Techies Make Screen Debut in National Dot-Com Ads

FRAMINGHAM (04/18/2000) - Life is full of surprises. One day, you're operating your company's network or developing its Web site. Next thing you know, you're talking about your geeky career before millions of Americans on national TV.

Career resource Inc. in Edina, Minnesota, picked six real-life information technology professionals to appear in its national advertising campaign - for television, print, online and radio - that launched nationally April 10.

Two of the lucky chosen, Kate Jelinek, vice president of MIS at New York-based Global Strategies Group, and Daniel Samber, a software engineer at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, told Computerworld's Julekha Dash about their time in the limelight.

Q: How were you selected to be in the commercials?

JELINEK: I simply hit Reply [to the e-mail] and attached a digital photo from my [company's] Web site. I made it to the second round. They threw a couple of questions at me on what it's like to be a woman in the industry. It's a topic dear to my heart, so I enjoy talking about it. It happened without my even thinking about it. Next thing I knew, I was chosen [for] the advertisement.

Q: What was it like shooting the commercial?

SAMBER: I went down for a screen test - someplace in the West 20s in Manhattan - and I open the door, and I figured I'd see a lot of geeks. And there are dozens of beautiful women, and even the men were gorgeous - leather pants, exposed navels, a woman in the corner stripped to her bra. But they were shooting two other commercials - one for Lipton tea and one for Bell Atlantic, I think. But eventually I found the door for the commercial. So I wait in line and tried flirting with some of the women there. I was on my way to Linux Expo. None of the models had heard of Linux.

Q: How have your friends and co-workers reacted to the ads?

JELINEK: People come up to me and say, "I saw you three times this weekend."

Apparently, it's been played on a lot of prime-time shows. My family is a little blown away.

SAMBER: I have friends who try to be actors full time and know what it's really like. Now they're all jealous of me. They're handing me head shots, [saying], "See what you can do." They think that I have an in. No, I answered an e-mail.

But who knows? Maybe I'll be discovered - unlikely.

Q: What do you think of the way techies are currently represented in the media?

JELINEK: Being a woman in the industry, I don't know any woman who does what I do. It's good that they had at least one woman in the commercial.

SAMBER: In 1990, when I was sending e-mail, I was a geek, and now I'm MTV-cool.

[IT people] aren't going to be featured making out with Sandra Bullock in a movie, but [their image] has been getting better over the years.

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