MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

November 4, 2012

Road designer on new path

Civil engineer turns to volunteering at school

— Gaila Hiebert Martin calculates designing or working on at least 75 bridges and more than 100 miles of road during her 15 years with the engineering firm of Holloway, Updike & Bellen.

“I’ve always enjoyed building things and seeing the finished product,” Martin said. “You get to do a lot of that in civil engineering.”

Martin has the same job title as her father, whose job took him to 17 states before he settled in Oklahoma.

However, although her father was mostly a field engineer, Martin did most of her work on computers.

“He pretty much worked with the building phase of a project,” Martin said. “But I preferred working inside with the computer. I had strong skills for math and science.”

She traces this knack for computers, engineering, math and science to when she typed her first “Hello World.”

She said it was the summer before her third-grade year in school. Her father’s engineering office had just bought a computer.

“Personal computers were coming into use when I was a small child,” she said. “But the office computer was off limits to me and my brother during its first year in use.”

However, when office workers could not program the newfangled device, it was put into the back room, Martin recalled. That’s when young Gaila and her brother got to play on it.

“It came with a manual and, being a young nerd, I played with the computer and read the manual,” she said. “That’s when I wrote my first ‘Hello World.’”

“Hello World” was the greeting used to start the PC program, she said.

“I look back at people and laugh. We all have written ‘Hello World’ at some point.”

From that first “Hello World,” Gaila moved on to manipulating bouncing balls on the computer screen.

“It would bounce to the edge of the screen, then it would bounce back,” she said. “It was very high-tech back then, and we were very proud.”

By the time she was in college, she was programming in Windows software.

“It was the beginning of the end,” she said. “I very much enjoyed computers.”

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