No More Rude Nerds: It’s Time for Some Tech Therapy

I need to vent. Trigger Warning: This blog may not be as well-written as others on this site. I’m pretty pissed. Here goes:

support-equality-women-in-stemThree and a half years ago, I quit my job. I quit for many reasons: I’d been mysteriously ill for a few months. I was tired of driving 85 miles a day to work when gas cost almost $5/gal. I didn’t feel that I could work in good conscience for the oil industry. I thought the stress was getting to me. I left a job that paid me six figures ultimately, however, because of sexism. I worked with men who continually questioned my abilities. Not the men whose computers I fixed, but the men on the IT team. The guys whose computers I fixed were awesome. They loved that I could walk into their offices and make their malfunctioning computers work again. But the guys on my team? 75% of them didn’t believe I could do my job.

Before working at the refinery,  I managed the network at a private school. I maintained over 300 computers and a 6 server network for eight years. I also taught the teachers how to use technology in their classrooms. My network never crashed. Teachers who hated technology initially, came to love to use it with their students. For five of those years I worked for a woman who believed in me. She knew I could do my job and left me to it. I loved going to work. And then she left and a man took her place. In three years he completely dismantled everything we’d built in the tech department (and in the school at large, but that’s another story). He undermined me at every turn. He relied on parent volunteers to run the tech department, and he chose to listen to parents instead of the person (me) who knew the network. In short, he refused to believe that I, a woman, was capable of running the school computer program and he certainly did not want to pay me to do it.

Tech has a woman problem. I walked away because I was sick to death of being second guessed, undermined, and mansplained. For years I thought I couldn’t hack it, wasn’t tough enough, didn’t know my stuff. I know better now. I know that I’m capable and knowledgable, and I am certain I can fix your computer. And even though I’ve left gainful employment to go back to school in a completely unrelated field, I still loved nerd3tech and computers. I really loved helping people learn how to use their computers. And, even if they didn’t want to learn, I believed they deserved someone who could assist them without demeaning them. I decided to go into business for myself when, one afternoon, I was in the local Mac store and watched as a technician completely bullshitted an elderly woman about what was wrong with her computer. Rather than taking the time to fully explain the issue and how it could be fixed, he demeaned her, lied to her, and totally took the easy way out. He hid behind obfuscation and arrogance. He intimidated her. He did not help her. She didn’t deserve his treatment. She deserved respect, and more importantly, the help she had paid for. I resolved to work for people like her.

mobama_stemWhile I returned to school to retrain as a mental health counselor, I decided to work as much as I could as a tech therapist, someone who could help folks with their computers, smart phones, printers, networks (wifi), tablets, and even televisions. I would charge a decent price, come to their homes, and demystify technology for those who were afraid as well as for those who just didn’t give a rat’s ass as long as it worked. My motto is “no more rude nerds,” and my mission is to save the digital immigrants from the digital natives.

My mission was confirmed twice today. First, I had a meeting with clients who wanted to know why their iMac wasn’t working so well, and later I had an appointment with a client who had to buy a new computer because her old computer was, well, old, and her hard drive was failing. The first couple’s son-in-law had upgraded their 5-year-old computer to the latest OS over the thanksgiving holiday. He didn’t think. They have only 4GB of RAM. Their computer is old. It’s slow. It needs some help. It shouldn’t have been upgraded, but now that it is, it needs more RAM. We figured out how to get their pics off their iPhone and their camera’s SD card. They were happy. I enjoyed helping them. No one felt insulted or demeaned.

My next client had called her “tech guy” three times before she called me. He’s worked for her for six years, but didn’t answer her recent emergency calls. Her hard drive was failing. Her wifi needed rebooting. Her new OS was too much for her old computer. We talked about options—I could replace her hard drive. But the computer was old. Other parts would fail soon. The apps wouldn’t work well with the new OS; eventually she wouldn’t be able to use her browser or her Office suite. She decided to get a new computer. We chose the bigger hard driver over the faster hard drive. Programs will only get bigger. Pictures will continue to take up a ton of space. She’s not gaming or watching videos. A faster hard drive won’t make a big difference in her quality of life. The cost was the same either way. But there were somethings I didn’t know about her set up (like why she had two iTunes accounts or where her offsite back up resided), so she called her original IT guy. When he called back, he berated her for buying the new computer and for not getting the solid-state drive. He then mansplained at me for not seeming to fully understand iCloud. She didn’t deserve that treatment. I didn’t deserve that treatment. No one deserves that treatment.

Tech has a woman problem. I want to fix that. Let me fix your computer today. I’ll fix your psyche, tomorrow.

Divine Intervention? Really?

