Employee Spotlight: Jen
July 26, 2016
Arnold Schwarzenegger has really soft hands.
Welcome to the first interview in a series for a new initiative here at Patriot Software called, Patriot Team Spotlight. Spotlight is a chance for us to do a close up on the talented and fascinating individuals who make up our Patriot Software team.
My name is Dirk. I’m the Director of Media Relations at Patriot and I’ll be your interviewer. Today we’re talking to Jen, one of Patriot’s talented UI designers. Jen and I caught up over lunch to talk about the road that brought her to Patriot, a road full of creativity, initiative, and, as the title states, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Spotlight on Jen
You know Jen, most people say they get their start in graphic design because they like art, but you say your path didn’t become clear until you were accused of cheating in college?
Yeah. Well, this was back in 1994. I was in a graphic design class at the University of Cincinnati, College of Design. Some backstory: I grew up around computers, playing with them, making things on them. So, we’d been assigned a design project and, instead of doing it all by free-hand, which is how you did it then, I went into the campus computer lab and created my entire project on computer. When I was done, all my classmates said I was cheating and I said, ‘Hey, look, this is where everything’s going to end up someday.’
Cheating at graphic design because you used a computer!? That sounds so crazy to hear nowadays. But, the experience gave you a taste for braving your own path, huh?
Yeah. The University of Cincinnati had lots of co-ops. We were always setting something up with local businesses and getting internships and stuff.
Cool. Sounds like a great experience builder.
Except that I wanted to do my own thing. I wanted to intern at Wired Magazine. So I contacted them out of the blue, and I was like, ‘I want to be an intern here and I’m available on these dates.’ And they were like, ‘Huh, we’ve never had an intern here before.’ And I was like, ‘Well, I want to do it.’
You were Wired Magazine’s first intern ever?
Yep. How it worked out is, the lady who ran [the intern] portion of it was from Ohio. She and I had some stuff in common, like Kraus’ Pizza and stuff.
Well, I got there right around the time they were launching HotWired [Wired Magazine’s first website], and she introduced me to the internet and I was like, “You know something, this Internet thing is pretty cool.”
Understatement of the century.
Right. So, I really got into [graphic design for the internet] and, when I came back to school, I decided that, for my senior project, I was going to build the website for the University of Cincinnati.
So I contacted the IT department and pitched them the idea and they said, ‘Sure, okay, you can try.’ I did an interactive map. I drew out the map on the computer, made it interactive, like, you know, you could click on portions of the map and it would pop-up information about the building and what classes were in the building and so on.
You did that in 1994… That would have been pretty cutting edge for the time.
It was! But it was a graphic design project, so, I printed it out on one of those old school 72 dpi printers, and of course it looks terrible, and I turn it and… I got a B.
A friggin B?! Seriously?
[My professors] didn’t know how to use the computer so they couldn’t look at it live!
But a B didn’t seem to slow you down, since your next stop was Hollywood.
I went out to [work for] Warner Bros. a few years out of college. This was an awesome job because I just did websites for movies. It was unlimited creativity because, you know, there was no one to really look over you then. The internet was still new. And, because it was with movies, we got to go to movie premiers and walk the Red Carpet and–
Woah, stop. The Red Carpet?! You graphic designed your way to the Red Carpet?
Yeah, and I got to meet movie stars, because, at the time, they were all very interested in the internet and how the web worked. Actually Arnold Schwarzenegger was really into it.
Shut. Up. You met Arnold Schwarzenegger?
I did. I shook his hand; it was really soft. Arnold Schwarzenegger has really soft hands, which is surprising since he’s a bodybuilder, you know?
I mean, all of this is pretty surprising to tell you the truth, Jen. I gotta ask, what brings you here, to Patriot? The Red Carpet to rural Ohio is a bit of a jump!
Eventually I left Warner Brothers after it started to get really corporate and, well, I love [graphic design] for the creativity and, after I traveled the world for a while and had kids and freelanced for a bit. I ended up back in this area because, well, I’m from here.
And, how do you like it here at Patriot?
I’ve been here two months and it’s great. Really. The people I work with are great. They’re really smart. Much smarter than me, in fact, which is great because I’m learning new stuff everyday. And, of course, it’s fun to watch all of the shenanigans my colleagues get into over [in the developer’s clubhouse].
Go over there and say, ‘Competitive video games are not sport,’ and see what happens. I dare you. You may want to come armed with a Nerf gun if you decide to try it.
Ha! I’ll take your word for it.
I also really like how flexible it is here. Like, Tuesday’s and Thursday’s I usually work from home so I can get my kids on and off the bus, which is nice. [Patriot] was very cool with working with me and my life situation.
I’ve heard that the software development world can be tough for women because of the disproportionate ratio of men to women. Have you had any problems?
Here? No, this place is great and I feel very welcomed and accepted. The guys here are funny and nice.
…with Nerf guns.
Yes, but they’re a really great group of people. In other places, though, it can be different for women. There aren’t many of us and sometimes you can get looked down on if you’re a girl. If you’re a girl and you want to work in the development space, you have to stick with it, brush it off, and keep going for your dream.
If there was a talented young woman out there looking for a software or graphic design related position, would you encourage them to come here?
Oh, definitely. I think there are definitely opportunities here. Opportunities to learn and teach. Everyone here is very open to new ideas, and you can participate immediately.
Jen, thank you so much for your time, and a wonderful and inspiring story.