She applied to Pace University to study
managing information systems and
To support herself, Ms. Vestin applied for a
job in the emerging field of word processing. She spent the weekend before her
interview learning how to type, got the job
and then waltzed into a role overseeing
word processing systems for a reinsurance
company. She converted its ticker tape
telefax to a computerized telefax.
Meanwhile, she started programming.
“I really liked it and was offered a job
for an institutional broker,” she says.
“Here I am programming and writing
manuals, and then they tell me, ‘We
need someone to take care of our customer at the United Nations. Denise, you
speak a lot of languages, can you do it?’”
Ms. Vestin took on the job and headed
uptown with her first portable computer—
“one of those Compaqs that looks like a
sewing machine. It had a 9-inch (23-cen-
timeter) screen and was so heavy I had to
have a friend carry it for me.”
After several years working for the
brokerage firm, she returned to Sweden
and took a job as a business analyst
with Reuters Nordic.
In 1988, she became pregnant and
felt she was passed up for a managerial
*I’m very logical, and the correlation
between dance, choreography and
programming is that it has to be logical.
position because of it. “It is
still like it always was: a
man's world. Look around
us. We see very few older
women in power,” she says.
In her ninth month,
she applied for a position as computer
manager for Sweden’s Natural History
She was hired in 1992 and, improbable
as it seems, her timing was impeccable.
In her first year, she worked to install the
museum’s first Internet connection.
Then in 1993, she developed its first
website, the same year Switzerland’s
CERN Laboratory developed HTML
(hypertext markup language), the code
behind Web pages.
“I configured the 10th Web server
in Sweden in 1993,” she says. “It had
copper wire and office tape wrapped
around it! This was a poor institution.
Everything was handmade. We configured our servers by taking cards
from different computers that were
lying around and building the servers
In 2000, Ms. Vestin joined up with some
peers to start an independent consultancy,
which “rose like the sun
and fell down like a pancake” with the dot-com
crash. She then became
an IT consultant and an
instructor at ESI
International, where she
teaches the skills she
has learned over her long and varied
“When you’re a dancer, you’re not
earning any money at all, you get torn
ligaments and various operations, but
there’s a passion that drives you,” she
says. “Most dancers have a problem
when they quit. The lack of passion can
be devastating. When I started developing and programming, I realized
there was a passion to it. I’m very logical, and the correlation between
dance, choreography and programming is that it has to be logical. Putting
on a dance piece, if you think about it,
is a perfect project. You have the project
manager, i.e., the director, who
rehearses, which is really planning.
And then the curtain goes up.”