Home Who We Are Constance Petersen
Autobiography: Constance Petersen
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 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.
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
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.
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
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 industry expert on user
interface design to address (and shake up) the company's software
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
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 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.
Home Who We Are Constance Petersen