Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kelli 202

Welcome to the next course everyone.

Today I am going to give you a little more about me. 

I need to cover a topic in greater depth and I feel it is important for you to know how I ended up where I am today.

However I am not talking about being trans or anything to do with transitioning.

I don't usually talk about this and should probably be careful what I do mention.

The topic?

What I do for a living. 

The first reason I don't talk about it is that it almost always goes right over peoples heads. 

Most of the time when I get asked. I just say I work in Information Technology or IT.

"So you work on computers?"

"Something like that."

"How can it be like that?"

"Well I have a rather unique skill set that is hard to explain."

When prompted to provide more information I give them a very high level remark about what I work on and with.

Which at that point causes their eyes to glaze over. 

Granted I have done a lot of different things in the field over fifteen years. 

But how did I get here?

In school, and I am referring to my public education, they made sure we took computer classes. Consider too that my parents had purchased an Apple II for me to fiddle around with they were just always a part of my life. 

Now my interest was the art and music software. At one point I wanted to create art with a computer but in that day and age I didn't know if was going to be as huge as it was now. Plus I didn't have access to any of those very expensive high end drawing and production applications. 

Really they were not hundreds or thousands of dollars but tens of thousands in some cases. 

Still I had fun with what I did have access too along with the fact that as a side benefit I actually learned how to use a computer. 

This is a skill that became invaluable as I was able to use my knowledge to complete homework assignments, write papers faster, etc. 

I have always been someone who, when learning something I wanted, would teach myself all the ancillary stuff so I would be better informed about the environment I was working on in general.

Didn't really matter what I was doing or working on I just have a very inquisitive mind and love to learn.

But I am digressing.

Sadly I learned that while pretty creative and somewhat talented I just did not have enough talent to make a go as a graphic artist. Plus I was terrible with deadlines. My old art teacher used to joke with me that I created some amazing things but never in a timely fashion.

Seriously I have two friends who are worlds more talented. The things they can whip up is simply astounding and they both struggle to work at times. 

With that in mind I still studied art in school, but I knew I had to find something else for a career. I decided to start taking accounting classes(I even took the first computerized accounting class). My Mom did it for a living at that time and it seemed like something I could do.

However once in college I drew the conclusion that accounting was simply not for me. I am not sure what it was but I think I was just burned out on it.

Not knowing what to do with myself and trying to find some sort of direction I realized I knew how to use a computer so why not look there. 

Thus I tried my hand at some programming classes.

While ok with it, it wasn't something I wanted to pursue greatly.

It was however during this that I learned a skill that later played a large role in what I do today. 

Since I was living at home during college and I was commuting to use the computer lab at school to write programs for homework. I realized I needed to do something at home. My little Apple II was not allowing me to do the work I needed anymore.

It's time had sadly passed. 

Now the issue was I was covering a large portion of my college expenses. Working full time as a shipping clerk. Extra cash was hard to come by. Not to mention personal computers were very expensive in the early 1990's.

So what to do?

I didn't know until one day I was sitting in the lab doing homework when a couple of the lab rats were in the working on a machine that was causing problems when they started talking about building a computer.

I interrupted: "You can do that?"

They then explained how you could buy the parts and assemble it yourself. Explaining a lot of the process. Along with how to locate the parts. There was no Internet and online ordering then. I had to track down local computer shows were a lot of hardware vendors would sell part. Shop around for the best prices. Plus asking a lot of questions and learning things I would need to know. Again I needed to accomplish something so I was going to learn all that I could. 

I cannot imagine living in the world and not willing to learn about things. Even if they are not the most important to you. The world is an amazing place full of amazing things.

Six months later I assembled a fully working computer, even loading my own operating system. I did it for a third of the cost of buying a new system from a large manufacturer.

The rest they say is history. 

Shortly after that my cousin got me into the company she worked as a programmer for. I got a contract fielding help desk calls for a large global manufacturing company. 

There I met a Network Administrator who taught me the basics of how a Local Area Network was put together and even tapped me to help rollout some of the upgraded equipment. Wendy was amazingly smart and fun to work with. I remember her being a huge Pink Floyd fan. 

After that ran out and the next contract didn't work for me. I moved on as an administrator at a moderately sized accounting firm.

A differing of philosophies there prompted my exit to a large consulting group that someone I knew from HS was working for. 

Thus began my 12 year career as a consultant performing all types of tasks and working any number of projects. 

I have worked with fortune 100 and 500 companies. Doing anything from systems management to world wide system migrations. I have traveled quite extensively around the united states. Missing a few opportunities to visit other countries. I have worked for some of the largest school districts in the state. Down to some of the smallest offices and clients you could have. 

