New Professional Profile: Sara Galante

Sara Galante

By Ashley Stahl

Sara Galante attended the Long Island Business Institute.  She reports freelance and per diem court proceedings in New York and has been working for a little under two years.  She talks to us about what life was like in school and her transition to professional reporting.

JCR | Tell me a little bit about yourself and what brought you to the field of court reporting.

SG | I’ve been officially working for a little under two years. I’m a fur-mama to four pups and live in New York, specifically Long Island.  My father is actually a court reporter, and he’s the one I have to thank for introducing me to this wonderful career!  He began school when I was a kid, and I remember playing with his old machine and paper and was always intrigued.  I’ve always liked English, and I’ve always been a fly-on-the-wall kind of girl, so this career is perfect for me. 

JCR | What was your practice routine like as a student?

SG | When I was still working 40-hour weeks, I would practice before work about an hour and then another one to two hours when I got home.  I used my time wisely at work by bringing my notes in and transcribing whenever I had the opportunity.  Lots of long nights and not many social events, but it was all worth it!

JCR | What was the hardest part of transitioning from school to the real world?

SG | This is a tough question!  I guess for me the hardest part was making myself seem like a seasoned professional in the very beginning.  I never wanted anyone to think I was new or lacked experience.  I’ve always had a “fake it till you make it” motto, and this was no different.

JCR | How did you feel before and after your first assignment as a court reporter?

SG | Before, I was VERY nervous.  I wrote down the oath and other notes on sticky notes and made sure I had easy access to them throughout the first deposition.  When the attorneys asked me to read back, I thought I was going to be sick.  After I nailed the first three requests for read back, my confidence soared, and I left that job on cloud nine!  It’s been (mostly) smooth sailing since then!

JCR | What do you love about your career?

SG | The flexibility and the opportunity to learn something new every day!  I get bored easily, but there’s no time for that with this line of work. 

JCR | Do you have any advice for students?

SG | Work hard.  Practice!  Don’t hesitate to ask for help.  Know that you can do this, and that it will be 100 percent worth it.  I promise.

JCR | Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

SG | Aside from hanging out with my four pups, I love to travel, hike, read, and watch movies.

10 new CSRs

Downey Adult School congratulates 10 students who passed their California State Exam (CSR) in July:

Kristen McElderry

Dottie Simpson

Rachel Brown

Marissa Holt

Samantha Maciel

Ashley Chislock

Mirbella Hernandez

Katelyn Chang

Nicole Hallman

Ai Arias

Practice, practice, practice

Doug Zweizig

This post from Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR, of Baltimore, Md., was originally posted in the Facebook group “Encouraging Court Reporting Students.”  He was the Realtime Contest champion at the recent 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo.

Hey, all. I’ll admit to being somewhat lazy since getting back from the NCRA Convention in Denver. I’ve still been practicing every day, but not as hard as I was up until about a week ago.

I’ve been a reporter for 30 years now (that’s tough to say), and I’d never really practiced all that much outside of school. Maybe the month before a contest, I’d do 10-12 hours of practice.

In school, however, we had mandatory steno homework every night, weekend, holiday, semester break. It made no difference, you had to practice no matter what, or you could leave.

About six months ago I had some inspiration which came from several different people (most positive, one negative). No matter how good I think I am, how many certs I hold, contests won or placed highly in, I still should be honing my skill, staying sharp. And, frankly, I got somewhat complacent and figured, well, I have a high skill level, so why should I? Yeah, my mother would’ve slapped me if I said that out loud in her presence.

Anyway, I decided that I was going to start to practice every single day, and it didn’t matter if I was in trial or super busy. It just so happens that I was in trial, several of them (one pretty long one), but I still practiced before or after court and on the weekends too. I came pretty close to breaking my ankle during this time (it ended up being a VERY bad sprain), but I still practiced even when I had to get around on crutches while wearing an Aircast. 

And after maybe a month, I started to notice a difference in court. Keep in mind that I’ve always been fast. I’m probably faster than the great majority of reporters, frankly. But there’s just something about practicing sustained dictation that really helped me. When I started to realize that, I knew I had to keep at it.

There’s so much more to being a reporter than just speed, but you’ve got to have that as a foundation or the rest just won’t matter.

And FYI, I was blown away by some of the practice. I mean blown away. I keep a practice log, an extremely detailed one, and I can tell you there’s some very ungentlemanly language in there beside some of the entries. But keeping the log is so important to me. I was able to see that a specific take absolutely blew me away a month ago. Two weeks later, it was a little better. Three weeks later, I nailed it!

