What women want from IT
I select two lollies, red and orange.
It is "candy introductions" time: red stands for "favourite hobbies" and orange is "the wild card" which means I am required to randomly share something about myself. I also have to explain why on earth I'm here at Christchurch's Ripped Orange to attend a workshop on women using IT.
The easy answer would be to say "because I was invited" to this workshop that promises to be "fun and a bit girlie" with a ladies morning tea. The truth is, though, that working as a freelance writer from home is isolating, both socially but also technologically. Away from a mainstream workplace, I sometimes worry I'm in danger of losing touch with the way things are done now.
Apparently, I'm not alone. Women trying to re-enter the workforce, usually after having taken time out for their families, often struggle "to bridge the technology gap". So says Ripped Orange change management consultant Birgit Maier, who has helped put this workshop together. The company is holding the workshop to help it plan how to support women like me.
To judge by the table talk ahead of our two-hour session, "technology churn" is indeed a common concern. As one woman puts it, "If I have a favourite lipstick, I don't want to go back six months later and find it's no longer there."
We are a mixed group of nine women. Introductions are on a first-name basis. Kay, a home executive, is a self-confessed "computer illiterate"; at the other end of the spectrum is Alison, a senior computing executive in Christchurch.
Workshop facilitator Melanie Tobeck, who owns Ripped Orange, starts by gently probing our understanding of terms like SMTP, internet cache and the Cloud. There are a few blank expressions. Melanie likes cutting through jargon so, for example, she defines "a server" as "a big computer with stuff on it". The Cloud is just a lot of servers grouped together - "It's like a whole bunch of apartments and you can choose one to rent."
Melanie briefs us on some of the Cloud services out there, like Microsoft 365 and Google Apps; then Dropbox and SkyDrive, which enable users to share files - like photos - on the Cloud. Soon several women in the group are working out how to share recipes. It's a powerful demonstration of the Cloud's relevance.
As the workshop progresses, we touch on what technology is appropriate for our children and how to manage it. Some of us need pointers on backup devices and what to look for when buying a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. We also want to explore how to sensibly organise and store photos and movies.
Melanie has plenty of "take home" ideas, (such as Microsoft Movie Maker and Google's Picasa). We hear how Naturally Speaking can transcribe spoken words into type.
There is morning tea and, at the end, a small goodie bag of chocolates. I leave feeling inspired to tackle new challenges: starting with a few shared Dropbox recipes!
Kim Newth is a freelance writer and journalist who lives in North Canterbury. For more visit Ripped Orange.