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My Journey as an ICT Professional and Coach

I never thought I would become a computer professional. Believe it or not, having a business as a freelance web designer is something that happened to me rather than something I tried to do. In fact, I had run from working with computers in a corporate environment earlier in my life and wasn't at all open to returning to that kind of work. It came as a surprise.

Being a housewife made me happy. I took it seriously, and when I had energy left after my chores were done, I enjoyed making art from found and given objects, paints, pastels and other supplies, eventually taking up jewelry making. My jewelry sold very well and though it wasn't enough to support us, from 2000–2007 this enabled me to contribute something to help meet my family's needs. I taught myself in the late 90s and early 2000s how to make websites at the encouragement of my husband and, learning as I went, made a handful of sites for family and friends over the next ten years. It was nice being able to do this for people close to me, but I had no thought of pursuing web design as a career. However, as our finances dwindled rather than increasing with time, I found myself continually praying that I would be able to earn a more meaningful income to help my family.

In 2007, a close friend brought me to a meeting of middle-aged creative ladies. They had taken an Artist's Way workshop together some time before and continued meeting every month to do something artistic and encourage each other not to let the demands of life diminish the need to exercise their creativity. They were wonderful, but we lived in country and low finances had us in perpetual petrol conservation mode, so I had trouble getting to town to join them. I contented myself with getting to know them from afar by reading the emails they shared.

A year went by and in early 2008 one of the ladies sent an email to the group asking if anyone knew a web designer she could work with. She'd had terrible experiences interviewing male web designers in the past, so she needed someone who would understand her, her art, and her business goals. I sent back a message that I could help her, and she was so happy with the results that she chirped about my work to her many friends. A mutual friend who designs glass art chose me to set up her website immediately afterward, and before long I had a business! I remember the transition from young woman traumatized by her previous experience working with computers to committed freelance web designer. It happened in a moment. I realized the trauma had simply disappeared after working with Janet. I turned to my husband and said "I can do this, all the bad feelings about working on a computer are suddenly gone." I often describe the experience as being similar to a cat looking for a warm place to sleep, jumping up into my lap and never jumping back down.

After the implosion of the American economy in late 2008 I found myself praying again. What could I do for the artists in my region, who had become a lifeline for my family, whose work I admired and respected, and who had become such dear friends? One afternoon it came to me. I could build a directory site where, for a modest yearly fee, artists could sign up for a listing which would include contact information and links to their websites and social networks that would increase their online visibility, traffic to their websites and opportunity to their email inboxes. With the knowledge I had gained about search engine optimization and after doing some informal market research I worked hard to design a beautiful artist directory site. We moved into town in October 2009 and the Southern Oregon Artists Resource, or SOAR as it's become known, was launched just after Christmas. In March 2010 I created its companion blog, Art Matters!, and developed SOAR's social media presence. I syndicated the blogs of member artists to Art Matters! to extend the reach of their posts, announcements and new artworks. Artists started signing up, there was a little boost to my income, and my reputation began to spread.

SOAR has accomplished what I designed it to do, and I continue to receive reports from member artists that it does bring more traffic to their websites, helping them rank better with the search engines. Many have told me about opportunities that came their way through soartists.com that wouldn't have reached them otherwise. It has also served as a wonderful marketing tool for my web design business; now that artists could see that I really care about them and their businesses, I began getting more and more work, and now I have a pretty respectable client list. I learn a lot about a person by making a website for them, and put a lot of heart into my work by cheering them on toward their goals. Many have said they learned a lot about themselves after seeing the finished website I made for them, and most have become truly dear friends. After a while I started feeling confident enough to work with some small businesses outside the art world, including a website for our town's newspaper which gets a lot of engagement from local residents.

Our family left the area on business for the second half of 2008. I was concerned that the momentum I had been gaining with my newfound business would be lost, but I was wrong. Working with my new clients from overseas was easier than we though it would be, and I even gained a new client where we were staying!

