Interviewed by John Papageorge
Story by Chris Borris
Kim Polese works to eradicate pain -- in computer systems, that is. The enthusiastic young cofounder of Sun Microsystems spin-off Java Products Group is driven by the challenge of finding cures for technological ills. "If something is causing people a lot of pain," she says, "it's gratifying to me to find a solution."
Java, a three-year project that Polese and her work group began while at Sun, has been hailed by the industry as a serious advance for Web technology, allowing users to transport software across the Internet. More important than peer approval, however, is public response. The most telling marker of whether a technology will become a standard, says Polese, "is when the user community starts doing the evangelizing instead of the company." This, she says, is what happened almost instantly with Java.
Polese came to Sun after four years at Intellicorp, where she focused on AI-based tools and application development. A biophysics major at the University of California at Berkeley (with a concentration in computer science), Polese taught computer programming in East Bay schools while finishing her degree. While she plans to become involved with educational programs again in the future, at present Polese's plate is full: Java had barely cooled before Polese and her partners were off and running on their next project, HotJava.
A passion for scientific inquiry lies at the heart of Polese's work. "I love science," she says definitively when asked what inspired her to pursue this field. When she's hit on the object of her quest, Polese laughs, it's like she's "on a mission from God. I'm blown away by technology. I can't contain my excitement when I'm solving real problems."
Polese brings a similar intensity to her avocation -- dance -- which she performs with a jazz company on the Peninsula. "It keeps me sane," she says. "It's a great release."
Just as she maintains her own equilibrium with a combination of mental and physical challenges, Polese is sure to continue bringing order to technology's chaotic soul.
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