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Linda Peterson: Serving the State for Over 33 Years!

On Friday, April 22nd, 2016 Linda Peterson will be retiring from the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications.

Linda began working for the State of South Dakota 33 years and 7 months ago initially as a Programmer Trainee for Department of Transportation before BIT was consolidated.  Initially, Development was comprised of two main groups: Business Requirements and Application Development and was eventually combined into the Development Division. Denise Luckhurst, the Director of Development at the time decided that she wanted Development to be even further broken down into 6 teams.
Linda applied to be the team manager for DOT. She explained that Denise wanted to identify the teams by letters: A, B, C, D, E, and F. DOT was the 6th team and would therefore be the “F” team. Linda explained, “I said I much preferred to be the A team and not the F team, so it was then decided to just number the teams 1 through 6.  When Denise retired in… I think 2012 – I moved up to Director.”
When Linda first began her journey with the State, mainframe is what was used and COBOL or Natural were the main languages. Linda elaborated:
“We wrote our code out on paper, gave the hand written sheets to Data Entry staff, then edited the code using the latest and greatest online editor called Panvelet (pan-vă-lāy’).  When pc’s arrived, we had a bank of those that we shared.  Eventually we each had our very own pc at our desk which was totally awesome and could type in our code ourselves!”
Another thing that has changed drastically over the years? Her scenery. She illustrated:
“At the DOT building there were about 10 of us and we shared 4 mainframe terminals.  My desk was in a room that in the past had housed a large plotter.  Apparently the plotter was noisy so the walls of the room were carpeted in a very lovely gold shag carpet to help with the noise. Long after the plotter was removed, the carpet still remained. Three of us shared that room, one was a chain smoker (smoking in state buildings was still allowed then).  There was one mainframe terminal in this room as well and was the one used by all of the smokers.  I inhaled a lot of second hand smoke that first year. “
 When asked about memorable moments throughout the years, Linda shared this story:
“I had only been in my position for about a year when my first boss, Al Yocom, decided to experiment with these new cards that could be inserted into a PC to make it emulate a mainframe terminal. He asked me to test it out, so I grabbed my screwdriver (one came with every new AT&T PC in those days), opened up the PC, screwed in the card, hooked up the cable, and fired up the PC. And then the mainframe went down. In those days- it wasn’t unusual for the mainframe to go down (sorry Wayne), so I didn’t give it a second thought. When the mainframe came back up, I tried it again. And the mainframe went down, again. I thought it was a bit odd, maybe still a bit of a coincidence, but I felt I needed further proof before I gave up. So, when the mainframe came back up, I tried a third time. To this day, I suspect that I may be the record holder for bringing the mainframe down 3 times 🙂.”
Linda will miss successfully accomplishing complex projects and working with smart people who care about doing their best every day. She believes that working at BIT has made her more confident, going on to say “It may be hard to believe, but I used to be even more quiet and reserved.”
When asked if she thought being a woman leading a team of technologists who support a department dominated by male engineers made a difference, Linda said that because her predecessor was also a female, it didn’t seem all that new. However, working with other leaders from any given agency was a little more challenging. Linda explained, “I’m not an assertive speaker, so my voice tends to get lost in discussions.  I read an interesting article from Discover magazine:
‘..A psychiatrist monitored the brain activity of 12 men as they listened to voice recordings and found that they process male voices differently from those of females.  Women’s voices stimulate an area of the brain used for processing complex sounds, like music.  Male voices activate the ‘mind’s eye,’ a region of the brain used for conjuring imagery…..’
She went on to say, “I believe that for a woman to be really heard, she must speak up and speak confidently … and, as Sheryl Sandberg has written in her book Lean In, ‘Sit at the table and reach for opportunities. Most importantly: Believe in yourself- believe that your achievements are due to your talent- not just luck.’”
After retiring, Linda plans on selling her house and moving to Colorado! She wants to be closer to her sister who lives in Denver, but not actually live in Denver! There’s too many people (especially in comparison to Pierre 🙂). Linda will continue her beloved hobby of reading (she has quite the lengthy list of books she wants to read!) and playing the piano. Linda shared:
“I have two older sisters who started piano lessons when I was about 5.  My mother said I was too young for lessons, but when she found me playing the songs my sisters played, she sent me to the same piano teacher who assigned me the same piano books that my sisters were using.  After about a year,  she assigned a new book to me that I had never seen/heard before.  It was then that she realized I couldn’t read a note and had been just playing by ear.  She was really, really unhappy that we had to go back to square 1.”
Words of wisdom to those she is leaving behind? “Never stop learning.  Never stop being open to new ideas.  Don’t be afraid of failure or of making mistakes because if you’re not making mistakes then you’re not learning anything new.”
Although the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications has been so fortunate to have you these past few years Linda, there are a few other people who are also very proud of you as well…
“Linda has been my coworker, supervisor, and mentor over the last 20 years. During that time she has helped create many of the development standards that are in place today. She was very instrumental in removing DOT’s data silos. Due to her involvement in creating an enterprise wide data model, almost all data is stored once, and only once. Her “data first” mentality has been the inspiration for many critical systems that will be in production several years from now. It’s been a pleasure to work with her and for over the last couple of decades.”
 Lonnie Stoltenburg
“It’s exciting to think of Linda in retirement mode. Travel, wine, admin privileges over her own machine, the freedoms are endless. Yet I can’t help but express sorrow at losing daily interaction with a friend and mentor. The two most important things I’ve learned from Linda in the four years since she hired me are:
1.       If you believe in people, the greatest thing you can do is trust them
2.       We can always be better
Linda has the ability to show people the value of the work they do and how it fits into Development’s larger goals – and that’s something that I will always strive for as a leader. This focus on people plus an unending dedication to improvement allowed her to move up through BIT. She carried this dedication into her role as Director of Development, and it will be carried along after her retirement.  We will all miss Linda for her leadership and service, I will miss her for her guidance and friendship. “
– Adam Emerson
“Linda has been challenged to guide the evolution of Development to a modern, standards based, integrated unit characterized by common ideals and processes, sharing, creativity, and customer service. She has successfully met this challenge, and now challenges us to sustain and advance these improvements. We thank her for her efforts and her accomplishments.”
-David Zolnowsky