery: a pen that writes by using recycled, wetted crepe paper. It's an atmosphere she says many ultra-Orthodox women crave to feel comfortable about mixing a career with family life, with auspicious results for the Israeli business world, particularly high tech.

"I think this trend of women getting more involved in high tech is inevitable...there are many religious women in programming...I think if suddenly we have thousands and thousands of women programming, they're going to understand computers at a much deeper level, and some of them are going to have ideas that take off. I don't see it not happening."

Lipman also believes that the religious training she and other ultra-Orthodox women share gives them a different and important outlook on high tech. "It has a lot to do with training and how you think. When you learn to read a verse and read a commentary by Rashi and not let any word get past you that you don't understand...if you're grounded properly, then nothing goes by without a question, and you assume that there's an answer. And that is a very different approach to engineering and invention, which is: Gee - who says I have to take it for granted that things are this way. Maybe there's another's a different way of thinking, and it's an education which encourages you to think deeply, not to take things at their surface value. So I think that is a profound advantage."