Monthly Archives: April 2014

CHANGING PHILOSOPHY OF WORK – PART ONE

A few months ago, I read an article on slate.com that discussed the nature of work in the United States of America. While slate is nothing but a liberal rag, the article still took my breath away. So much so that I made doubly sure that I wasn’t reading something on “The Onion.”

The article began by indicating that elitists/successful people advocated the “do what you love mantra” often encouraging young people, and everyone for that matter, do take something that you love to do and turn it into a career. Slate went on to indicate that not every American worker can do what he or she loves. Some are stuck in jobs they hate because they obviously need to earn money so they can provide for their needs. As such, DWYL divides the labor force into two distinct groups, the privileged, who are able to do what they love for a living, and the un-privileged who are relegated to those menial, repetitive jobs that tend to pay a low wage.

The article literally trashed the traditional American work ethic, indicating that it was grossly unfair that some Americans have well-paying prestigious jobs while other Americans have jobs that are not so great. Do what you love disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is a privilege, a sign of socioeconomic class. The author also appeared to be advocating the distribution of work so that all Americans would be able to have a rewarding job and limit the time they would have to such loathsome tasks as sweeping floors, cleaning bathrooms, washing windows, pulling the feathers out of dead chickens, etc.

As I’ve said many times, we don’t live in a perfect world and won’t live in a perfect world until Jesus returns and sets up his 1000 year kingdom on earth. So until then there are going to be bad jobs that need to be done, and many of them don’t pay well.

Singer-Song Writer, Mac McAnally, who I’m honored to call my friend, wrote a song entitled, “It’s my Job,” a little feel-good tune with which Mac ends most of his concerts. In addition to being recorded by Mac, the song has also been recorded by Jimmy Buffett. In introducing the song, Mac says that this song is about taking pride in what you do for a living, no matter what it is. Even if you have a job that sucks, take pride and do your best, because that’s the quickest way to a job that sucks less.

For my first job, I filed cards in alphabetical order, removing duplicates, at my Mom’s office. I was paid at the rate of $1.00 per hour and I didn’t have to pay any taxes on it because it was drawn from petty cash. Then, during my senior year in college, I worked as a receptionist, answering the phone and doing light typing, at my Aunt’s office in Tuscaloosa. For this job, I wasn’t paid anything, I just wanted the experience. I also typed term papers while I was in college. This was in the olden days before PCs and Microsoft Word. I’ve never had to wait on tables, clean toilets, or do factory work. I do consider myself blessed and thank God for the many blessings that he has bestowed upon me.

I’ve had many conversations where previous jobs, particularly first jobs, were discussed. With the men, it seems as though they were competing with each other to see who had the worst job; kind of a masculine badge of honor. A former boss who was from west Texas would never tell us what his first job was because it wasn’t exactly on the up and up. I’ve also known of parents who pulled strings to get their little darling the worst kind of job possible so he, or she, would get up off their rear ends and go to college.

Work is a good thing and like Mac says, doing your best at a job that sucks is a way to a job that sucks less. And for nearly all of us, our first job is not the job that we will have for the rest of our lives. Hopefully, you’ll trade that boom and mop in for something else that is more rewarding and pays better.

But what about those people who don’t have an education or have a disability, reply the liberals? Why do some folks get the corner office and some folks are relegated to cleaning that corner office with no hope of ever having a better job. That’s not fair; we should have income equality and job equality. When I was in my twenties, I worked for an insurance company with a young lady, who was a file clerk. She wasn’t smart and she came from a poor family. Being a file clerk was probably the best job that she could get. She drove an old “beat up” car, was divorced with one daughter, and lived with her parents. Yes, this was sad situation, but what was I or anybody else supposed to do? I drove a nice car, wore nice clothes, and had a good job. Was I supposed to give up all that I had worked for just because someone else was less fortunate? Was I supposed to go home and cry myself to sleep at night because there were folks less fortunate than me?

Liberals would probably say yes, and our current president would probably say, “that college education you have, you didn’t get that, somebody else had to help you. Liberals also love to tell you that a sad situation is your fault because you’re not willing to pay more in taxes. Instead, you go out to eat at nice restaurants, drive a nice car, and wear nice clothes. If I took the money that I spent on niceties and paid it in taxes, do I think the file clerk’s situation would change? Of course not!

