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Autobiography: Constance Petersen

Constance Petersen, CEO of SoftMedia Artisans, Inc.As a girl, I spent my summers at our family's cottage by Clark's Lake in Door County, Wisconsin, along with my mother, sister, and two brothers. My father joined us on those weekends he could tear himself from work. The rest of the year, we lived in Racine, Wisconsin, about midway between Milwaukee and Chicago.

My mother and siblings showed me the importance of family life, and I hope I've learned well. My father taught me how to play golf, but now I kind of wish that he'd spent that time teaching me how to fish.

Coming to My Senses

In college I studied mathematics, fully intending to become a mathematics teacher. After a few weeks of substitute teaching, though, I decided to apply for a computer-programming job in Milwaukee atthe catalog division of a offsite link.large corporation. They hired me and tossed me in with a group of loud, argumentative, quality-obsessed technogeeks.

To my surprise, I fit right in. We worked hard and we partied harder. Ah, the follies of youth! But I knew that I had found my profession.

When the corporation asked me to move from Milwaukee to Atlanta, I accepted, knowing that this would give rise to a whole round of wonderful going-away parties. Once in Atlanta, though, I learned the true meaning of full-time employment. Too bad that I hadn't stored up extra sleep-time before moving. Nevertheless, the work was interesting, and I received progressively more challenging assignments and promotions.

Settling Down

In its wisdom, the corporation had decided that the new department in Atlanta needed one manager with a strong technical background. So it had also brought offsite link.Lynn Torkelson to Atlanta, and that meant I had someone to talk with when a project seemed hell-bent for destruction. We found more and more to talk about, and then one day I noticed a different look in his blue eyes...

Lynn and I married in 1982 and worked on starting our family right away (although I was still youthful, he was rapidly approaching the middle-age years). Fortune smiled on us, and we produced three wonderful sons, Nicholas, Daniel, and Zachary.

Getting the Picture

With a growing family, I realized the importance of improving my skills in my long-time hobby, photography. We set up a darkroom in our home.

Lynn took care of the young ones while I attended a series of courses in professional photography. The family accompanied me on photography field trips and beamed when my images won ribbons at shows.

Of course, none of us imagined then that one day I'd be swapping my 35mm SLR for a digital camera and posting my images on the Internet. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Moving On

I left the corporation that moved me to Atlanta a few months after my husband did. (Somehow things just weren't the same, and now, as a software development manager, I found that I missed hands-on technical work.) For some years, I worked as an independent software designer and programmer.

Then, I accepted an offer to join a offsite link.large Atlanta company that I had done some work for. My first assignment was to improve the acceptance of software being developed for 100+ corporate lawyers. After digging into the issues, I realized that most of them were usability issues that could be solved by improved user interface design.

My company accepted my recommendation to institute usability testing and, much to my satisfaction, assigned me to make the necessary arrangements. I also had the opportunity to bring in an offsite link.industry expert on user interface design to address (and shake up) the company's software designers.

When use of the Web exploded, I was hooked! Not only did I become a big-time visitor to Web sites of every description, but I felt an intense desire to learn all I could about the ways visitors respond to different Web designs.

Telling the World

During that period, I realized that I also needed a different, more creative, outlet for my work. When the Waite Group Press asked me to co-author offsite link.Visual Basic 4 How-To, I jumped at the chance.

Lynn helped me by developing example code for some parts of the book, and we rediscovered the pleasure of working closely together. The success of the book led to my writing many magazine articles on software and Internet development. I was also active in Visual Basic newsgroups, for which I was honored to receive a offsite link.Microsoft MVP award several years running.

By 1997 Lynn and I had founded our own company, SoftMedia Artisans, Inc. and were actively looking to move back north to be close to our families. We completed our move in January of 1999, and now live on the shores of Portage Lake near Dollar Bay, Michigan.

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