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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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