Do I love what I do, working on my business and writing? Yes. Do I love my second job as a contract software developer for a large financial institution? No. But it brings in a little money while I’m working toward making something that I love to do work for me. I worked fulltime as a software developer for thirteen years and for most of those years, I did love it most of the time. But now, I’ve fallen out of love with it. Did I love the jobs that I had before becoming a software developer? Sometimes, but not always.

In other words, if I’m able to pull all of this together and earn a good income, I will be doing something I love and it won’t seem like work. If I have to go back to developing software full time, I guess I’ll grit my teeth and bear it, knowing I do need that paycheck.

There’s an old saying that goes like this: “To find a handsome prince, you have to kiss a lot of toads.” Well, I’ve done a lot of kissing in my career and it’s taken me a very long time to reach the point where I have the means to go out on my own and do something that I’ve always wanted to do.

Liberals seem to be into total instant gratification and think that hard work and perseverance shouldn’t be necessary in order to achieve that total gratification, if total gratification even exists. Is it possible to get that first job out of school and keep it until you retire and always love it? Yes, it does happen on occasions, but it’s rare.

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LOOK BEYOND DETAILS

             I had an English teacher when I was in Junior High who required us to read books and then do book reports. In doing our book reports, she emphasized to us that she wasn’t looking for summaries, but instead she was looking for meanings.

            A good example of a novel where the actual meaning went far beyond the details of the story is John Grisham’s “A Time to Kill.” In his first and probably most intense novel, the reader gets to see a democratic form of government at its best and its worst. When you throw human emotions into the mix, you discover real conflicts where no one’s right or wrong. No one ever said that democracy is a perfect way to govern ourselves, but I think that we all can agree that it’s the best thing that we have been able to come up with to date.  

            What parent worth his or her weight wouldn’t kill someone who severely hurt his or her child? A long time ago, I was in a relationship and the guy hit me. I immediately broke up with him, but would never tell my parents what really happened. If my Dad had found out that he had physically abused me, he would have killed him, pure and simple. I can think of a couple of other men who have threatened to kill men that had hurt their daughters, not caring if they went to jail or got the death penalty.

            On the other hand, our government provides for a justice system whereby individuals are not to take the law into their own hands. Everyone is entitled to a trial by jury no matter how egregious the crime is and is deemed innocent until proven guilty by a jury of his or her peers.

            In my last post, I indicated that all Americans should monitor the Cliven Bundy case and the alleged land grab by the feds on the Texas side of the Red River which serves as the border between the states of Texas and Oklahoma. We should all be aware of our rights and wary of over-reach whether it’s by the government, our employer, companies with which we do business, etc.

            As much as I hate to say this, all Americans should follow the Donald Sterling case also. When I first heard about it, I thought, oh no! Somebody else said something racial and that’s all we’re going to hear about on the news for a while. This person will be condemned by everyone and forced out of the L.A. Clippers organization and will be relegated to a life of misery. I didn’t even think or care of he was a democrat or a republican.

            According to the facts of the case, Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA’s L.A. Clippers made some derogatory racial statements directed at African Americans in private. These statements were recorded by his girlfriend without his knowledge. In California where this happened, this is illegal and would not be permissible in a court of law. However, when Donald Sterling purchased the Clippers, he signed some sort of agreement giving up privacy rights.

            It’s not exactly breaking news that freedom of speech in our nation is under attack and may, in fact, be gone forever. We all remember Miss California USA who opined that marriage should be between a man and a woman when asked if gay marriage should be legalized while competing in the Miss USA Pageant. This woman was demonized.  And let’s also not forget Brendan Eich who was forced to resign as CEO of Mozilla all because he contributed $1,000 to an organization that supports the traditional view of marriage.

            As in the Bundy and Texas land grab cases, we should watch the Sterling case regarding freedom of speech and remember all of the other incidents where someone espoused a belief that was contrary to what has become the new normal in our country. 

