91 and on the Job: How Technology Changed the Way I Work

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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45 Comments

  1. Phillip Jenkins Sr April 15, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday Miss Margaret!! My birthday is just 3 days before yours!! Enjoy the blessing of a brand new day and I wish you many more years to celebrate!!

  2. Cyndi Rhodes April 15, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Bday Ms Margaret !!! I have enjoyed our years together as team mates!!!!

    You are a wonderful inspiration for us all!!!!!!

  3. Thelma Singh April 15, 2015 - Reply

    Happy 91st Birthday Ms. Margaret! You are a blessing to all. God bless you today and always Enjoy your special day! Hope to see you later.

  4. Annette Rice April 15, 2015 - Reply

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY may God Bless you with many more for it a Blessing just to see 91 Enjoy your day.

  5. Karen L Lieurance April 15, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday Ms Margaret 🙂

  6. Jeff Steinhoff April 15, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday!!

  7. Tove Zilliacus April 15, 2015 - Reply

    Happy birthday Ms. Margaret all the way from Finland!

  8. Miriam Melendez April 15, 2015 - Reply

    Happy 91st Birthday Ms. Margaret!!!! You are a real example of a hard worker. God bless you and give you many, many more years!

  9. Ana Quezada April 15, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday Ms Margaret!! May God Bless you today and always. You are true inspiration.

  10. Anita Weaver April 15, 2015 - Reply

    Happy 91st Birthday, Miss Margaret. It is a BLESSING to see your beautiful smile everyday. May you continue to be an inspiration to all of us!!!

  11. Nancy Swaim April 15, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday Miss Margaret! It was my privilege to work with you. You are an amazing woman!

  12. Sandra Bryant April 15, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday Ms. Margaret. I hope you have a great one!!

  13. Barbara Gardner April 15, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday Mrs. Margaret! It was such a privilege to have known you while I was in Orlando! It’s great to see you are still doing well! You are such an inspiration to everyone who ever had the pleasure of meeting you! I will look forward to seeing your picture again next year!

  14. John Pontes April 16, 2015 - Reply

    Congratulations Miss Margareth, you are an Inspiration.

  15. Subbaraju AS April 16, 2015 - Reply

    Wish u a Many More Happy Returns Of The Day Ms. Margaret!!!!

  16. Frank Pinto April 16, 2015 - Reply

    Margaret,

    Congratulations and Best Wishes!!

  17. Valerie thomas April 16, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday to my wonderful grandmother! We love you Mama!

  18. Jacquie Perno April 16, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday Ms. Margaret! I am inspired and in awe of your spirit and determination, bless your heart.

  19. Dion Callahan April 16, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday Ms. Margaret! Nice to see that you are still working and (hopefully) enjoying what you are doing. You are an inspiration to us all.

  20. AYUSH PODDAR April 16, 2015 - Reply

    Happy birthday Ms. Margaret ! Its great to see you still working at this age. Too inspiring mam ! May you live double more of what you have lived till date and come across more of technology revolution ! My best wishes 🙂

  21. James April 16, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday! I respect you

  22. Aswathi April 18, 2015 - Reply

    It was a good motivation Miss.Margaret.Though it was just few sentences,its speaks about a revolution and your enthusiasm to learn new things.Hats off to you…

  23. Theresa Grevell April 19, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday Miss Margaret! You are a real inspiration! Wishing you much happiness in all that you do.

  24. Brenda April 19, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday Ms. Margaret…You are an AMAZING woman…GOD Bless you!!!

  25. Norka Rengel April 19, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday, Margaret!! Hope you had fun with your beautiful family and friends! You are an amazing woman! God Bless!!!

  26. Jesus Narro April 19, 2015 - Reply

    Miss Margaret, congratulation, I very glad to know you because I think you are a Súper Woman, a Hero.

  27. Al Paz April 19, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday and Congratulations Miss Margaret! You are truly an inspiration. Technology might have the changed the way you work but not your work ethic.

  28. Melissa Bennett April 20, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday Miss Margaret!

  29. Betsy Donahue April 20, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday! You are a true inspiration. I want to be just like you when I grow up!!!

  30. Darren April 20, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday Miss Margaret! I especially like your desk plaque, “It is nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”

  31. Anna Main April 20, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday Miss Margaret! You are a true inspiration to all of us! I hope I look as great as you do at 90 yrs old!

  32. Cathy April 20, 2015 - Reply

    I am so impressed, Miss Margaret! You are quite the role model!

  33. Denise April 20, 2015 - Reply

    Wishing you a bright and cheery birthday! Thank you for your contiued inspiration to us all.

  34. Ann April 20, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday from Webster Miss Margaret. You are a great inspiration.

  35. Jesse Pon April 20, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday! Stay happy and healthy.

  36. Mary April 20, 2015 - Reply

    From NJ — Happy Birthday Miss Margaret!!! Wishing you the blessings of many more happy, healthy years!

  37. Diane Steszewski April 21, 2015 - Reply

    Hapy Birthday and congratulations on all of your accomplishments!

  38. sherrie chapman April 21, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Belated Birthday… Many Blessings to you… Keep doing what you’re doing..
    Sherrie

  39. Velia Tyc April 21, 2015 - Reply

    Miss Margaret, Happy Belated Birthday. As you said it “so I’ll do my best to learn it” — this is the right attitude to have in life. You are constantly learning something new. This is why you look great at 91 years old. You are a great role model. God Bless you.

  40. Ileana April 21, 2015 - Reply

    Definetely your secret is your good attitude.
    Congratulations Miss Margaret !!

  41. Steve Phillips April 21, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday Miss Margaret!

  42. John D April 22, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Belated Birthday Miss Margaret! You are an inspiration to all!

  43. Rita Hunter-Williams@xerox.com April 22, 2015 - Reply

    What a great story! Happy Birthday Ms. Margaret!!

  44. Juanita Nolan April 22, 2015 - Reply

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

  45. Juanita Nolan April 22, 2015 - Reply

    Happy Birthday! You are an inspiration!

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