TechMommy Blazes Trail For Women In TechJune 8, 2012 10:31 am ·
When we hear people bemoan the lack of women in the technology space, we can’t help but feel privileged to have so many tech-savvy ladies volunteering their time as experts on Experts Exchange. One such standout female expert is Access master Alison Balter (a.k.a- TechMommy). Alison has been a pioneer in the tech space in every sense of the word. In 1983, while working as a financial analyst at Sebastian International, she was the first employee at her company to receive a PC. Of the experience, Alison says:
“I was told to automate the company’s financial statements. After much trial and error, using Lotus 1-2-3 Release 1A, I succeeded. The company liked my work so much that they asked me to automate a warehouse human resource system. From there, I discovered dBASE III and figured out how to write my first program.”
Years later, after working for Transamerica Insurance and gaining experience with Excel and FoxPro, Alison decided to strike out on her own.
“I was getting bored working for other people,” Alison says. “I wanted to make more money and reach my potential, so I decided to start my own software development company. It was immediately successful; and after three months, Transamerica Insurance became the first of many very large clients.”
Twenty two years later, Alison’s business, InfoTech Services Group, Inc is still booming. Her husband, Dan, who she has been married to for almost the same amount of time as InfoTech Services Group has been in business, joined the company as her business partner three years after the company was founded. Since then, the two of them have grown the company’s client base to include major corporations and government agencies like Cisco, Shell Oil and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Alison herself has authored 14 Microsoft Access and SQL Server books and most recently has begun to do some motivational speaking.
On Experts Exchange
Having only started participating on Experts Exchange in January of 2011, Alison is still relatively new to the Experts Exchange community. Still, her contributions have been quite significant. To date, Alison has presented two Access webinars (Avoiding Bugs in Access and How To Use Objects, Properties, Events and Methods in Access), created three sets of video tutorials—Developing in Access for Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced users—and written 11 Access articles for the Experts Exchange community.
“I have received a lot from the development community,” Alison says. “I’ve spoken at conferences throughout the country, received lots of book royalties, and numerous consulting contracts from my attendees and readers. Experts Exchange is one way that I can give back to the community that has taken such good care of me. I am honored to participate.”
Accomplishments vs. fun
Starting and growing a business aside, perhaps the biggest adventure that Alison and Dan have undertaken together is raising a family. Alison’s daughter Alexis is 15 and her son Brendan is 12. She credits her family and her passion for what she does for motivating her to accomplish so many things, while remembering to have fun along the way.
“My husband and my children are the reason I get out of bed in the morning,” Alison says. “They help me not to take life too seriously. It also helps that I love my job and get to learn new things about business and different types of industries each day as a software developer.”
In her spare time, Alison enjoys an active lifestyle of hiking, walking, yoga classes, skiing and most of all, travel. She and her family have travelled all over the world to places like China, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. They’ve also fit in six different Disney cruises to destinations like Alaska, the Caribbean and the Panama Canal.
Interestingly enough, however, Alison says that if she had it to do all over again, she would spend more time with her family.
“You can never spend enough time with family,” she says. “If I had it to do all over again, I would get them in the habit of hugging each other when they wake up each morning and before going to bed at night.”
As any woman in the technology industry knows, gaining the respect of male colleagues can sometimes be an uphill battle. Alison recalls a time early in her career when she had to work to gain the respect she deserved:
“I was asked to teach WordPerfect to the DEA agents at the Drug Enforcement Administration. None of them had any interest in what I had to say and they were all being very disrespectful to me as a woman. I realized I had to do something extreme to get their attention so that I could get my job done. I took a deep breath and yelled at the top of my lungs telling them to shut up. I immediately got their attention. In fact, several of them saluted me and said ‘Yes Ma’am’. From that point forward I not only had their attention, but their respect. In fact, they fought over who would get to take me to lunch in their cop cars. The class ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
With a successful business, two thriving children and a marriage that has lasted more than two decades, it’s clear that Alison deserves the respect of her male colleagues and is a shining example to her female counterparts as well.