Like many of her peers, Jan Springer (_jesper_) found herself unprepared for work after serving in the Air Force. Although her experience in the military gave her many life skills and incredible friends, there isn’t much you can do as a civilian with a background in linguistics.
Luckily for her, Equifax thought that the real-world experience of serving a four-year term was as valuable as a degree, and she was hired on as a Systems Analyst. Having zero experience with technology proved to be a challenge, but she rose to the occasion learning on the fly, and quickly discovered a love for programming by scripting in VMS CLI using functions and later C.
After four years with Equifax, Jan had a child and took leave from work to focus on her family. In 1994, she headed out on her own and got her start in IP. Her first job was in the Midwest setting up an Internet Service Provider for a brand new company, after which she decided that IP wasn’t for her. “Never again,” she said. Yet in 1995, she worked with several other new companies that wanted to begin a startup of Internet Service Providers and has been doing it ever since.
These days, Jan works for herself as an independent contractor and is living her ideal situation. Spending the majority of the last 22 years only traveling when she wants to, and working from home with no professional dress code makes it difficult for her to imagine ever taking an office job again. “You have to be very self-motivated in order to make self-employment a reality,” she says.
When asked what she felt the biggest challenges were, she mentioned that ignoring the house work was the most difficult part of working from home. “Walking past a kitchen full of dirty dishes is really hard, but you have to prioritize your time.”
Why Experts Exchange?
Jan kept seeing the Experts Exchange name come up in search results, and finally decided to join the community in 2007 with the intention of learning some new skills. “I’m a big geek, and this was right up my alley,” she said.
Not wasting any time, she began answering all of the questions she could before asking any of her own and quickly became an Expert. She admits that she can only answer about 90% of the questions with her knowledge alone, but takes pride in solving the puzzles that are presented to her. By researching a little further, and communicating clearly and respectfully with the asker, her solution rate is higher than expected.
For Jan, participation on Experts Exchange is all about helping people. “Experts Exchange gives me an opportunity to give back,” she says. It also gives her a way to solidify the knowledge she already has. After 8 years on the site, she has set up one-on-one phone calls, assisted via remote access, traversed language barriers, and still hasn’t asked any questions of her own.
While new technologies are exciting, Jan recognizes that her true passion lies in moving packets and data manipulation. She holds Experts Exchange certifications in a handful of topics, including routers, Cisco, Linux, DNS, and networking, and is one of the top contributors in the community experts group. Jan is an active member of NANOG and ARIN, and has contributed to those communities as well.
Is it a Man’s World?
Between her experience in the Air Force and being a woman in technology, Jan has faced her fair share of gender discrimination. When she first became a member of NANOG, only about 5% of the participants were female. “NANOG was my first experience without consideration as to whether I was male or female,” she explains. Though there has been great progress for women in the technology industry, it still comes up from time to time, but it has never been an issue on Experts Exchange.
“People are going to have their biases, you just have to move past them. On Experts Exchange, however, the ‘boys club’ mentality is virtually non-existent. People are valued for their knowledge and expertise, and nothing else. That’s one of the reasons I’ve stuck around for so long.”
A Personal Touch
Away from the computer, Jan enjoys reading on her Kindle, playing Texas hold ‘em, spending time with her kids, and winding her way down the Southern Illinois Wine Trail. Her favorite types of wine are dry reds. “One glass at a time, for the antioxidants of course!” she exclaims.
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