            Some of you liberals will probably miss the whole point of this post, and I actually expect it. This is not a post about the details of the Donald Sterling case or a post about freedom of speech or government over-reach. I’ll surely post many time concerning these topics. It’s a post about incidents that are taking place in the country that should serve as warning to all Americans as we  witness the erosion of our freedoms, freedoms that made this nation an exceptional nation. Freedom has to be nurtured in order for it to be sustained, and having just the right combination of leaders and media can erode those freedoms. I fear that we have that right combination now.

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ALL AMERICANS SHOULD FOLLOW CLIVEN BUNDY STORY

            Those of us who keep up with the news and watch the twenty-four news channels are surely familiar with the story of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada cattle rancher. In 1993, grazing rules were changed in the Gold Butte area whereby ranchers had to limit the grazing of their cattle in the Golden Butte area because of the endangered desert tortoise. After years of repeated violations of multiple court orders, in early April 2014, the Bureau of Land Management began seizing Bundy’s cattle that were grazing on what the BLM said was federal land. In seizing the cattle, the members of the BLM were armed with assault rifles and drove Hummers. Also, there were many who came out in support of Mr. Bundy, some of them packing heat. Then ensuing standoff ended when the BLM backed down and returned the surviving cattle (some had died) to Bundy.

            According to various news reports, the Bundy family’s cattle had been grazing on these lands they were homesteading since the 1870s. He now owes the government more than one million dollars in grazing fees. Mr. Bundy has taken matters to court and lost each time. Of course, the left has demonized Mr. Bundy and Nevada Senator and Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid has called all of those supporting him domestic terrorists.

            An issue in Texas is being reported from various media outlets regarding thousands of acres on the Texas side of the Red River, the border between Texas and Oklahoma. Officials have raised concerns that the BLM might be looking at reclaiming 90,000 acres as part of public domain. The BLM argues that any land in question was deemed to be public property as far back as 1986.On Monday, April 21, 2014; brietbart.com reported that a Texas landowner lost 140 acres to the BLM in that case. On Fox News, it has been indicated that much of this land is private property where the owners have deeds and are paying property taxes.

            Cliven Bundy has defied the law and I’m not about to give him a pass on that. Now, it has come to pass that Bundy has said made some controversial comments regarding race. For his comments, he is sure to be castigated by both the left and the right.

            I’m not going into the details on the above two stories because you can read them on your own, plus the point that I am trying to make with this post is not about the low level issues, it’s about the current culture in the United States of America. No matter which side of the aisle you consider yourself on, you should be following these stories.

            According to the law, Cliven Bundy owes the government money. He’s been to court time after time and lost. He’s not violent, and although many on the left are calling him a thief, he’s not going to rob a bank or a local convenience store. Is he a racist? I don’t know because the definition of racism changes constantly to what those on the left want it to be. What should be done to someone who is determined to be a racist? I don’t know the answer to that either. Again, it’s not nice to be a racist, but there are probably some folks that feel a person who is a proven racist should die a slow painful death.

          However, in seeking restitution, the federal government saw fit to seize his cattle and confront him and his supporters with firearms. When someone owes the government money, the government always collects, but generally goes about it with liens, garnishments, etc. Not with armored vehicles and guns. Government officials threatening non-violent citizens with guns shouldn’t happen in the United States of America and therefore, we should all be concerned.

          Why were there so many folks supporting Cliven Bundy, a lawbreaker, when the Feds were threatening him? In my honest opinion, the American citizenry is so fed up with an over-reaching federal government. So much so, that they are ready to fight governmental actions, perhaps without contemplating the facts. The government is bloated, and the current president is acting like a king or a dictator forcing his left wing socialist agenda upon us with his phone and his pen.

            With the power of the pen, could these so-called land-grabbing actions become commonplace? When the current president indicated that his goal was to fundamentally change America, chills ran up and down my spine. While I didn’t have the opportunity to ask him to define “fundamentally change,” I had a feeling that what he had in mind would be sinister. Sure, some things about this country needed some improvement, but fundamentally change? I don’t think so.

            Since this president took office, the federal government has done the following:

  • Doubled the national debt.
  • Nationalized one-sixth of the nation’s economy.
  • Substantially increased the number of people receiving government assistance.
  • Has pretty much guaranteed that middle class Americans will have to pay more for health insurance and will receive sub-standard care.
  • Has imposed draconian regulations on businesses, forcing them to lay people off, freeze the hiring of new workers, and perhaps go out of business entirely.
  • Killed the work ethic of the American people.
  • Instigated class warfare.

