Q & A with Lisa MacNeil, Hernando Sun staff writer, manager and database guru
Q: What is your professional background?
A: I was the unofficial “computer girl” for almost three years before I landed my first IT job with PRIDE of Florida (now, PRIDE Enterprises) in 1993. Throughout the mid-90s, I taught business applications with corporate training companies and as an adjunct instructor for Pasco-Hernando Community College (Now Pasco-Hernando State College). Around the turn of the century, I was attending the University of Florida, where I was a systems administrator for a student housing co-op. In the years between UF and coming to Hernando County, I worked for several startups, and subcontracted for HP, Dell, and other national companies.
Q: How did you get into technology?
A: In 1990, I was aiming at a career in medicine. I started working for a clinic that was almost completely computerized, which was almost science fiction in that era. Every day I was amazed at what I could at the keyboard, rather than tracking down and rifling through stacks of paper. I was working alone in the clinic laboratory one Saturday, when the lab computer started beeping, and I saw that the Lab Director was “calling” from her home. Our online conversation was the coolest thing I’d ever seen, and it wasn’t very long after that I’d bought my own computer.
Q:What are you up to currently besides working at The Hernando Sun?
A: I started a technology company, Awake Technology that assists our clients in many aspects of business technology. We build and fix web sites, work with content management systems, develop custom solutions to analyze data. For instance, Awake Technology has developed a data entry and analysis application to assist the Hernando Sun in their distribution audit.
Q: You’ve worked for several local companies- which ones?
A: Just one in Hernando County: Tracers Information Specialists. The job offer from Tracers was the reason I moved to Hernando County. Although I’d done a bit of everything as a generalist, Tracers gave me the opportunity to focus on full-time development.
Q: What have you learned about technology in the area?
A: I was pleasantly surprised to find such a tech presence in the area, all with varying focus. During a gathering of local people working in technology, I spoke with a developer who writes programs that control temperature in refrigeration units. It was the first time I’d heard of such a niche. With so many ways to employ technology today, and the potential for growth in Hernando county, I think we have more to learn, in ways we’ve not yet considered.
Q: What is it like having your own business?
A: I’ve learned there is no recipe for starting your own company. Aside from legal and tax paperwork, everything is fluid. The most consistent part of my day is waking up between 4 and 5 AM and responding to important email that came in overnight. The worst difficulties get my attention first thing in the morning, which is when my brain is in high-gear, and well before the phone starts ringing. After the difficult problems are solved, I welcome the shifting of gears covering stories for the Hernando Sun.
Q: Where are you from?
A: Originally from Wellesley, MA, a Boston suburb. I’ve lived primarily in Florida for the greater part of 41 years.
Q: What do you enjoy about Hernando County?
A: Aside from golf and being on the water, I love the connection to connection to local business. I also love the choices Hernando offers in living. You can live within walking distance to shopping, or you can live on acreage far away from anything, or right on the water.
Q: Why were you working in Prison/Correctional facilities and which ones did you visit?
A: I landed my first IT job with PRIDE of Florida (now, PRIDE Enterprises) in 1993. PRIDE is an acronym for Prison Rehabilitation Industries and Diversified Enterprises, which employed state prison inmates for various industries inside prison campuses. My role was to bring PCs to the PRIDE campuses, to replace dumb-terminals that were linked to one central mainframe in St. Petersburg.
Most of my time was spent at Miami-Dade, Glades, and Starke. Part of the Starke project required entry onto the Raiford campus, but I was not allowed to enter Raiford due to age policies at the time.
Q: What do you like about working for Hernando Sun?
A: Honestly, everything. I love learning and research, and those are required when covering local news. It hardly seems like work when I’m writing about our waterways, local business people and community events. I even get to incorporate my technology side when it’s time to crunch numbers for official statistics.