I did eventually tired of the travel and constant rushed deadlines. Working for school districts was the worst as we had to pack eight months of work in to two and a half. Not to mention they never gave us enough lead time to properly prep as much as we could to avoid working ridiculous hours. 

I recall once working 120 hours a week for three weeks straight. I was a mess for sometime after that.

However three years ago I received a call from a local recruiter asking me if I would consider a local position with a large advertising firm. I had the craziest interview ever. Try all six team members all at once. 

In the end they were impressed enough to give me an offer and wait over a month for me to start as I needed to complete a project that I had assigned travel dates for. 

I have been here ever since.

Still I have worked with some amazing people and a number of women. Those that I have mentioned along with Marsha, a little California blonde who was the cutest hardware junkie you ever met. Maia who taught me a lot about messaging systems beyond the local office. Carol whom with we figured out how to deploy servers in a faster manner. 

While they were all helpful and fun to work with it really just came down to the fact that everywhere I went I have been asked to learn new things or expand upon what I have already learned. I am never afraid to learn it and I never said no. I did however always notice that woman had less of an ego and were more open to sharing information on things than the boys were. Which is something I have always done. I am willing to teach people who want to learn something and I am never afraid to ask questions myself. You just have to be willing  to learn and open to it. 

Many are not. Mostly egotistical men who think they know everything. 

I can tell you it doesn't matter who you are in the industry you cannot possibly know it all. It is a good engineer who can admit that.

And while I don't exactly love what I do it has been a good life and it at least has stayed interesting. There is always something to work on or issue to resolve. I have never really been bored.

I never imagined myself here twenty years ago, it just all kind of happened. I was very lost in college and life in general. It was a large part of keeping myself busy so I wouldn't deal with the issues that were bothering me. 

So today at the end of the day when someone asks me what I do, what do I tell them?

"I am a System Engineer/Administrator specializing in Storage Area Networks along with system virtualization and global directory services."

I do wear a lot of other little hats and deal with a lot of other things but those things are the majority of what I do.

And now you know.

Class dismissed.


Stace said...

I love the theory of SAN's, espcially as someone who has to look after a high uptime DB that uses a SAN via iSCSI to spead the load of our IO operations over a number of discs (I have no idea how many!). But that is as far as my knowledge goes. Servers (physical and virtual) are no issue - but SAN's are a magical black box in the server room.

As for bulding your own machines, I remember being in Uni (about 15 years ago) and driving around going to wholesale computer part suppliers, using a made up company name and paying cash so that they would actually serve me in order to get a decent machine that would do what I needed for as little as possible. Happy days :)


Jessica Lyn said...

Well I followed the same road too, only at the fork I did take the programming route... which is what I'm still doing today.. and a decent designer. I started by building my own PCs as well, and still do. Fry's Electronics has a lot of my money!

I'm glad you shared more about yourself, but I hope mentioning all those names of women doesn't out you to them!.. though I guess soon it wont really matter.

Jessica Lyn said...

On an interesting side note, I once read about how a lot of trans-folk were in the IT field. I'm not saying that's true, but well here's the 3 of us and we're all in IT. But, of course, that article also stated that it was because we were too bored with our lives and becoming trans was just something new to do... idiots!

But the way I see it is that more than likely we were just lonely and miserable in our lives and burying are heads into tech books and whatnot, staying focused on learning new things such as IT related fields, kept us busy and allowed us to get by.. and well, now gives us the means to transition and become the successful woman we truly are!

Kelli Bennett said...

@Stacy, Actually I don't spread IO over disks anymore. The new technology that was brought in (my project that kept me busy last year) stripes data by sector now. In addition drive are now sealed and self reconditioning. Kind of neat when you consider the story of how it was developed.

@Jessica, bored, no I mentioned that. There is always something else to work on. At least for me. Since I am smart enough to get tagged for learning new things.

Really I know a few trans women who did the same thing. Bury themselves in their work. Accountant, Lawyer, Engineer. It was just finding something to take your mind off things.

I learned about computers simply because I knew they were a powerful tool in creating or getting things done. I never envisioned this all those years ago.

Leslie Anne said...

*sitting with glazed over eyes*

Huh? lol
I don't know if it is because of the people I know or that the technology industry is so huge! There seems to be quite of few people whom have transitioned while employed in that industry. Without which, none of us would be able to communicate to each other.

Thanks for sharing what it is that you do. It's nice to find out as I was trying to put bits together. Obviously, there was no way that I could have been right about that!

Take care!

Kelli Bennett said...

@LeAnne and now you know why I don't talk about it. It is very rare I meet someone who understands it. At least outside of tech circles.

Really though I would rather talk about other things. I talk it enough at work and during the day that I realize there is more to life. :D