In addition, other opportunities came my way which have expanded my horizons and helped build my reputation. When we still lived in the country and did not have internet access, Mary had invited me to use her café as my office. Later she invited me to curate and manage the monthly art exhibits there. This gave me the chance to help my friend, become more familiar with the artwork being created in my area, meet with artists face to face, and exhibit their work at no cost to them. Many SOAR members have had the opportunity to show there, and many other artists became SOAR members to help promote their shows. I gained appreciation for my efforts to help artists and my reputation continued to grow.

One of the benefits to SOAR members is the ability to post their announcements to promote art exhibits, classes and workshops, and art events on SOAR's companion blog. Therefore, when the region's oldest art center began searching for a new Education Director, I was one of the first to know because I posted the announcement. A week later my husband and I stepped out for an afternoon cup of coffee at Mary's café. We took our coffee around the corner to sit and enjoy a pretty summer day for a few minutes. As we sat, a young woman showed up. She walked back and forth around the corner. It seemed like she might need something, so my husband struck up a conversation with her and learned that she and her husband had just traveled across the country from Vermont. They were so new here that their cars, still loaded with all their possessions and two beloved old dogs, were parked down the street! My husband introduced me as the founder of SOAR and she said "I know you from Facebook! I liked SOAR's page a couple of months ago when we were planning our move!" When she told me her name I remembered seeing the notification when she liked SOAR, too. I was impressed with her and asked if they had found a place to live and what kind of work she did. She said she was an artist and art educator, and no they hadn't found anywhere to live yet. Did she have any experience writing grants? Yes, she said. I told her about the job at the art center, cautioning that I couldn't offer a guarantee but knew they were seeking a new Education Director. A week later she called to tell me she had gotten the job! I was also able to connect her with a lady who found them a small but cozy place on a beautiful stretch the river...in the guest house of a place where we had once lived ourselves! She has since become a highly valued member of the art community and the driving force behind the new Arts Alliance of Southern Oregon, which is working to unite the geographically widespread, and therefore separated, elements of our art community and to promote the arts in our region. As one of the founding members of the Arts Alliance myself, I work on behalf of my artist friends/clients in the role of an arts advocate. This has deepened my understanding of the vital importance of art accessibility to the economic development of a community and has given me opportunities to write and to speak to this issue publicly. You just never know when helping someone else will also help you and change things for everyone around you, too!

When we moved to town, I helped the founder of an informal artist group during their first summer Art Jubilee, later creating their website. Art Presence has now grown into a small community art center. The founder became a dear friend and ardent supporter. She invited me to serve on the board, which puts me in a position to open doors for some of my clients. Our region is becoming known for its young but exciting wine industry, and I recently finished a website for a startup wine club headed up by two young women and a young man. In recent days my association with the art center has given me a way to introduce them to the community during our town's annual celebration of local wineries. In June they will make their local debut by kicking off the wine tasting festivities with an educational presentation on pairing wines with seasonal herbs in our new classroom. It makes me feel so good to not only make an income from web design that's now enough to support my family, but to identify opportunities and make connections for others that help them do the same. I had no idea how personally rewarding this work would be when I first started, but when I think of the many friends and allies I've made and how many I've been able to help in different ways, I can only cry out to God a huge THANK YOU!! for making me a web designer, the one thing I never dreamed I would want to do.

Opportunities to share began to arise in 2010, and I was invited to present workshops on blogging and social media at local art centers. I started offering small workshops from my home/office and artists started coming over for private tutoring sessions to learn how to use Photoshop and how to work their blogs and social media, another little boost to my income. I've even been invited to present a workshop on the topic of Creating a Great Online Presence at the Watercolor Society of Oregon's Annual Convention this fall. Artists generally do not take to technology easily, and in my world many of them are older, too. It takes a great deal of patience to start from the beginning and carefully explain everything step by step to impart a useful amount of information to someone who knows they need to adopt modern marketing tools to promote their work but has never used them before. Some catch on easily, but others really struggle, so a lot of personal encouragement is needed to keep them involved.