So, in my opinion, that’s a good way of holding yourself accountable and keeping track of your progress.

I have to proofread a short hearing, and then I am going to be practicing before leaving the office.

Today will be Day 179, consecutive, of practice for me!  I’m going to keep up that streak for as long as I possibly can😇😇.

New Professional Profile: Tiffany Nicole Headley

Tiffany Nicole Headley

Tiffany Nicole Headley is a CART provider/court reporter in Deatsville, Ala. She and her husband have three sons. Evan, the oldest, is living in Mobile, Ala., attending the University of South Alabama. Ethan is almost 16, and Elijah is 11. She also has five pets: three dogs, a cat, and a horse.  She graduated from Prince Institute in Montgomery, Ala., in December of 2012.

JCR | What year did you start doing CART?

TH | August of 2012 while still in school.

JCR | What year did you obtain your Alabama CCR?

TH | I believe it was October of 2016.

JCR | When did you begin freelancing?

TH | I’ve always freelanced.  In CART it is considered freelancing as well.  We are independent contractors just like court reporters, but I started freelance reporting in November of 2016.

JCR | How did you get introduced to court reporting and what made you want to become one? 

TH | I was first introduced to court reporting after I graduated high school in 1998.  My younger sister’s best friend was Sarah Prince’s granddaughter, and she told me about the school because I had mentioned a time or two that I was thinking about going into the legal field, but I was unsure for what. I checked into it, and it seemed like the perfect fit for my future plans career-wise and family-wise, but the timing wasn’t right since my husband and I were getting married in January of 1999.  I did, however, start in 2001 for the first time, but I had to leave in 2003 due to pregnancy and the stress it was putting on me.

After a few years, I still wanted to pursue it, and I enrolled after our family was complete.  So I went back at 28 years old with a family of five with three kids who all were involved in some sport or activity at some point throughout my schooling.  I attended online for the first year, and throughout the program, I did online and in-house classes.

JCR | You’ve done CART and transitioned into freelance reporting. Has that been a difficult transition? Do you have any advice for someone else looking to do the same?

TH |
It was very difficult at first for several reasons. The travel, multiple speakers, random places that you have to take depos, and getting transcripts done was a huge change for me.  As a full-time CART Provider, I worked from home the majority of the time, and I only traveled a few times a year.  

As far as adjusting to multiple speakers, CART is more like doing a Lit take than a Q&A. It’s a lot easier to get into a rhythm with CART to me.  Basically, you have one professor and the occasional student asking a question.  Most of you know, that’s very different in the court reporting field. You can have multiple voices, so it’s keeping up with who said what, constant back and forth, along with interruptions and/or everyone talking over each other, etc.

I will say, though, that I believe that transcripts were the biggest adjustment for me.  When you do CART, you don’t always have to turn a transcript in. If you do, you simply have to do a quick spellcheck, scanstop, and look over it to make sure you paragraphed properly and used the right punctuation.  It is more pressure because you are writing realtime all the time. There is someone on the other end depending on you for their education.  You really need to be on it.  Those people need you producing clear and concise captions at that very moment.  There is not much room for error.  The student/consumer may or may not be reading it later. 

When producing transcripts for depositions and court, it is very different and so much more involved.  You have to go back over your work with a fine-toothed comb with audio backup, if you use it.  The scoping, then proofreading, and making sure that the record is 100 percent accurate. You are listening to the same material over and over again.  Needless to say, that was very exhausting at first.

As far as advice I have for someone transitioning:  Make sure you keep a lot of court reporter mentors and friends in your circle. I promise they are valuable resources when making that change. In all honesty, if it was not for my court reporting mentors and friends, I would’ve probably given up on this a long time ago. It is just such a different realm for me. You definitely have to stay super focused on the task at hand and manage your time wisely so your work is turned in in a timely manner so the transcripts are returned to the client on time. Remember they have a deadline too, and they need their records to review before going further with a case.

JCR | What’s your must-have in your bag?

TH | For court reporting it is my water, long extension cord, exhibit stickers, and pens.

For CART it is an extension cord and multiple connection cables, i.e. HDMI cord, high-speed USB plug, a converter plug for projectors that may still be old school and require those bulky plugs with the thumb screw, and my handy-dandy USB Type-C Multi-Adapter.  At any given time, you could have several things plugged in at one time, and newer computers don’t always have multiple USB ports.