          What’s going to happen to our country? What’s going to happen to me? Right now, I don’t know. But one thing’s for sure, we’re losing the United States of America. The current president has become a dictator because the people are letting him become a dictator. With the exception of a very few media outlets, no one in the fourth estate is holding the federal government accountable for its actions. When you criticize this president and attempt to point out his misguided ways, you’re called a racist. And in this, the second decade of the twenty-first century, being labeled a racist is about the worst thing you can be labeled. Why, it seems as though, being labeled a racist is worse than being a child molester, a murderer, a sex offender, a thief, and a traitor.

          Can things be reversed? You might say that, if later this year, the republicans take back the Senate, the current president will be rendered impotent. But remember, he has his pen and his phone and doesn’t hesitate to force his agenda on the American people via executive orders. The media will not hold him accountable, and those that try to stop him are labeled racists. It sure looks hopeless for the United States of America, doesn’t it? But, we are the United States of America, an exceptional nation, no matter what the current dictator in chief says. We’re odds beaters and hard workers. Also, we are one nation under God. I think we’ll eventually take our country back, I really do.

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THAT’S SO TWENTIETH CENTURY – Part Two: Dealing with Technologically Challenged Folks

          I’m a moody person and I know it. I shouldn’t be, and it sometimes affects my relationships with others. But I have a theory; no one is on top of the world 100% of the time. Those that appear to always be in a great mood all of the time are probably hiding something. I have one friend who is always on top of the world and admonishes me when I’m down. I happen to know that particular friend is hiding sadness. When I’m in one of my dark moods, I do try to avoid being around people. My “always happy” friend tells me that I need to be around my friends and people that care about me when I’m down. I don’t agree with her. It just worsens my mood when I have to be around others when I’m in that state of mind. I’m better off being alone; take my word for it.

            Why am I telling you this? Nothing throws me into a rant or a bad mood, than having to deal with folks who are not computer literate. The technological revolution began in the mid to late 1980s and by the early 2000s, our everyday lives and the way we do things were changed completely.

            We’re talking over twenty-five years ago, when the tech revolution began. A few years back, I was talking to a woman with whom I used to be good friends, but as a result of life’s twists and turns, we just don’t see each other much anymore. She said that she hated computers. Even though she had a system in her home, she didn’t use it. Her daughter had set up the system, and then set up an email address and internet access for her. I asked her how she paid her bills every month. When she said that she wrote checks and put them in the mail, I screeched, “You’re still doing that?” I think I really hurt her feelings.

            Another friend had taken a picture of me at the beach with her digital camera. The picture was a good one and I wanted the .jpeg file. Well, she went to the drugstore and had prints made. I told her that I did not want a print that I wanted the .jpeg file and asked her would she email it to me. She didn’t know what a .jpeg file was. She didn’t even have the software package for the digital camera installed on her computer. I told her that all she had to do was install the software on her computer, hook up the USB cable that came with her camera to her PC and her camera. Then all she had to do was follow the instructions to transfer the pictures to her hard drive. Then send me an email attaching the file. When I was telling her this, she had a “deer in the headlights look” and said that she would have to have her daughter do this. Now, I shouldn’t have been that nasty to her, but why have a digital camera if you’re just going to take the camera to the drugstore and have prints made. You might as well stick with film, if they still have film. I don’t know.

            I also get mad when someone asks me how to do something on their smart phone and I tell them to read their manual or google it. Every smart phone is different and I don’t know how to do everything on every smart phone that’s out there. They promptly tell me that their phone didn’t come with a manual. I tell them that they probably need to download it from the vendor’s website and there should be a URL somewhere in the package of stuff that will take you to the place to download the manual. “Well, I don’t have time to do all of that.” “Well google it.” “Well, I’ll just have to have my children or my grandchildren do it for me.” Frankly, I don’t want some snot-nosed teenager or twenty-something messing with my stuff. No offense to the twenty-somethings that may be reading this post. They get your device and start punching buttons willy-nilly. There’s no telling what they’re messing up or what settings they’re changing. Unless someone’s phone is identical to mine, I’m not going to grab it and start pushing buttons. I don’t want to mess up their settings and besides, they need to learn how to do things for themselves. When I want to know how to do something that I can’t determine, the first thing I do is google it. They’re no better than I am. Again, I shouldn’t act like this, but I do.

