I was born in central (rural) Pennsylvania, and early in my life moved to just south of Pittsburgh (suburban). My family was an entrepreneurial type family focusing on hard work in whatever their area of practice. I spent a lot of time with my Uncles, two of which were computer science majors. We were the first house in the neighborhood with a computer (one of the IBM PC’s), and I distinctly remember installing a hard drive into the computer when I was about 7. That’s when I got my start in the tech world, right there on my grandparent’s den floor.
Remember Y2K? I do, vividly. I graduated high school in June of 2000, and for the majority of my high school years I worked for the school district in the IT department. I worked with a team of four other students to run the network backups, answer computer questions from teachers and administration, service the workstations during the summer, and maintain an inventory of the district’s networks and systems. While most girls my age worked retail at a mall, I was running BIOS flashes in preparation for the armageddon that was (supposedly) coming thanks to Y2K.
I attended Pittsburgh Technical Institute and obtained my Associates degree in Computer Systems and Network Technology, having graduated in July of 2002 with honors.
I moved into my own apartment in November of 2000 and moved from part time to full time work. I worked for Staples, and at that time made the jump up to a pilot store in the airport. The entire corporation only had four airmall stores, Pittsburgh International Airport had one of them, and we were one of the best performing stores they had. Our manager worked hard to customize our inventory to fit a more mobile crowd in a time when mobile wasn’t big yet (not like it is today).
My job at Staples wasn’t just ringing people out at a cash register. If someone had a computer problem and were in between flights, they came to Staples. If they needed custom printing on the spot, they came to Staples. If the power cable for their laptop gave out, they came to Staples. I did everything from retail to customer service to technical support to inventory and receiving and balanced the cash office.
Becoming a Young Adult
There are several jobs I held that taught me things, but that weren’t exactly direct pathways to the next point in my life. I worked for BP (the gas station) for a very short period of time, I worked as a bill collector for an outsourcing provider named OSI. I was secretary (and IT, and furniture installing assistant and whatever else) for my Grandfather’s furniture company.
But, my first big move post graduation into my chosen field was at ASE Edge/Arete Legal. ASE handled online litigation support and management. Essentially, if you are embroiled in a court case where ‘discovery’ is required, that means you have to produce certain documents ordered by a judge. Usually, this includes all electronic documents within a certain date, or even requested physical documents. We would take all that data and extract it, import it into our system, which would then allow paralegals, litigators, and other workers to go onto a secure website, review those documents, and code them. Based on that code, we would then produce that content digitally, making it easy to provide that data to opposing counsel.
Nope, I’m not an attorney. But I know more than the average joe about law, because of that job. That’s also where I got really knee deep into SQL, especially MSSQL, and .NET as that’s what our platform was built on.
My job started in publications, where we extracted electronic documents and scanned in the physical documents in batches. I then moved into support where I did system troubleshooting and QA testing. Then, I took over ‘problem docs’. Problem docs were documents in which the automated systems couldn’t process the document. I’d have to manually extract all the data from that document, update the database by hand, and work with the client as batches of problem docs would be completed so those docs could be coded on schedule.
It was also during this time that I decided to apply to Duquesne University. Starting around 2003, I began a full course load studying Business and Communications. I did that for two years before switching majors to a B.S. in Computer Information Systems. I spent a total of five years at Duquesne, but due to life, I did not graduate with my degree.
Actually Growing Up
In March of 2006, I accepted a job working for pair Networks, a web hosting company based out of Pittsburgh. I started my work in the callcenter, answering tech support questions. I eventually moved into higher tiered support, and was one of the techs working our server monitoring system. Web server goes down, tech gets paged, tech goes and fixes, rinse and repeat.
Other departments I worked in included abuse (tracking down any kind of policy violator, hack, exploited site, or spammer on the servers, and working with the account holder to correct), e-commerce (assisting account holders in setting up Shopsite or OSCommerce backed websites and configuring SSL certificates for their site), mailing lists (assisting users in setting up and managing Mailman backed mailing lists, as well as ensuring they remained in compliance with the CAN-SPAM act), and working with the dedicated server team (building dedicated servers, doing custom builds and custom software installations and user support).
During my time at pair Networks, I also got married to my high school sweetheart (and pair Networks co-worker, as it were), bought a house, ended up with two dogs, and decided it was time to start a family – and a side business.
In November, 2010, I was one of several who got caught up in a 10% layoff. The economy was in a downturn, I was one of many around the country in the same position. The only difference for me is… I was pregnant with our first son.