For the entire month of February, I’m covering lesser-known individuals in Black History since it’s Black History Month. Today, however, I’m taking a break from that format to showcase my mom, Gwendolyn Gates.
I decided to interview her since she worked as a Computer Operator, an IT job, in the South during the late 1970’s. A feat many black people didn’t have the chance to do, let alone dream about.
Interview With Gwendolyn Gates
Where She Worked
Brittany: Where did you work?
Gwendolyn: I worked at Trustco Data System, which is the computer part of Trust Company Bank, which then became SunTrust.
Brittany: You know SunTrust is now Truist bank.
Brittany: Yeah, they got bought by BB&T and the new name for both is Truist Bank. Later on they’ll change the signs. Next question: What was your job title?
Gwendolyn: My first job title was Data Entry Operator, and I think that was around 1978. I got the Computer Operator job in 1979 after a coworker graduated college and moved to Atlanta.
Brittany: How did you find out about the job?
Gwendolyn: I worked with the CETTA organization, which was a grant program and a job training program. They needed a clerical person at the Financial Aid office at Columbus College. One of my duties was to post the jobs on the job board for the students. I saw the Data Entry Operator job would come back several times as students would quit for various reasons.
I applied because my clerical job was only for a short period. However, I didn’t get the job because I already had one. But the other person hired only worked one night before stating she didn’t like working the second shift. Then I got a call back asking if I was still interested in the Data Entry Operator job and I was.
Her Job Duties
Brittany: What were your job duties as a Data Entry Operator?
Gwendolyn: I had to process the money people deposited into the bank through the computer. But some of the deposits would be rejected by the computer and I had to key those in manually. And we had types of money we couldn’t run through the computer, like commercial and installment loans. Oh, and trusts. With trusts we paid bills for rich people.
After entering all the information, I ran a program to verified all the money balanced. I worked in batches and we verified each batch. Some work the computer couldn’t verify so my coworkers did. Finally, I had to run the program from punch cards, and those would degrade over time. So I had to create new punch cards.
Brittany: What were your duties as a Computer Operator?
Gwendolyn: My job was to take all the money deposited in the bank that day, like checks and deposit slips, and put them through the check sorter so the computer could scan them. Once the “job” completed, I printed off the paperwork and wrapped it around the checks. I had to get this done quickly as deposits made before 5pm that day had to be available that night just in case someone wanted their money from the Constant Banker (the name for ATMs).
I also printed off reports for other departments. And I did work for other banks nearby. But once everything was balanced, I went online and sent all the totals to Atlanta. I also pulled ACH information from Atlanta.
Technology Industry Questions
Brittany: Did you like working with computers?
Gwendolyn: I really did. It was one of the best jobs I had in my career. And I loved working behind the scenes. I got to wear the clothes I wanted and I got my own supplies. I didn’t have to worry about customers.
Brittany: How did you feel about being a black woman in IT during that time?
Gwendolyn: This is a great opportunity because other black people my age then worked in fast food or other service-type jobs. There wasn’t many black people in my department or the others. However, that changed later.
I used my job to learn more. I even started learning computer programming in college but gave up because I wasn’t patient enough to write code. When my program didn’t work I got mad.
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