Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How I got to be where I am: part one of many

So yesterday I received an invitation to speak at the The Apps Against Abuse Challenge: San Francisco event, which I'll be at tomorrow. Interestingly, I don't think that the inviter has any idea that I once worked at a rape crisis center and that was how I got into tech. Or, as people not in tech used to say, "into computers." I'm telling the story now because people often ask about it.

I am 42, graduated college in 1992, with a BA in History. In 93, I got an MA in History, and took a year off from the Ph.D. program. I went and worked in Budapest for a year, and never went back to school. That's a story for another post though. Bottom line, I went back home to the SF Bay Area, and got the first job that came along, doing data entry at a non-profit. Back then, it was called the Rape Crisis Center of Contra Costa and Marin Counties, but now it's Community Violence Solutions. It was a caused I believed in, and still do, and I eventually ended up doing a term on the board of the now-defunct National Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Another story for another day.

One day, while working at RCC, one of my colleagues was exasperated, she couldn't make the computer work. I walked over and hit the 'on' switch on the monitor. You have to realize this is 1994, and most people, particularly those who worked in non-profits, didn't have much experience with computers. A couple years later one of the office staff in our Marin office refused to unplug a computer because she was afraid damaging it, necessitating me driving over there to unplug the computer from the power strip and plug it into another power strip, thereby "fixing" it.

So anyway, with that acting of turning on the monitor, I became the computer expert in the building. A few years later, someone would coin the term "accidental techie" to describe what happened to me. I'd always had a computer, fiddled around with it, but never gotten too deep into it. Until then. When you're the computer person at a non-profit in the 90s, you were the computer person. I did everything from database work to hardware troubleshooting, to networking. Eventually we hired a data entry person for me to supervise. I went on to a series of non-profit jobs, eventually back to school, and then to Google. But I will never forget that first moment of turning on the monitor and having people literally turn to me with new found respect in their eyes.

1 comment:

Jim said...

A stumbled into it techie. Happens often. You don't need a computer science degree for most tech jobs.

My wife has a 5 year degree in teaching but she's big time tech in a national company. I was a Silicon Valley pipeline contractor but now develop tech-based innovative businesses.

I turned on my first monitor in 1977 :-)