In 2012 I became so busy that my son decided to help, first by asking me to show him how to cook, and then making breakfast and dinner every day. My husband, who detests grocery shopping, started doing the shopping and cleaning the kitchen every night. Without the help of my brilliantly creative but chronically unemployed men I would not have been able to progress as I have. I've learned a lot and continue to learn as the needs of my clients and ever-changing internet trends challenge me to grow. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to sit at my computer so much; after seven years of this I know it's not helping my health, but we still have important goals to reach and my client/friends need my help, so it's hard to be nonchalant and just take off for a long walk when there's work to be done. My clients boast to their friends about how reliable their web designer is, with a dependable work ethic, and I take that responsibility seriously even as they remind me to take care of myself. Women do weave the web, not just the internet web, but that of sustaining relationships that provide opportunities and change communities...and keep us from damaging ourselves in the process.

Recently my daughter wrote a book and, knowing that it would take some time to find a publisher, she started a blog to begin spreading the message of how she gained her freedom from an abusive marriage to other women. She is the mother of two teenaged boys and an emergency room nurse, so she didn't have time to educate herself on the details of how to establish an online presence and asked me to help her. An honor and a joy of an assignment! We're still early in the process, but with the tools we have set up thus far she is already helping other women, giving them strength, encouragement and validation through her powerful, compassionate writing. I encouraged her to join World Pulse and she quickly began making meaningful connections here which I know will help her on her way. My connection to the art world had previously introduced me to Holly, a mother and graphic designer who volunteers with a local art therapy program for cognitively challenged adults. When I shared Jennifer's experience and goals with her she got very excited. She read Jennifer's blog, saw how important it is to help her spread her message and asked if I would connect them. I did, and she immediately offered herself to Jennifer as a mentor and business coach. Who knew that the "cat napping on my lap" could make that possible for my daughter?! Cheers for computers and internet access!

My art world connections also brought me the opportunity to create a website for a lady who was a film star in her younger days and is now an amazing visual artist. The site is to promote her art, and we finished it just in time for a couple of Hollywood events that involved her beautiful paintings. She is a very private person, so she wasn't thrilled about the idea of getting involved in social media, but on my advice and that of her long time manager, on March 26 we started up her Facebook page. It has been gaining many fans and sending traffic to her art website, where she even made a sale straight away! Then she appeared at the Academy Awards as a presenter and afterward suffered terribly from widespread online mockery about her aging appearance. Since her social media platform was already in place, she decided to speak out against this senseless bullying by releasing a protest letter and video interview on her Facebook page. Her manager's PR lady did the rest, and I watched as, from 2:30 in the afternoon when we posted her letter to dinnertime, fans came flocking to her page to leave loving, supportive and encouraging comments there. Their hearts had broken from watching their favorite classic film star take such a merciless public beating over her looks and they were happy to see her stand up to it. Many thanked her, saying she had given them courage to stand up to bullying in their own lives. She gained 1000 fans in 24 hours, and they are sharing to help spread her message. Well over 50,000 people have viewed her post! It is so beautiful and so moving; I am honored to be a small part of it and incredibly proud of her bravery. It feels good to have made that possible for her.

Though I have enjoyed all these rewarding moments, World Pulse has helped me understand more clearly how important the skills that I have developed really are. As you can see from the experiences I've shared, being empowered with even the basics of digital literacy can encourage the "napping cat" of an online business to hop into your own lap, just like it did to me! Helping someone else to begin or expand their own business is just as exciting. However it happens, you can find yourself blessed with a voice and an income through the powerful tools of online communication and become a blessing to your neighbors and people around the world. In fact, you can do this from wherever you find yourself in the world. My experiences also show that if you take it one step at a time, doing what your intuition tells you is important now and staying focused to do it well, the next step will become clear and the next opportunity will arise at just the right time for you to have the support you need to develop it. Being patient and allowing time for circumstances and new developments to set up prepares the way for just the right people to become involved. When we trust and wait, the Divine can connect us with people who are ready and willing to help us take our skills and our lives to the next level. I believe World Pulse is an important resource that the Divine is using to help us stretch and grow, to give and receive new opportunities, and to find the help we need to refresh and expand our existing businesses, nonprofit programs, and activism. They are making available tools that women around the world need to become changemakers for themselves and their families, their local communities, and the global community. We just need to learn how to use them, work hard, and seek assistance for the pieces of the puzzle that may be missing—such as internet access and equipment—to be placed in our hands.

