By Ida Thomas, as told to Sherry M. Adler, Freelance Writer

Ida "Miss Margaret" Thomas

Ida Thomas, known affectionately as Miss Margaret, from her 90th birthday celebration in 2014.

(Editor’s note: Ida “Miss Margaret” Thomas was born on April 15, 1924, in South Carolina. Quick math: She’s 91. A valued member of a banking operations team for Xerox’s Financial Services operation in Orlando, Fla., Miss Margaret provides a due diligence function. How she does it has changed dramatically over the years.)

It was the 1970’s and I needed a job. Back then, job seekers often went door-to-door looking for work, but that wasn’t going too well for me. I decided to phone my bank to ask about employment. They told me to go to the local branch to file an application. Two hours later, I got called for an interview. Two days after that, I received an offer for back-office verification work pending a polygraph test. I passed. And here I am today.

Technology has made a huge impact on my job, and I did the hard work to make it work. The Big 3 Changes are:

1. Paper to Paperless

Early on, I used to examine checks in physical form ─ paper checks. In those days, I had to wait to receive a phone call to come to work; the checks had to be there first.

Sometimes, I wouldn’t start until 3 p.m. and had to continue until all was done, which could be quite late. Trays and trays of checks would be there, and each one had to be inspected carefully. I thumbed through them piece by piece, day after day. I also had to hand-write comments.

All of this has changed. Today, I never see physical checks, but rather images of them on a screen. And I key in information and send reports online. Everything is quick and easy.

2. Electronic Times Two

We cranked handles and pushed return carriages; that’s how we operated calculators and typewriters back then. Electricity did not always power these devices. Anything we did was from our own muscle. Once you spend years using your own strength, you never develop a light touch – as evidenced by the clacking on my keyboard.

But that was the least of my problems when a computer arrived at my workspace. I saw it and wanted to run the other way. But I knew I had to learn it to do my job. I felt shaky at first; however, I got the help I needed to use my new tools.

Now, I have two computers on my desk. When the team brought the second one, I thought, ‘Why do I need that one too?’ I pull up information on one and write on the other. I can’t be without both of them anymore.

3. Mail to Email

At the end of each month, we used to mail statements to our customers. That amounted to tons and tons of mail. We needed help with this huge task. The local senior citizens group would send members to the office for 4-5 days to sort and stuff envelopes. We couldn’t achieve month-end closing without them.

Then came email. Push a button. And that’s it!

I can’t tell you how technology will change my job tomorrow. Whatever it is, my work is important to me, so I’ll do my best to learn it.

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