            When I suggested to one friend that she take some classes, she promptly replied that she didn’t have the time to take classes. This friend is retired. In the late nineties, I was working fifty to sixty hours a week and still found time to take classes during the evenings and on Saturday. And yes, I was younger then. But I wanted to learn and knew that I had to learn because I wasn’t getting any help from my primitive company. And those classes sure paid off because when I found myself faced with a major career decision, I was able to choose to pursue a career in IT.

            When I left my primitive company in 1999, we had two transcriptionists who were using Word Perfect 5.1 on very old PCs. When the company closed, one of the ladies tried to get another job as a transcriptionist, but found that people were literally laughing at her when she said that she had extensive experience with Word Perfect 5.1 and didn’t know anything about Microsoft Word. She was also very surprised to find that transcriptionists were going out of style. Professionals and executives were typing their own letters and reports. The CEO of the company that I left in July 2013 doesn’t have a secretary. He answers his own phone and does his own typing.

            After retiring from the teaching profession, another friend of mine was appalled that you had to apply for jobs electronically and upload your resume to the prospective employer. At one time, looking for a job meant having a resume printed on high quality paper. Not anymore.

            A couple of days ago, I had a friend send me an email attaching a flyer and asking me to change something on it. I guess she did the flyer herself, but didn’t know how to make changes. It took me probably fifteen seconds to make the changes. She could have made that change if she would make an effort to get out of the eighties and into the second decade of the twenty-first century. Instead, she emailed me the flyer, I made the fifteen second change, and sent it back to her. The process took forty-eight hours and that was just ridiculous.

            To not be an embarrassment and a burden to friends, all one has to do is learn to navigate in a windows environment, learn to effectively surf the Internet, and learn how to use Microsoft Word. If you want to go a little further, you can learn how to use an Excel Spreadsheet. I don’t know what basic classes cost now, but I was able to get good deals in the nineties. If you go to a private establishment, classes will be more expensive, of course.

            I realize that this post is going to make some folks mad, but hopefully they will get over it and make an effort to get out of the eighties and perhaps into the early 2000s. Is that too much to ask? Here is a list of things that aggravate me the most.

  • Not knowing how to attach a file to an email.
  • Not checking your email regularly and depending on folks to call you to remind you about meetings and such.
  • Not knowing what you have on your computer. I recently sent a Word document to a friend. When she opened it, she saw gibberish. I asked her if she was running Word on her computer. If so, what version? “I don’t know.” I knew better than to suggest that she change the file to an .rtf format, so I changed the file on my end to a .rtf format and re-sent it to her. She could then open it.
  • Folks that won’t try to solve their problems through a user’s manual or google.
  • Folks that say they don’t have time to learn about their smart phones and tablets. I think you had better take some time.
  • Folks that are always saying that they’ll get their children to do whatever. Granted, I don’t have any children, but if I did and they were like me when I was young, I wouldn’t trust them.
  • Folks that keep their phone beside them when they’re out eating. My phone stays in my purse unless I’m expecting a phone call or a text. Then I apologize to the folks I’m with for having the phone out.
  • Folks that once said that they had absolutely no idea why anyone would need text messaging. But once they got it and started to text, can’t seem to put the phone down.

As a Baby Boomer, I have been through it all. When I was in my thirties, I said to myself and to others that when I got older, I would adhere to the following.

  • I would always make an effort to wear stylish clothes to the extent that I could.
  • I would keep up with new products and innovations.
  • I would always listen to popular/rock music

           I do make every effort to keep my wardrobe and hair up to date and avoid being a fashion faux paux at all costs. I haven’t had on a pair of pantyhose in years; much less wear them with open-toed shoes. Pantyhose? The thought makes me itch all over. I’m pretty much current with new products except for television. I don’t DVR, mainly because I barely have time to watch what I need to watch to keep up with my business. I quit listening to rock music several years ago, because I no longer identify with it. I’ve gravitated toward modern country with my favorites being Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band, and Florida Georgia Line. Country’s really cool now days. Of course, I still love Jimmy Buffett and my favorite singer is Mac McAnally.

