The company’s co-founder and very first employee was a trailblazing software engineer. Now, in her memory, Progress wants to help a new generation of women in technology.
Mary Székely was the only woman in many of her college classes in the late 1950s and early 1960s. She studied engineering, math and computing.
Math was her passion, and computers were a way for her to do bigger math problems.
By 1982, she was a software engineer, and the first hire and a co-founder for a fledgling company that would become Progress Software. Mary would help invent the first version of a flagship product that became a successful enterprise application development platform. Some 35 years later, more than 55,000 companies use that invention (OpenEdge) to run their businesses.
Mary became a pioneer in the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
That’s why we’re so proud to announce the Progress Software Mary Székely Scholarship for Women in STEM, a four-year, renewable scholarship for tuition, fees, and educational expenses while pursuing an undergraduate degree in computer information systems, software engineering, IT and/or computer science. The scholarship will provide a maximum of $10,000 per year and will be awarded annually.
For more information on the scholarship, eligibility, and the application process, click here.
“(Mary) was such an inspiration for women in technology. I think in today’s day and age, this is becoming a big buzzword—women in tech—but when you think about it, in the ’80s, that was the early era of software,” Progress President and CEO Yogesh Gupta said at a 2019 dedication to Mary.
Mary led development efforts at Progress for its core technology platform until 2013. At the age of 78, she died in June 2019, leaving an indelible mark on the people who worked with her.
“From my first day at Progress, I was lucky enough to work directly with Mary. I immediately admired her achievements as one of the founders of Progress, writing a major portion of OpenEdge,” said Shelley Chase, a software fellow with Progress for more than 20 years. “Mary was brilliant, kind, empathetic and generous. Over the years, I watched Mary welcome every task, every question and every customer. When you worked with Mary you always learned something new, you worked hard, and you laughed even harder. I wish everyone could have had the opportunity to meet and work with Mary.”
Mary’s father was a math teacher and head of a math department. Mary started out as a teacher herself, and she never stopped pursuing her interests and education. She was a single mother of four when Progress was founded. The company’s humble beginnings in an old dentist’s office with a leaky roof underscored the leap of faith she and her fellow founders were taking.
Mary’s approach to the mountain of hard work ahead of them helped make the company what it is today.
“She was extremely methodical and thorough, and believed in wasting no time,” said Mary’s daughter Cathryn Székely, who was inspired by her mother to become a software engineer herself. “She embraced innovation no matter how complex, yet was thoroughly dedicated to making it intuitive and easy for her customer to use. For decades, she was a driving force, working alongside other visionaries to make the customer’s wishes come true.”
Progress now has offices on six continents and customers around the globe, including 1,700 independent software vendors, more than 100,000 enterprise customers, and 2 million developers.
“My mother began working as a software engineer in the 1970s, when there were very few women in the field. She felt that the best way to get ahead as a woman was through hard work, thorough study and dedication,” her daughter said. “She proved that if you focused on becoming irrefutably good at what you do, and on making your customer successful, everything else would fall into place. She would have been grateful to know that Progress, the company she loved and dedicated her career to, is honoring her and helping advance women’s careers in this way.”
Mary was always striving to keep learning, keep pushing and keep writing the best code for users and customers because a software product is only as good as it is easy to use.
Somewhere out there, there’s the next Mary. A woman with a deep love of math and science who yearns to stand on Mary’s shoulders and build the next company, the next industry-changing software application.
Tell her about this scholarship.
Apply now for the scholarship
Dave Pierce strives to be a writer’s writer, an editor’s editor, and a marketer’s marketer. An award-winning journalist formerly of The Boston Globe, Dave combines his love of SEO, taxonomy, metadata, content management and social media with his passion for storytelling. At Progress, he manages and optimizes content. Dave lives in New Hampshire with his wife and teenage daughters. You may find him at Northeastern University hockey games on the weekends from October to March. You can find him on LinkedIn every day.
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