"Ask, and it shall be given to you, seek, and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you. For whoever asks, receives, and she who seeks, finds, and to her who knocks, the door is opened," Jesus in his wisdom and compassion said to his friends. With the ultimate resources available to us now—the direction and help of God, worldwide connection through the internet, and the wonderfully supportive community and leadership at World Pulse—and your own dedication and hard work, you have only to ask, seek and knock for that sleepy cat to jump in your own lap and change your life.

Empowered and connected one by one, together we can change the world! I pray that you will find the resources you need to become digitally empowered so that, in whatever way you are inspired and guided, you can be part of the global change happening today as women weave the web.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

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Comments

Dear Hanasazi - what an amazing story! I related to you so much as I, too, had "run" from technology most of my life. I loved what you said, "I realized the trauma had simply disappeared after working with Janet. I turned to my husband and said "I can do this, all the bad feelings about working on a computer are suddenly gone." THAT IS GREAT!! Your story is so full of encouragement and wonderful, wonderful examples of how this thing called the "worldwideweb" transformed your life. You have given back so much to the art world, your community, the online community and perfect strangers you met on the street. :-) YOU are testimony indeed to the power of technology. So, to quote you.."Empowered and connected one by one, together we can change the world." AMEN!

In love and peace,

Terry Mullins

hanasazi's picture

Oh, Terry! Thank you so much,

Oh, Terry! Thank you so much, you bring tears of joy to my eyes! ♥ I have worked some long, hard hours-days-years to get where I am, and part of my "pitch" to workshop participants and people who ask about tutoring is "I started out exactly like you, and I had to bloody my head on many a brick wall to learn what I have...and now you can learn from me so you don't have to bloody your own head!" I hope my story inspires women everywhere, and hope I can be of some assistance to an expanding group of sisters through World Pulse.

Love, Peace and Blessings to you!
Hannah

muhorakeye's picture

Cher Hanasazi - ce une

Cher Hanasazi - ce une histoire très intéressante ! "C'est très bien! ! votre histoire est si plein d'encouragement et de merveilleux, merveilleux exemples de la façon dont cette chose appelée le femmes sont capable de transforme leur vie vous avez montre de quoi le femme sont capable de change leur histoire avec la nouvelle technologie courage

Muhorakeye Esperance

BAJIRA CHISHUBA's picture

votre article

Merci ma chère pour ta belle histoire et les conseils dont vous avez promulguer au monde feminin, oui c'est juste, les femmes elles-meme, sont à la base de leur avancement et ensuite à leur devancement, si la femme se decide de faire quelque chose c'est vrai elle le fait avec tout son courage et contrairement à ça, si elle se decide de ne rien faire c'est vrai elle ne le fait pas comme il se doit
Contunions la lutte

bajira

hanasazi's picture

Dear Muhorakeye, thank you so

Dear Muhorakeye, thank you so much for taking the time to read my long post and to leave your lovely comment! I am so happy to hear that you found my post encouraging. Indeed, women have done more to change the world than they are given credit for, and I believe we can do even greater things with the access to education, a platform to make our voices heard, and opportunities to make income that computers and the internet make possible for us. I look forward to hearing about how YOU will change lives for the better by making use of technology, too!

I just read your profile and see you are working to end violence against women. This is a key interest of mine, too. My daughter, Jennifer Faith, escaped from an abusive marriage earlier this year after a two year battle and learned much during her journey. She is now speaking out against domestic violence and all violence against women, and recently joined World Pulse herself. I know she would like to hear your story, and perhaps you can help each other in some way. You can search Jennifer Faith or click to find her here: http://worldpulse.com/user/22187

hanasazi's picture

Dear Bajira,

Dear Bajirá,
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my long story! How wonderful that you are a teacher and working to end gender-based violence! Thank you for all you are doing in your own community - what you do there matters to the whole world, because more world-changers could come from your own classroom!

Please go check out my daughter's profile. Her name is Jennifer Faith and she is working hard to end violence and abuse of women, too. Maybe you will find strength and comfort in her words, maybe you have friends who her writings might be able to help. Maybe you can even help each other in the battle to end gender-based violence!

I hope what I have written will help you to inspire your students...I look forward to hearing how they will change the world with the digital tools that are available to us now!

