Judy Copek - Novelist * Blogger * Poet * Geek * Traveller * Cook * Gardener

Twenty years in Information Systems

Part I - Getting Started

In my day job I worked in the trenches of information technology. Nothing glamorous, nothing cutting edge, just another cube rat slaving a way at code. These essays are a synopsis of my career, noting all the changes I witnessed and how women fared then and now and what happened along the way.

Naturally, I have chosen a mode of technology to write about technology. So stay tuned. It was a hell of a ride.

In the beginning, there was a ranch house in the suburbs, two kids, a husband, friends, and meaningful volunteer work. I had every woman's dream, and I hated my life. Hated it. I had become my mother, a typical suburban housewife.
According to the book, Passages, I was having a full blown mid-life crisis.

One night I dreamt I bought an expensive coat at Neiman Marcus and when the clerk asked who to charge it to, I couldn't remember my name. That was scary. I had to get out of the house, and not to the shopping center. I didnít need a room of my own. I needed a life of my own.

I tossed around some possibilities. A master's degree in English was the first. But I didn't want to read Beowulf and Piers Plowman and all that arcane literature. And what would I do with my new master's degree? Teach? Scratch the advanced degree.

Then, as now, many people with undergraduate degress enrolled in MBA programs. In a classroom with a hundred other people, I took a Graduate Record Examination. Aced the verbal, tanked the Math. Really tanked. Adios, MBA. But so what? Did I want to study accounting and finance? Didn't think so. What now?

Someone told me that every business was looking for computer people. Why not learn how to program computers? Didn't computer people have to be good at math? In high school, I had been good at math but that was a while back. Would I have to relearn math?

I bought a book about computers and read a little, discovered I knew enough math to do binary arithmetic. The whole concept sounded intriguing. But how would I know if I liked it? And what if I had zero aptitude?

I took a high school night class on a PDP-11 in a language called FOCAL. Never heard of it before or since. Our programs came out on paper tape. Old technology to the max. It didn't really grab me, but I guessed I liked it a little.

That winter, trembling in my boots, I trekked beyond suburbia into exurbia and enrolled in the local junior college. I sat down for the first time ever and registered for a class on computers. On a computer.
I had graduated from the "Harvard of the South," and this seemed like a huge step down, but I had no self-esteem, no plans and no alternatives. The course was "An Introduction to Data Processing."

We were teachers who were leaving the field in droves, battered wives being trained by CETA, welfare moms learning data entry, and a few ragtag types like me, who just knew they wanted to do SOMETHING.

It saved my life.