Women is...: Kim Polese, techie entrepreneur

Kim Polese, techie entrepreneur

profession: CEO of Marimba, a hotter-than-July technology startup based in Palo Alto, Calif.

the basic story: Polese (pronounced poh-LAY-zay) rocketed to high-tech stardom in 1995 when -- as a product manager at Sun Microsystems - she introduced Java, a programming language used to jazz up Internet applications. Last year she left Sun to found Marimba. As a young, female CEO in the macho world of high tech, Polese is a media darling, gracing the pages of Forbes, Wired, The Red Herring and even People.

born: November 13, 1961.

education: BS, biophysics, University of California at Berkeley; some computer science from the University of Washington, Seattle.

the way up: Began her career as an applications engineer at IntelliCorp Inc., then joined Sun in 1989 as the product manager for C++, the programming language.
smartest career move: In May 1995, while working as a product manager at Sun, Polese introduced Java to a world that was hungry for a software language that would break the Microsoft stranglehold.

on getting into marketing: As a biophysics major, Polese might have been expected to pursue a career in the hard sciences. But she was attracted to technical marketing, because it allowed her to use both sides of her brain. As a product manager at Sun, she not only worked on the technical features of Java, but also chose its name, helped designed the package and crafted the product positioning.
on her sudden stardom: Polese thinks it's indicative of the fact that there are so few women with positions of power in the high-tech industry. "There aren't very many women we can look to as mentors," she says. "I'm pleased to be a role model for other women in high tech if it will help them get into positions of power. Maybe they can look at me and say, 'If she did it, so can I.'"

on glass ceilings in high tech: "You don't run into men saying 'You can't do that.' But if you want your views to be taken with respect, or you want to get a meeting with top industry players, that's where it gets subtle."

Lately, however, the criticisms she's encountered have been less subtle. PC Week Online called her "a Silicon Valley sex symbol" who has "little management experience."