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Making a Living

What does a Tech­noMom do? In our soci­ety, the ques­tion “What do you do?” is gen­er­al­ly under­stood to mean “What kind of work do you do for mon­ey?” When I ini­tial­ly wrote this arti­cle, my num­ber one job was being Mom­my, and thank­ful­ly I was able to con­cen­trate on that while my daugh­ter was grow­ing up.

Now I work for Apple as a Senior Tech­ni­cal Advi­sor, sup­port­ing Macs, iPhones, iPads, iPod Touch­es, and Apple Watch­es. I also get to play with iTunes fre­quent­ly, on both Macs and Win­dows, and straight­en out iCloud issues and fig­ure out lots of sticky account secu­ri­ty wick­ets. I am over­joyed in being able to work from home, which keeps me out of the Atlanta traf­fic and gives me oth­er advan­tages.

I do some occa­sion­al free­lance work, but I’m very hap­py at Apple. If you real­ly think I’m absolute­ly the per­son for some­thing you need done, I’ll be hap­py to talk to you about it. My résumé is on my oth­er site.

I’ve been a free­lance com­put­er con­sul­tant since 1990, occa­sion­al­ly full-time and some­times part-time in addi­tion to what­ev­er else I’m doing. I’ve pro­vid­ed sup­port and train­ing to indi­vid­u­als and small busi­ness­es. I’ve helped them fig­ure out what hard­ware and soft­ware suits their needs and how best to acquire them. I stopped build­ing hard­ware years ago, as there’s no mar­gin in it any more. I get cus­tomers set up with sys­tems, train them in their use, and pro­vide sup­port and repair for the inevitable prob­lems. I used to do some web pub­lish­ing and helped busi­ness­es fig­ure out what they want to accom­plish with an inter­net pres­ence and how to reach their goals in a cost-effec­tive man­ner, but at this point I would refer that to oth­ers (I haven’t kept up with cur­rent tech­nolo­gies as much as that requires).

I enjoy the flex­i­bil­i­ty I have when self-employed, and at least Oba­macare final­ly gives small busi­ness­es some relief with regards to health insur­ance (noth­ing to com­pare with Apple’s ben­e­fits, of course!). But when you’re self-employed you have to be the sales­per­son and the accoun­tant and all those oth­er things that I real­ly pre­fer to leave to some­one who enjoys such things.

I’ve done a vari­ety of things when work­ing for some­one else. At one point I was the IT spe­cial­ist for a soft­ware devel­op­ment com­pa­ny, pro­vid­ing hard­ware and soft­ware sup­port to inter­nal staff and mak­ing Net­ware (3.x and 4.x), Win­dows NT and Cit­rix servers get along with each oth­er and keep­ing Lotus Notes run­ning. We also had sev­er­al sorts of Unix box­es around, large­ly as test beds for devel­op­ment — I was involved with the BSDI machine that act­ed as our inter­net gate­way more than the oth­ers.

More recent­ly, I spent some time as a lead qual­i­ty ana­lyst on a soft­ware project for major play­ers in the tele­phone indus­try. Our soft­ware ran on HP-UX servers with Ora­cle on the back end. We used Segue’s Silk­Test to auto­mate some of our test­ing, but since some­one had bought the NT ver­sion of Silk­Test and most of our test­ing had to be done in Unix, we could­n’t use it to its fullest extent.

In the past I’ve done a lot of inter­net-relat­ed sup­port at Mind­Spring and anoth­er inter­net-relat­ed com­pa­ny, as well as doing soft­ware QA and many oth­er things. When work­ing for start-ups, you do what­ev­er needs to be done no mat­ter what your offi­cial title might be. I enjoyed being a tech­ni­cal writer at Mind­Spring, and would like to return to that kind of work some day.

I got into work­ing with com­put­ers because years ago I was doing admin­is­tra­tive work. I was at var­i­ous times a sec­re­tary, an office man­ag­er, a book­keep­er, and admin­is­tra­tor of a self-insured health insur­ance pro­gram for a large for­eign mis­sions board, among oth­er things. I learned about hard­ware and soft­ware out of self-defense and frus­tra­tion with deal­ing with MIS peo­ple who were con­de­scend­ing or just too busy to help the admin staff with prob­lems. My cowork­ers start­ed com­ing to me with their ques­tions instead of going to the MIS folks, and I found that I real­ly enjoyed help­ing them get their jobs done. I bought a PC and start­ed telecom­mut­ing while preg­nant with Katie. Friends and neigh­bors start­ed ask­ing me if I’d help them set up home offices or start using com­put­ers in their small busi­ness­es, and my con­sult­ing prac­tice was born. Hav­ing come in through the back door, so to speak, I’m able to under­stand what non-tech­ni­cal folks need to accom­plish and help them use the tech­nol­o­gy as appro­pri­ate to get there. That back­ground also helps me trans­late geek-speak into some­thing more acces­si­ble to the rest of the world. I do not have any for­mal tech­ni­cal train­ing.

Our fam­i­ly has a strong work eth­ic, so my sib­lings and I were work­ing at home and out­side it at a fair­ly young age. In addi­tion to doing the stan­dard babysit­ting stuff, I start­ed work­ing in the office of the HVAC com­pa­ny where my dad was a ser­vice man­ag­er when I was about 12, doing fil­ing and data entry and what­ev­er else need­ed to be done. When I got old enough, I (very briefly) did the fast-food thing that seems to be a rite of pas­sage for Amer­i­can teenagers, then worked in retail, taught crafts class­es, and was a tutor and moth­er’s helper. While in col­lege I worked part-time as a bank teller/customer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive and worked for anoth­er com­pa­ny as an oper­a­tor doing cred­it card autho­riza­tions and pro­vid­ing long-dis­tance oper­a­tor ser­vices for Sprint. I learned dif­fer­ent things at and enjoyed var­i­ous aspects of every­thing I did. The result is hav­ing about 35 years of expe­ri­ence work­ing in wide­ly var­ied fields, and I find that expe­ri­ence very valu­able in every­thing I do now.