"Whether it involves tweaking renewal Invoice forms or working with System Upgrades over the years, Martha is thorough, conscientious, and keen on details," says Peter Loftus, of Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS). "She is expedient in tackling problems and issues and she goes out of her way to make herself readily available. She has a great temperament and no job seems too big for Martha."
Martha is a member of the Upgrades and IT department led by Ray Zick, and serves as an upgrade engineer for a dozen or so clients each year. As one project winds down to completion, the next is entering the initial busy stage. Upgrade projects happen in four phases: first, the upgrade audit, which may take anywhere from a week to a day. Second is the code configuration, which ranges from two days to two weeks. The third component, testing, can take as long as several months, depending on the complexity. Finally comes the week or two immediately after the cutover to the new revision. During the time the client is testing the new software and immediately after the go-live, Martha acts as a triage person—fixing the things she can and sending the rest to the appropriate ACS engineer.
Ev Acton, Support Center manager, frequently works with Martha. "Martha does a great job of explaining issues to clients at a level that they can understand," says Ev. "She is always VERY willing to help out our customers and it really shows. She's very patient, which many clients really appreciate."
One reason that Martha enjoys working on upgrades is the direct client contact. She has built relationships with a number of clients that she has worked with over the years. One such client is Dottie Thomas of Army Times Publishing. Martha took time on a recent family vacation trip to stop and have dinner with Dottie. "Martha is wonderful," says Dottie. "We at Army Times have worked with her mostly on our upgrades, with an occasional problem solution/fix here and there. Professionally, she is always responsive to our needs and her work is always accurate. Additionally, she takes the time to explain what she did and why. Personally, she is a really nice, interesting person and fun to be around (and she has a really nice family!)."
Martha excels at handling masses of data and detail and she puts these skills to good use in working on upgrades. The initial code compare between the previous version and the new is an exercise in detail which Martha truly enjoys.
Perhaps it is her training in Library Science that makes that kind of detail child's play to her. A native of Ohio, Martha began her education with a bachelor's of arts in English from the College Of Wooster in Ohio. She and husband, Larry, then moved to Michigan so that she could attend graduate school at the University of Michigan, and they have lived in the area ever since. Martha earned a master's degree in Romance Linguistics and one in Library Science, but jobs in the teaching and library fields were hard to come by at that time. She went back to school and earned a PhD in Romance Linguistics at U of M, but as jobs in the field were still scarce, after working as a proofreader at the Middle English Dictionary. she thought computer science would be more practical. She signed up for some computer classes at a local college, and there she found her new profession. She began teaching computer programming at Eastern Michigan University and the local community college, and returned to school again, this time earning a master's degree in computer science from U of M. And somewhere in there, she found time to raise three children.
Martha then decided to enter the corporate world, and joined ACS (then T & B Computing) in 1995. She worked on the CIR team, led by Karl Davis, where she did some software development and worked in the technical support area. She began working on upgrades a few years later.
Paul DesRosiers, Project Director for Upgrades, can't say enough about her. "Martha is our 'go-to' person for Upgrade Audits because of her thoroughness and attention to detail. I can always count on her to complete the task on time and completely," says Paul.
He goes on to say: "She also receives kudos from clients for her thorough responses and analysis of issues. It isn't the simple ‘I've fixed it, try it again' type of response either. She describes her analysis, explains the impact on other areas of the software, suggests areas to test and confirm, as well as documenting her change and why it needed to be changed. Many clients are very appreciative of the extra information that she provides."
Paul credits Martha with making his job easier. "Her hard work has ensured countless successful upgrades and has been instrumental in making our clients more stable and more knowledgeable. Martha builds confidence in our ability to successfully complete projects for them," he explains.
Martha lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan with her husband, Larry, a retired college professor, and two cats. Her married daughter lives close by and Martha enjoys spending time with her 4- year-old grandson. Her daughter is expecting a second child in September. Martha's other two children live out of state—her son in Seattle and her other daughter in Washington, DC. As their children were growing up, Martha and Larry opened their home to a series of 10 exchange students as part of the Youth for Understanding program. She keeps in touch with them all over the world. She and Larry have become second parents to Megumi, their final exchange student, a young woman from Japan, who has come back numerous times to visit and lived with them when she attended college here. At Megumi's recent wedding, Martha and Larry were accorded the same honor as the bride's birth parents.
Martha's interests and hobbies are many and varied. Her fascination with medieval times has led her to participate in medieval reenactments, sew the old-fashioned garments, and sing in a medieval choir. But that's not all—she has won prizes at the state fair for her bobbin lace-making, and she grows peonies, iris, and daylilies. She is also a lay associate of the Cistercian (also called Trappist) order and participates in many activities with that order and with her local parish. Martha speaks fluent Spanish, and also knows French and Italian. She has translated several books from these languages into English for Cistercian Publications and articles for Brill.
Even with all these activities in her life, Martha is not done learning. She remains fascinated by new technologies, and loves to learn about new features and functionality as they are added to Advantage. We could all learn something from you, Martha!