Nabiye Tal's picture

Wow! Powerful Story

Dear Hanasazi,
I always look forward to reading your story. you are also a very good writer and i feel like i am right in front of you hearing from you because of how well you communicate through writing. its so clear and so touching. It is amazing how the internet has helped you this much. I am so encouraged reading your story. What a great job you did also for your daughter. and i always look forward to seeing you in person and your beautiful artworks someday. Cheers and Stay Blessed!!!!

Nabiye Tal- Founder/CEO, IEVAWC.
@nabiye, @ievawc
+2348162536058
nabeetal@gmail.com

hanasazi's picture

You sure are sweet, Nabiye!

Thank you so much for your kind and supportive words! I'm glad you enjoy my writing and my story - the way you describe how you feel when reading my work is how I feel when I read my own favorite writers (particularly my cousin Greg Barrett who is an amazing writer and even helped my daughter with her book) and that touches me deeply. It IS amazing how much computers and the internet have helped me and my family! Writing about it helped me gain a new perspective on just how much our lives have changed for the better. It is lovely to have a way to help my daughter in her new calling and to be a part of it with her. And finally having some time to become active at World Pulse has truly been a blessing, not just for the warm community and an opportunity to be a part of something so much larger and more important than my own little life, but because it has opened my eyes to how important such an opportunity is for so many women and girls around the world. I will never take my work for granted again! I am so happy to hear you found my story encouraging and hope you will run with it. I too look forward to meeting you in person one day, and I know the story YOU will share will bring tears of joy to my eyes. Cheers to you and thanks for the blessing!
♥ Hannah

ccontreras's picture

Inspiring!

I am very inspired by your testimony and I am so grateful that there are people out there who truly care about the arts! I admire your strength and your drive to make it into this scary world of technology that is exciting at the same time! :-)

"I embrace emerging experience. I am a butterfly. Not a butterfly collector." - Stafford

hanasazi's picture

Thank you so much! My "drive"

Thank you so much! My "drive" was really my husband, who gently but firmly insisted I learn in the beginning. He got me through to the point where I realized I was actually having fun with it! I will always believe that it's artists and their art - even more than the internet, but in partnership with it for sure - that can change the world. ♥

I am not in the least surprised that you shared such a brilliantly written and and loaded piece. So many sides to learn from. I am truly inspired by your journey of impact. You are a great example of a woman who is truly weaving the web. Wow! it gives me great joy to have an opportunity to learn from you though your writing. I just want to read the post over and over again. In more ways than you would want to imagine, your story demystifies many motions about the use of the web and the many opportunities that it offers.The many success stories you shared about your clients are reassuring as they point to the fact that anyone can be supported to gain informed and very rewarding use of the internet.

You are such an inspiration and I wish you the very best as you continue to use your web skills to better the lots of women and make our world a better place.

Lots of love to you and the wonderful men in your lives who have continued to support you each step of the way.

Thoughtfully,
Greengirl

hanasazi's picture

Greengirl, your praises never

Greengirl, your praises never fail to humble me in the most beautiful way! I'm so happy to hear that my story demystifies some notions about the use of computers and the internet. If you feel it would be helpful to use my story in some way in your work with helping empower women to use these new tools to become changemakers and improve their lives and the lives of those around them, please feel free! I will do my best to continue posting helpful information, and if you ever have questions about anything specific regarding working with computers and the internet, please let me know. I can't say that I have all the answers, but I sure will try to help in any way I'm able. I shared your love with my husband and son, who responded with those little smiles that let you know they don't really know what to say, but are deeply blessed to have made a connection with someone they do not know in a part of the world far, far away. And that's the beauty of the internet, isn't it? Drawing us near each other and making connections from great distances that would otherwise be impossible.

With love and gratitude,
Hannah

carolepng's picture

I'd love you as my mentor!