JCR | Tell me the best piece of advice you’ve received from another court reporter that you’d love to pass along.

TH | There’s been so many things that have been helpful. I have a great circle, but there are two big things I’ve learned. First of all, do not be afraid to clarify what someone is saying if you don’t understand them and/or stopping the attorneys from talking over one another during proceedings.  Second, never become too reliant on your audio backup. Always have a fail-safe because electronics fail, so make sure you have a backup for your backup.

‘I know you’re exhausted, but you can do this’

Elise Townes, RPR

Elise Townes, RPR, a freelancer from Rockford, Mich., posted the following in the Facebook group “Encouraging Court Reporting Students.”

Why do you love court reporting? Share your reasons with us at jcrfeedback@ncra.org and post with #whyilovecourtreporting.

Tonight was a pretty big night for me. I just submitted my very first transcript to the attorneys! This has all been about seven years in the making. I’m a single mother, and this whole process has not been easy!

I felt like it took me forever to get out of school. My school (The College of Court Reporting) was fantastic! I just had to work while I was in school and had two young children, so it took me a bit longer. 

After that, it took me a few more years to become certified. It was tough finding time and energy to practice, especially not being in school. I finally decided to quit my work and focus solely on practicing for the last leg of the RPR, and it worked. I was finally certified in December of last year and then earned my CSR certification right after.

I was a teen mom (twice). I have had to struggle immensely for this, and it’s all been to give my kids the life they deserve. They’re the reason for all of it. A few months ago, I accepted a job as an official reporter in Colorado and made the huge move from Michigan.

I’ve only been working for a month, but it feels so amazing to be able to say I finally made it and to tell all of you that YOU CAN DO THIS. Don’t give up!!! I know you’re exhausted. I know you’re feeling burnt out. I know it feels like it’s taking forever. Persevere and power through because you’ve got this, and it’s worth it!!

Why I love court reporting: Aimee Edwards-Altadonna

Aimee Edwards-Altadonna is a freelance reporter in California and a CCRA board member. She recently posted this in the Facebook group “Encouraging Court Reporting Students.”

Students, I want to talk to you about how quickly your life can flip into an amazing place once you are certified and out there busting your butt as a court reporter. There is so much work out there, and it’s just crazy. I could work every single day, multiple jobs a day if I chose to. Instead I choose to work about 8-10 jobs a month and am comfortably making six figures by my fourth year reporting in California’s Bay Area and Central Valley. It’s a true story, and I promise you it’s there for the taking if you work hard.

I am about 4 1/2 years into working now, and in that short period of time, my family’s lifestyle has been able to change dramatically for the better. We went from living paycheck to paycheck as a family of four as I struggled through the end game of certification, finally passing all three legs of the Califonia CSR after winning my appeal on the skills portion and overcoming a pretty horrific ankle injury on the night I qualified for the CSR. We were so strapped, my dad had to help sign for the loan for the $2,000 upgrade to professional software. He even paid for my $1,000 local CSR prep class since I could no longer travel for school with my busted ankle — we were financially spent and had nothing else to give to school — but I didn’t give up. Thanks, Dad. I tell you this to give you perspective. We have been the family living on $26 for over a week until the next check came in and just hoping nobody got sick or broken or any other unforeseen event that can happen with a young family with no safety net.

And yet today I am writing you from the Airbnb in Venice on leg two of an epic 25-day trip to Italy! Worry-free because I just worked extra hard last month and billed out twice as much, so I was set to not work this month. We did a long layover in London and are going all over Italy and Sicily and Cagliari for Intersteno so I’m writing off a portion of this awesome adventure.

This career allowed us to plan and pay for this amazing trip. My kids had never been on a plane, let alone a plane to Europe, and my husband and I have waited 21 years to take this trip. At 9 and 12 they will have such a broad world view, and it will change them at their core for the better for having been explorers in another country. This is a profession that can give you the freedom you’ve dreamed of and can take you places you can’t imagine and didn’t even know you wanted.

When you’re feeling stressed or wondering how long it will take before it’s your turn, just remember that the other side is a magical place of freedom and release and all the amazing things. Even on the ickiest day, this is still the best job ever, and we can’t wait to help you get to the other side. On the dark days, I hope this message will inspire you to keep going. I promise the other side is so worth all of the struggle.

Keep going. Just keep going!

