As a young woman, Janice Martinez wanted to be a wife and homemaker. But fate stepped in when her husband was disabled in an accident and she was forced to become her family's breadwinner.
Now, her resume packs a powerful punch in the software development world, and she's in demand—and in control—as a contract CIO.
Born in West Virginia, Martinez moved to California at the start of her career and now lives in Florida. Currently, she's contracting with three companies, all in separate countries, to merge three products into a single application.
As a former CIO to three defunct dot coms, she wrote to TechRepublic in response to an article about dot-com ineptitude. We asked her about her experiences during the past 20 years.
TechRepublic: How did you become interested in technology as a career?
Martinez: My husband and I have been married for about 23 years. I never really wanted a career. All I wanted to do was have kids and be a housewife. But my husband was in an accident and became completely disabled a year after we got married. So everything suddenly fell on my shoulders, and I knew from that point on that it was going to be up to me to keep us going.
TechRepublic: How did you deal with sexism in the workplace, especially in the 70s?
Martinez: I just became very aggressive in my career, and I wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. And if somebody told me that I couldn’t do something because I was a woman, I proved them wrong, even if it meant doing it on my own time at my own expense.
TechRepublic: Wow, that’s inspiring.
Martinez: You have to remember, when I got out of high school, I wanted to go to college, but my parents told me, “No, you’re just going to get married. You’re just going to have kids. We’re not paying for a college education.” So I packed my car and moved to California and started a career.
I met my husband in California. I moved to California in January 1976, and my husband moved there from Mexico in December 1975. We moved into the same apartment building, and he lived upstairs from me. I remember seeing him working on his car. We never met there. But two years later, we met at a party and have been together ever since.
I worked full time and went to school at night and got an associate's degree in computer science. I had a 4.0 average on the AS degree, and [I] did that because at the time, [an associate's degree] was all that was required. You know, there really weren’t advanced degrees in computer science at that point.
After I worked for a few more years, then, of course, they started requiring bachelor's degrees, so, again, I worked full time and went to school and earned my bachelor's.
TechRepublic: What was your first job in the technology sector?
Martinez: I got into the business when I moved to California. I had worked for a little while for the gas company in West Virginia, [at the time] when IBM had Magcards, the magnetic cards for doing word processing…[and I learned about Magcards while working for the gas company]. So then I went to California, and suddenly I was in demand for that.
I was doing temp jobs, and then I saw that these companies in California didn’t know how to set up word processing departments….So by that time—I think I was about 20 then—I started my own company, Personal Bits Computing. I started advising the corporations in Los Angeles on how to set up word processing departments.
TechRepublic: How did you get from California to Florida?
Martinez: Before client server came along and it was DOS, and Windows wasn’t big, I lived in California and did most of my work there. Then, I happened to get a beta version of the program called PowerBuilder. This was quite a few years back, and when I did that, I said, “Wow. This is really cool,” and I started developing Windows programs in PowerBuilder.
Very few people knew how to use PowerBuilder…so suddenly I was in incredible demand throughout the country. It was amazing. I couldn’t believe it. And of course, my salary shot through the roof at that point.
I became an independent contractor and I was making huge sums of money, and I just traveled. I traveled all over the United States and dragged my husband with me, and we moved from state to state while I did different projects. And that was up until ’93, when I moved to Florida and started taking full-time positions.
TechRepublic: Where did you get the beta version of PowerBuilder?
Martinez: A friend of mine just gave it to me and said, "Here, look at this and see what you can do with it." So I installed it. It was terrible. It was buggy. You know, it crashed all the time.
Basically, I became very well known in the PowerBuilder community with Sybase and actually spoke at their convention. They would pay for me to come to their conventions and let me attend all of the classes and everything, and comp my room. They even used me for advertisements because I had done so much and so many projects in PowerBuilder. I was like one of the number one developers in the country. And that’s what really shot my career up.
How did you become a consultant?
How did you build your IT skills? Were there certain technologies that put you in demand? Share your experience with us in a discussion or in an e-mail.