I guess this is the end of my rant. My intentions were not to make some folks mad, but to open the eyes of some folks to the fact that they’re still stuck in the eighties. We do things so much different now and will continue to do things differently. Try to learn a few things. Yes, your brain might not be what is was when you were thirty, but it’s not dead and pickled yet.

God Bless!

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THAT’S SO TWENTIETH CENTURY – Part One: How I Became an IT Professional

          The technological revolution of our time that has affected every one of us began in the mid to late 1980s, and for the most part, still continues today. In the 80s and nineties, I had the misfortune of working for a company that was not tech savvy. In other words, we were primitive and as such, I didn’t learn much about computer technology from my work.

            In the early nineties, I attended a meeting where the guest speaker discussed working from home and indicated that it was a real possibility in the not so distant future. At that meeting, I was totally confused and just could not imagine how I could possibly do the work that I was currently doing from my house.

          At the time, I was a large risk claims specialist for a local insurance company and my work was done out of paper files that sometimes needed ten or more expandable folders to house. How in the world could I possibly view a claim file from a computer screen much less do the letters, reports, and documentation that were required to handle the claim. At the time, I might send out up to ten various letters and reports per day. Of course, I had a small hand-held recorder where I dictated on a cassette tape that was sent to transcription to be typed. The typed document was sent back to me for any changes or corrections. For letters that were ready to be mailed, I signed them and sent time to Central Files where clerks folded them, stuffed the envelopes, ran the envelopes through a postage meter, and placed the envelopes in a mail basket to be picked up by the postman. For reports, the final copy was placed in the claim file with copies going to whoever needed them.

          By the mid-nineties, a lot of my friends were talking “computer-eze” and I was lost. I barely knew the difference between hardware and software, much less knew about Microsoft and Bill Gates. I wanted to send and receive emails, get on the internet, and just do things on a computer, but I was ignorant.

          In 1995, I purchased my first PC, a Compaq Presario that was running a Windows 95 operating system, a revolutionary new operating system that is still the basis for today’s Windows operating systems. Again, I barely knew what an operating system was. Then to get the most for my money, I took classes at a local computer learning school. I learned Word, Excel, Access, html, the now primitive Front Page, etc.

          As you might guess, I got very frustrated at work because I saw how things could be much improved with a client server system. Our system was an AS-400 which didn’t benefit my department at all. To make matters worse, our CEO was old school and felt like typing was something that lower levels did. He was adverse to seeing what he considered high level professionals at a keyboard.

          In 1996, a CompUSA store opened in the Birmingham area near where I lived. Prior to the opening, I received through regular mail a certificate for $100 off a Toshiba laptop on opening day. Because there was a limited supply, I needed to be at the store early. So, I took a vacation day and planned to purchase one of those laptops and did. Why did I need a laptop when my desktop was not even a year old? I wanted to take it to work. I could definitely use it to prepare  letters, reports, and other documentation; plus, I could also use Excel and Access for various other tasks. I also purchased an inexpensive black and white printer.

          Now I knew that there was a chance the CEO would tell me that I couldn’t use the laptop at work, but that was a chance that I was willing to take. The first day that I had the laptop at work, I didn’t tell the CEO, but someone else did. He came over to my desk, looked at the laptop, and walked away. I was able to be so much more productive with the laptop, but very few accolades were forthcoming, and I was growing unhappier by the day. I don’t think the CEO ever knew that I was typing all of my letters and reports and printing them out on company letterhead.

          In March 1999, folks from our parent company, located in Cincinnati, came down and announced that operations would be moved to Cincinnati later this year. Thus, I had a chance to continue my career in Cincinnati or seek other gainful employment. Because I had a job that was highly specialized, there were no other jobs in the Birmingham area comparable to mine and very few in the southeast.

          Because I had grown to love computers and technology, I decided to pursue a career in computer programming. If I stayed with the company and helped pack the moving truck, I would get a nice severance package So, when I was no longer gainfully employed, I spent about fourteen hours a day studying the VB 6 programming language and the SQL Server relational database management system. I got my first IT job in September 2000 and worked as a fulltime IT professional until July 2013 when I decided to start my own business and do other things.

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