New Professional Spotlight: Caitlin Albrecht

Caitlin Albrecht

By Jan Ballman, FAPR, RPR, CMRS

Caitlin Albrecht is a freelancer from Plymouth, Minn., who graduated from Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn.

JCR | What was the hardest part of transitioning from school to the real world?

CA | For me, it was the realization that my writing was still my writing.  It may sound silly, but whenever I thought about that far-off day when I passed my last test and sailed out of school on cloud nine, I believed that a magic switch would flip, and I would suddenly have stellar writing.  No longer would my hands freeze up and my heart start pounding its way out of my chest.  From now on, writing would be a breeze as I focused on the finer things of life, like what steno machine I would select or what I would do with all the extra cash now that I was working.  I can smile and shake my head now at my naïveté, but at the time, the shock of realizing I had to now take professional jobs and still deal with that paralyzing stress threw me into a tailspin. 

JCR | What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started out?

CA | That it’s OK to not be perfect.  While I still strive for perfection in my writing and transcription, I don’t beat myself up anymore about not achieving the unattainable standard I set for myself when I first began working.  Providing realtime for clients has been a scary step for me, but also one of the biggest helps.  I’m forced to admit that I don’t write everything perfectly, but it also boosts my desire to get every word down accurately the first time around.  Ironically, throwing myself out there and showcasing my imperfection has skyrocketed my confidence and made me a better writer in the long run.

JCR | What is your next goal?  What is a long-term goal?

CA | My current goal is to obtain my RPR.  I completed the written test and first two legs while in school and have been working at that last Q & A leg ever since.  I really struggle some days when I think about tackling that last leg, but my mentors and fellow reporters have been hugely encouraging and supportive.  I know I belong in this profession; once I get my RPR, everyone else will know it, too.  In the long term, I want to replace those letters with the RMR certification, and eventually become a Registered  Diplomate Reporter.

JCR | Who is your mentor?

CA | I have been blessed with a number of incredible mentors, but the most influential have been Jan Ballman, Mary Mitchell, and Merilee Johnson.  Jan was my mentor in school and really got me thinking about the reporter I wanted to be once I graduated.  Mary walked me through my first years as a brand-new reporter and showed me how a true professional tackled the difficulties of reporting life (while still looking cool as a cucumber … I’m still working on that part).  Finally, Merilee has been the catalyst for my success in providing realtime.  Without her encouragement and selfless investment in my training, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today in the profession.  These women have inspired me with their innovation, excellence, and determination, and I couldn’t be more grateful for them.

JCR | Do you have any advice for reporting students?

CA | Be kind to yourself and keep at it.  I remember sitting in school and taking test after test, hopeful that maybe this time I’d write well enough to move on.  It was the easiest thing to start an internal dialogue in my head about how I should have had a better brief for that four-stroker, or how everyone else in the class seemed to be doing just fine while my shoulders slumped in defeat.  Court reporting school is tough!  In the end, though, it really comes down to staying positive, outwardly and inwardly, and sitting down day after day in front of your steno machine and choosing to fight for every word.  It really is a battle some days, but the outcome is worth it.

JCR | What do you like to do when you’re not reporting?

CA | I have been a student in Kung Fu San Soo, a self-defense martial art, for over a decade, and there’s nothing like getting on the mat to shake (or punch) out the stress of the day.  I also volunteer with my church’s youth group and enjoy doing everything from having honest life discussions with the teens to attending the high school sporting events, concerts, and theater performances they’re involved in.  When I’m not doing either of those things, I enjoy diving into a good Bible study or learning how to play new board games with my boyfriend, Matt.

Convention winner Garcia excited about future

Alexandria Faith Garcia

We recently held a contest to give a free 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo registration to a new member who joined between May 17 and June 30. Alexandria Faith Garcia was the winner. She told the JCR Weekly about her journey to court reporting.

I have an aunt who is an official court reporter in Harris County, Texas, and that is how I found out about the court reporting industry. I chose to do court reporting because I saw how many different paths you could take as a reporter, such as being a freelance reporter, a captioner, or having an official position in court. I liked the idea of having different options so that I could see which one fit me best. When I found out that you could caption at events such as sporting events and concerts, that is what intrigued me. I hope to caption for those kinds of events sometime in the future.

My family is what kept me motivated during school and practice time. Growing up less fortunate than others really pushed me to finish school so that I, along with my mother and sister, could have a better life for not only ourselves but for our future families as well. They were a constant support throughout school. Being able to go through the experience of theory and speedbuilding was tough at times, but it has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done for myself and for them as well. Now it has even inspired my sister to push through court reporting school, and I cannot wait for her to become a fellow reporter.