Hi Hannah,

Woww!! I couldn't stop smiling and my heart kept leaping with excitement. I'm just about to submit my story for the Digital Literacy and just logged on to read my previous post, and was on Facebook and searched World Pulse and realised I had yet to 'like' it AND saw your post (tag) on their wall which brought me to your story :D (that's internet for you :) )
I have been in the technical IT field for a couple of years since I graduated from Uni and I found 'manning' servers and computers wasn't what I wanted to do anymore.
My interests have changed and I started to do freelancing too - with whatever I could do to help people with IT. In our country Internet is still very under-used, but building 'internet-presence' for SME's and NGO's within my community is something that I have great interest in and am doing. I trust that I can learn so much more from you also - as though I can not say I am a pro website designer - I love using Wordpress and only wish many more people could learn to use and access it - thank you for your lovely post and looking forward to connecting with you more.
Carole
Papua New Guinea

-We all have a special purpose in life. It is up to us to pause for a while, identify it, grab on to it and follow through -

hanasazi's picture

I'm here for you!!

How wonderful that World Pulse's Facebook page led you to my post! Indeed, that is the Internet - you just never know when it will provide the next connection that will help you achieve our goals! I'm so happy to "meet" you here, and that my post gave you such inspiration.

I would love to read your Digital Literacy post - have you published it yet?

Oh, I do not envy you the time you've spent in server/network administration! Still, it's valuable background experience for what you are doing now. It all counts - anything that helps us become more familiar with computers helps us on our way. Good call stepping aside from that in favor of freelancing. It's great to hear that you already have a solid start with WordPress and helping others in your community establish or expand their online presence. I hope to update my little Blogging with Wordpress ebook soon and I will let you know as soon as it's finished. If you have any particular questions or needs that I can answer in it, please let me know. But beyond that, I am happy to help you however I can. Let's connect via WP, Facebook and email! Sending a WP connection request right now...


Hannah

carolepng's picture

Thank you

I have yet to submit!! aargh still tossing words here and there!!

Please do let me know -- i guess my most active blog is agriculture.caitservicespng.com -- i created it for the YouthBlogging Comp Agriculture and great things are happening with it.

my IT site - www.caitservicespng.com

I really need a good camera so I can take better pics though - but its challenging trying to keep an updated blog - i still learning the ropes with SEO and well internet here is so expensive -- one of the downs of freelancing is the inconsistent internet access whereas being employed as an IT personnel and having unlimited internet access!!

but trusting my dream will eventuate - really want to become a Wireless ISP ...though don't really know much of the technicalities i know its something i want to provide and maybe a place like a info centre so women and children can hang out and use the internet..so they can access such great places like world pulse and telecentre that has sooo many opportunities.

thank you - for new friendship :) looking forward to communicating more..

oh yes my friend a lady i met - she's trying to set up a gallery -- art in our country is not really recognised and she looking at doing online gallery -- i'd really appreciate your help with this - after reading your post.

thank you!!! have a great weekend!
twitter: @caitservicespng

-We all have a special purpose in life. It is up to us to pause for a while, identify it, grab on to it and follow through -

hanasazi's picture

Great Work You Are Doing!

I understand - for something like this especially you want to make sure it's just right before posting.

Though I would like to look through your blogs further, I am impressed with what you have done with them, and with the stories you are using them to tell. I spent a good deal of time reading about several PNG women, about the changing status of the internet in your country, your own journey as an IT professional, and the girls mentoring program. Really fabulous work my friend!

It is so challenging keeping an updated blog. Mine is very behind right now and all I use that for is to promote my clients...I haven't posted since January! I'm due for a major housekeeping session there...

I love your idea of becoming a wireless ISP and information centre - it would generate income for you and change many things for those around you. It would be wonderful if more people in the rural areas could access the internet, too. It's good that they are more able to do so by cell phones now, but being able to use a desktop would make a huge difference for students, as would internet access in schools and libraries. The next best thing to bringing it to their homes is to have a affordable internet connectivity in a cafe or centre as you have described.

I would love to know more about the lady you mentioned who is trying to set up an art gallery. There are many collectors of native/indigenous art in the world and there is potential for her to do very well, especially with a nice website to help her promote it. I will send you an email right now to make it easier for you to send me more information about her.

Thank you so much for sharing the information you have through your blogs! You are doing a wonderful job of promoting the internet and its benefits in your country, and I know your efforts will bring positive change to many there. You go girl!!

♥ & ☮
Hannah

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