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How court reporting found me

By Maellen E. Pittman-Fernandez
By the time I started court reporting school, at age 18, I had tried several occupations and avocations. I had worked in a software company, been a commercial beekeeper with my own apiary, traveled extensively in Europe and behind the Iron Curtain, and developed a love for hiking and camping as my chief recreation.
Growing up in the Phoenix area, hiking and camping were a major pastime. The beekeeping evolved through my boyfriend’s family, who were commercial beekeepers. And I had always worked at some job, from babysitting triplets and selling door-to-door greeting cards to cooking fast food at Der Wienerschnitzel and Jack in the Box. Even working in the school district administration office for the district psychologist, typing his Ph.D. thesis on “Drugs of the Era” didn’t interest me. I worked in the high school auto shop, where the ratio of males to females made for a very nice experience. But nothing clicked.
Luckily, during my final year of high school, I had a wonderful office education teacher, Mrs. Poe, who assigned each of us a research project: Pick a career you think might interest you and research the details. So, with the stars and fate watching over me, I chose to write about court reporting.
At the same time as this paper was written, fortuitously the Community College System in Phoenix announced that there was going to be a new program added to their curriculum: Computer-Aided Transcription Court Reporting.
I applied, was accepted, and graduated. I could write there, their, and they’re differently. I could read back with long vowels. My numbering system was rudimentary, but got the job done. I was ready to fly.
My goal was to work in Chicago, so I went to the library, found the Chicago yellow pages (think I tore the page out – sorry, Library) and composed a cover letter to transmit my resume. After several responses, one gentleman called one day when I was out, spoke to my mother. With that conversation, I started across country with a U-Haul behind my Datsun, drove 2200 miles to Chicago, and started working in federal bankruptcy court in downtown Chicago in December 1979.
After a couple years of grand jury, depositions, substituting in U.S. District Court, I was very fortunate to be chosen and hired by Judge Susan Getzendanner, the first female federal judge in Chicago, and worked for her until her resignation. I since have been assigned to two U.S. district judges. I have been reporting for my present judge every day for the last 21 years.
What a great profession and a wonderful career. Thank you to everyone who made this possible for me.
Maellen E. Pittman-Fernandez, RDR, CLVS, is an official in Chicago, Ill. She can be reached at