390px-Plane_crash_into_Hudson_River_(crop)I worked for the Catholics when Captain Sully Sullenberger landed US Airways Flight 1549, an Airbus A320-214, in the middle of the Hudson River with such skill and aplomb and no loss of life. A few days later, a picture of the plane– the so-called Miracle on the Hudson–appeared in the staff lunch room, scotch-taped to the whiteboard. There was a drawing of the plane floating in the river and underneath and around the plane were a giant pair of hands. God’s hands as far as I could tell. gods_hands

I wondered that day as I stared at that picture on the whiteboard if Sully was angry that people were more willing (or at least as willing) to credit God and divine intervention than they were his skills as a pilot.

As I stood contemplating this bit of magical thinking, I couldn’t help but wonder about all of the other airplanes in the history of aeronautics that had crash landed with less fortunate outcomes. What pictures were we going to draw of these planes? I imagined the large God hands squeezing the planes and hurtling them like an angry Zeus and his lightning bolts, violently toward earth.

Is this what has happened to the missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370? Did God have some sort of score to settle with the 239 passengers? Where were His huge, cradling hands this time? Evidently God did want to save passenger Greg Candelaria (see this post on blog The Friendly Athiest). Mr. Candelaria credits the Big Guy with divinely intervening in his life, thereby saving him from whatever horrible fate the rest of the passengers succumbed to. This sort of thinking makes absolutely no sense. Somebody made an error and now the plane is gone. Period. Sully made a great save and no one died. Period. No magic.

What sort of arrogance is required to claim God singled you for salvation while condemning your colleague and 238 other people to death? The guy is still with us because he cancelled his trip. All of us who weren’t on that flight should also be able to claim divine intervention, yes?

We may never know what happened to Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. Maybe they got Raptured. Maybe God picked that plane right out of the sky and took it to heaven and we will never find it. Maybe, Mr. Candelaria missed out on that. Maybe god doesn’t want him right now. I wonder if he considered that possibility?

My Surprisingly Not So Dubious Work History

I’ve long held the apparently erroneous belief that aside from being a writer, I am otherwise unemployable, but when I take an objective look at my work history, that just isn’t the case. Now, given the fact that I quit my last job over six months ago and have developed an online presence as a lesbian, feminist, atheist author, I may in fact never get another job, but up until last August, I did a pretty fair job of bringing home the bacon. I guess my belief about my employability stems more from my longtime desire to be a writer than from my willingness to do whatever it took to stay afloat. I’ve even managed to put together a couple of careers amid what seems to be a mishmash of jobs.

I’ve been a college English instructor, a college Computer Information Systems instructor, the technology director for a Catholic elementary school, and a systems analyst for an oil refinery. I’ve owned my own bookstore and managed the bookstore at a technical college. I’ve worked at our local independent bookstore in town a few times over the years, as well as at a national bookstore chain (and for a while I worked both places at once). Not long after I graduated from college I managed to get a job at the local university as a Secretary 3 by lying about my knowledge of filing systems, but my shorthand skills were not what they should have been and I didn’t take orders very well.

During high school I worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken and while in college I dropped out for a quarter and took a gig at Arby’s, but I’ve never waited tables. During the summers while I was in college I worked as a forest fire fighter, first for the department of natural resources and then one summer for the National Park Service. I spent the summer between my junior and senior years of high school in the Youth Conservation Corps on the Olympic Peninsula. Once, I had a job in a television tower putting on local commercials in place of the national ads. I don’t remember much about that job except that I drove miles and miles up a gravel road to this boxlike structure where I climbed a ladder, locked myself in, and watched a lot of tv.  And I did a stint during high school at a print shop where I learned to make silk screens and plates for printing presses, skills I wish I still had today.

Currently I am not working. Ostensibly I quit my job last August in order to pursue my career as a writer, but that’s not really going very well. I’ve discovered something new about myself:  I don’t like to work in isolation. That thing that Robert DeNiro said at the Academy Awards the other night about writers—was so accurate. The mind of a writer IS a terrifying thing—the isolation, the neurosis, the procrastination, panic, self-loathing, it’s all true.  I couldn’t hack it. So, I decided to go back to school. To get my masters degree in mental health counseling. So I can help writers battle the isolation, neuroticism, self-loathing, panic, and procrastination. I mean who better than I to provide this service? I am not planning on giving up on being a writer, but I am going to add “therapist to the worried writer” to my resume. Naturally, I plan to write about this adventure as it unfolds.

Starting a new career at the age of 50 is frightening. Taking on student loans terrifies me (though I do my best not to let on to The Little Woman), but I look at it like this—I have one life, one shot to get it right, one chance to find out really what I was meant to do. I don’t think I’ve figured it out yet, and I’d really like to before all of this comes to an end.