Technology for the non-technical

Posted in: Technical Track

I am potentially one of the least technical people in my generation. I’m 30 and I am afraid of my cellphone, my laptop, Netflix, the microwave…. Okay, afraid is maybe a strong word, but baffled by them at the very least.

In high school, while my classmates wrote most of their papers and assignments on the computer, I insisted on writing everything out by hand and only typed it out afterwards if absolutely required. It wasn’t that I had issues with typing – my mom who worked as an administrator for many years made sure that I learned to type from a very young age and I type quickly with a reasonable amount of accuracy. I just felt that writing by hand kept me more “connected” to the words I penned. Simply, my name is Sarah and I am a Luddite.

After high school I studied journalism for a couple of years and then entered the workforce into a number of different jobs, such as in sales and marketing and it became necessary for me to “engage” with technology a little more heavily. Typing articles and assignments slowly became second nature but grocery lists, thank you notes, birthday cards all continued to be written by hand.

For the last few years I’ve been working for technology and IT organizations, and for the last 14 months I’ve been working with Pythian, a leading IT services provider specializing in data infrastructure management. That was a big leap for me. Not only was I required to use technology constantly in my day-to-day (Smartphone, CRM system, soft phone, multiple email interfaces ACK!), but I also needed to do a lot more than dip my toes into some fairly intense technical knowledge to gain an understanding of our client base and what solutions would be most appropriate for the people I speak to every day. These people are Chief Information Officers, Chief Technology Officers’s and Vice Presidents of Information Technology for companies that are incredibly data-dependent. The quality and security of their data management directly affects their revenue and it’s critical that it is handled with a great amount of expertise and attention to detail. Kind of intimidating.

I have spent the last year wrapping myself in terms like NoSQL, non-relational database, Hadoop, MongoDB, SQL Server and Oracle. Do I have a perfect understanding of the benefits and draw-backs of each of these yet? No. What I do have is a great network of technical geniuses who work with me who have spent their careers becoming experts in their respective technologies. I know who the best resources are and how to connect with them to get the best answers and solutions. I’m very lucky to work at company that is incredibly transparent – questions are always welcomed and answered. I sit sandwiched between the offices of the Chief Revenue Officer and the CEO and Founder of our organization and while both are incredibly busy people, they are also happy to answer questions and share their insights and energy with anyone here.

All of our technical resources are just an instant message away and can often answer my questions in a few concise lines. So, while I am still monstrously uncomfortable with tasks like defragging (sounds like organized Fraggle removal to me) my computer or resetting my smartphone when it acts up, I am coming along slowly, in baby steps – an IT late-bloomer you could say – and it’s all much less painful than I ever feared it would be.

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