Hit by a Truck, Struck by Luck

Elaine Jefferson, a midcareer technologist from N.J., could have watched her career and life ended by two severe highway accidents, but her positive attitude held out and her luck changed lanes.


“A funny thing happened on the way to my life,” says TechnologyLadder member Elaine Jefferson. “I was crossing the street three days before Christmas (2009) and got hit by a truck.”

The 45-year technology veteran had been on her way to her contract job with the state of New Jersey, where she’d been working for 10 months; her injuries sidelined her physically and financially. Specifically, the Bound Brook, N.J., resident found herself without medical benefits because of her status as an independent contractor. “I never realized the risk at all,” Elaine said. “It’s a funny thing — these contract jobs can be real detrimental if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Elaine’s woes didn’t end there. In February, she was driving in heavy rain on U.S. Route 287 near Morristown, N.J. — en route to an MRI exam related to her accident — when a young woman skidded into the median ahead of Elaine’s SUV. “The impact shoved the engine into the firewall and right into my knees: Oh, what a life!”

The next few months were an ordeal, Elaine said. “With no money coming in, I was spending all my retirement funds to get better and get a job.”

She’d already started looking for work before her first accident, but “there was no activity in the marketplace at all. I had some interviews, but they weren’t well suited to me.” Things started to turn around in late spring, the IT vet said. “I just love Ladders … My phone wouldn’t stop ringing when the markets started breaking in May.”

Recruiters were taking notice of her expertise in technical documentation, which she says she began to hone as one of a small group of female tech pros of her generation. “I started as a programmer and systems analyst, then specialized as a technical writer. Women in IT get a different kind of deal – in the workplace, we get asked to do a lot of documentation. I’ve been in this game since the ‘60s. Lo and behold, you learn to do it really, really well!”

She found a “match made in heaven” when she got a call from COMSYS, an IT staffing firm, about an opportunity as a knowledge-base developer with Citigroup Inc. in Warren, N.J., just 15 minutes from her home.

Elaine started the job soon after. She said her interviewers were impressed with the depth of her experience, including her knowledge of financial software. “I’ve worked in a lot of financial applications,” she says. “Most IT projects have a financial component; every function has a tie-back into a spreadsheet someplace along the line.”