My sister, Carol Rice, is my Ada Lovelace inspiration. I suppose it's not unusual for someone to look up to and admire their older sister, but she has helped me in so many ways - both personally and professionally. I can leave out the touchy-feely sister-stuff, but it's worth noting that this woman helped me get started on the long road to the career I have today.
I was fresh out of programming school - having discovered that my love for language was easily extendable from German and French to C and Basic and ALC. I had obtained a job as a programmer - but the company my sister worked for, in the big city of Boston (home of the Red Sox, Cape Cod, and Baked Beans!) needed a programmer, so I came up and interviewed for it. I did not interview with my sister, so I think I got the job on my own merits. But I moved up to Boston, and have never looked back, although I visited my hometown a lot.
Starting a new job, in a new city, at the tender age of nn, my sister not only mentored me at work - how to deal with clients, how to flesh out requirements, how can I program this application to do such-and-such - but she also helped me find housing, and hooked me into her social network. She took me to events, had friends invite me to parties (maybe a few too many) and generally ensured that I had a good time. After a year and a half, I moved on to a new job, and when things got a little shaky, she was always there to give me sound advice. It was when I started working at MIT that I had the confidence and skills necessary to launch me into my SAP world later on.
Times have changed, life is not as sweet sometimes as it was back then. My sister is out of work on long-term disability; her beloved husband has Parkinsons. I hope in the next 20 years (or more) I can be there for my sister, as she has been there for me.