2008 CS Distinguished Alumna: Rebecca Norlander (CAS’91)
Rebecca graduated from Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences, with a Bachelors degree in Computer Science in May 1991, largely focusing in her studies on computing systems and network design. She joined Microsoft in June 1991 as a developer in the Excel team, and has since established herself as one of the most capable technical leads at Microsoft, often assigned to some of the company’s most critical development projects. After spending over five years as a developer with various MS Office teams, she took on the program management of the Windows Operating System OLE group, with a mandate to “fix OLE”. From there, she assumed various critical program and group management roles with various Windows teams, working on various technologies, including COM, DCOM, COM+, Trident, IE, and Avalon. In September of 2003, Rebecca was asked to leave her position as Group Manager of Avalon to manage the development of the much-anticipated (and at the time badly-needed) Windows XP SP2 security-focused release, scheduled less than a year later. Her primary objective was to make aggressive, end-to-end changes to the operating system that provided shield-like security technologies for Windows, while still making XP an attractive operating systems for consumers and business customers alike in terms of functionality, and ship it in a timely manner. Following the successful, highly acclaimed release of XP SP2, on schedule in August 2004, Rebecca spent two years as a General Manager in the Windows Vista Security team responsible for the Firewall, NAP infrastructure, Windows Security Center, and Anti-Malware functionalities, intended to make security a more integral and approachable part of using a computer. Given Rebecca’s unique perspective and experience with a wide set of Microsoft teams and technologies, she was chosen as the Technical Strategist for Ray Ozzie, who succeeded Bill Gates as Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect in June 2006. In that role, Rebecca’s primary goal is to help drive the Software and Services vision across Microsoft — a goal befitting her passion of “changing the world for the better through software and technology.”
In addition to her impressive professional career, Rebecca is also quite active on a number of other fronts, most notably in efforts aiming to advance K-12 mathematics and science education, and to address issues related to the severe under-representation of women in Computer Science. Examples of her contributions in that capacity include her service on the Board of Advisors for The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, and her frequent appearances as a speaker and panelist at various venues on that subject, including the Grace Hopper Women in Computing conference. As Chair of the Department from 2000 to 2007, I can also comment on Rebecca’s constant interest in keeping up with the Department’s news, and her keen interest in its successes, often inquiring about its faculty development, and always finding time in her busy schedule to meet with me, every time I visited the Northwest. Rebecca visited our department twice over the last five years, and in both times she made a point of meeting with various members of the CS faculty and the BU administration, and of addressing our Women in Computer Science (WICS) group.
In her spare time, Rebecca works, trains, snowboards, teaches snowboarding in the winter, participates in triathlons in the summer, hacks around in the garden, hangs out with friends — if not in person, then on Facebook — and otherwise stirs up trouble with her spouse, J Allard, whom she met in her first year at Boston University.
[Script of the introduction of Rebecca Norlander by Azer Bestavros, Professor and Chair, CS Department, May 2008]