Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Inspired by @Piewords

Was great fun to see Laurence Hart of Word of Pie blog fame recounting our thoroughly enjoyable evening of doc-man nostalgia. Always such a treat to find another closet ERD nerd. Pretty shocking to think that we worked for the same Director at PC DOCS/Fulcrum for a few months in 1999-2000 -- yet we never met in person until this year, despite an incredibly tangled and overlapping professional social graph.

So in response to his query to the ECM community, "What made you commit to the content space", here's mine:

Spring 1990 and I had just finished my first year of History MA classes at Carleton U in Ottawa. The previous fall I had purchased a one-way Greyhound bus ticket, packed up my worldly possessions and left my hometown, despite not knowing a soul in Ottawa or having more than a month's rent in my pocket.

Scraped through that first year working as a Teaching Assistant and evening/weekend coffee pourer (the term 'barista' did not exist in those days). As spring neared, I blitzed the temp staffing agencies with a resume that had pretty solid secretarial & bookkeeping experience, since I'd worked all the way through my undergrad degree.

Lucked into a short-term gig being Girl Friday for a small software/hardware integrator - answered phones, helped coordinate training courses, filed, stapled, licked envelopes. Fast forward 6 months: the office manager had quit, I took the full time job, finished my classes at night.

But along the way, started to hang around the technicians, trainers, consultants. I built a PC with my own hands, mastered DOS 3.3 and WordPerfect 5.1 and learned enough AutoCAD to draw smiley faces with digitizer boards.

But what rocked my world? First exposure to text retrieval technology. The integrator was an Inmagic dealer working with a few Federal departments. I was hooked. The historian in me saw the potential of categorizing, querying, sorting and indexing all of the stacks of paper records, books, manuals, even my own copious research notes. I volunteered to learn the system to help with a time-sensitive project and made extra money working long evenings & weekends cataloging, designing reports, sorting & searching.

After the integrator shut down, I incorporated, picked up that government contract myself, and it funded me as I finished my MA research.

There was no turning back. My academic ambitions went on back-burner, and I let myself get wholly and completely sucked into the world of information management.

It dawned on me one night, waking up in a cold sweat, that if I retired at the age of 60, and decided to go back into the archives and write a history book on the 1980s or 1990s, there would probably be nothing to work with. Those dusty archive boxes would be empty. PCs were showing up every government worker's desk, all the admin clerks were being fired, and no one remembered record-keeping basic principles.

So I knew what I needed to do.

Thanks Laurence, fun to remember where it started.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the story. It was great to chat. I'm sure we were introduced in passing on one trip to Ottawa, but I blame Gerard for not having all of us at a single event.