While in school, I had the opportunity to attend Texas Court Reporters Association and NCRA conventions. Those were a lot of fun. I loved learning more about this profession that I did not know about, such as the different contests that I could participate in once I became qualified. The continuing education in this field is never ending.

My advice for future court reporters is to keep pushing through school no matter how hard it gets. Keep going because there’s a whole world of things to do and places to go. Do the homework even if it’s tiring and boring. Make time to practice outside of school. It will only make you write faster and help you memorize briefs and phrases. Transcribe as many tests as you can because that will only make you better. There were times when I felt I couldn’t put my fingers in a position to press the right keys or when I thought I wouldn’t be able to reach a certain speed, but now I look back and see how silly it was to think I wasn’t able to do those things because I am doing them now. During the moments I didn’t feel motivated, I pushed through and made myself practice, and I must say that the compensation has been rewarding.

I recently started my career in May of 2019, and I can see the change and impact it has made in my life. I’m currently a deputy court reporter in juvenile court. Everything is fresh for me, and I’m learning a lot as I go along, and, luckily, I have amazing people I can turn to when I need help. Overall, this journey from the start of school until now has been such a big blessing for myself and my family. I very much look forward to the future I have in court reporting.

Switching schools, switching careers

Zeke Alicea

Nineteen-year-old Zeke Alicea had a plan for his future that included a four-year degree. He was interested in the legal field, but nothing really clicked until a criminology professor discussed the role of court reporters. Alicea decided to turn in his $50,000/year tuition for a court reporting degree at community college.

UTS | You started your education at Marquette University, in Milwaukee, Wis.,  and then transferred to MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill. Why did you make the switch?

ZA | At Marquette, I was majoring in Clinical Laboratory Science. However, as I went through my first semester, I started to lose interest and look into other majors. I especially had a great interest in criminology. I was thinking I could be a lawyer, detective, forensic scientist, or even a criminologist. One day during one of my criminology lectures, my professor was telling us all the positions in the courtroom. One of them was obviously the court reporter. She told my class how it’s a profitable career and shared some of the skills required for being a court reporter. That was the first time I had ever heard of court reporting, and it immediately piqued my interest. I also noticed that people who are gamers or musicians have a tendency to do well in court reporting school.

Another reason was that I wanted to be back home with my family. Being at Marquette made me miss a lot of my close friends and family, and I like the control that I feel I have at home rather than living in a dorm. I also love being in Chicago since it’s an environment I’ve lived in all my life. Lastly, I made the switch because of the tuition at Marquette. The tuition was around $50,000. Of course, scholarships reduced the cost, but the tuition was still very high. The tuition at MacCormac is comparable to the tuition of a community college in Chicago. It’s very inexpensive at MacCormac, and now I don’t need to worry about finances while in school. 

UTS | Have you met any court reporters or captioners? What have you learned from them?

ZA | I’ve met quite a handful ever since I started school at MacCormac. The nice thing about court reporting is that it’s extremely easy to make connections since there are so few of us. I’ve met higher speed students, working court reporters, and even court reporters who have their own firms. From all the court reporters I have met, I firmly believe that just about anyone can pursue a career in court reporting as long as you have a strong determination. 

UTS |What has surprised you most about learning steno?

ZA | I think it’s really interesting that there are so many different theories for steno. Before I enrolled at MacCormac, I thought that every court reporter wrote shorthand the same way. I quickly learned that was not the case. I know that a lot of older theories would have you stroke out words phonetically, but a lot of the newer theories teach many neat briefs for those multisyllabic words. Another thing I like about steno is sharing my briefs and phrases with higher speed students who have learned a different theory. Occasionally, they will actually like my suggestions and incorporate those briefs in their dictionary. Lastly, I love how individualized it is when it comes to learning steno. One thing I noticed is not everybody strokes things the same way. One of my friends in class uses the “*F” for words that have a “V” in them while I use “-FB.” Furthermore, once you start becoming more settled with your theory, you can even start making up your own briefs and phrases. 

UTS | What is the best advice you’ve been given so far?

ZA | The best advice I have been given is to start building your dictionary as soon as you can. Something about knowing that everything you stroke is going to translate on your real-time software really makes me feel reassured. There are also times when I’ll have a test, and just about everything translates. It’s a really exciting feeling, and it really builds up your confidence in your writing. Another great piece of advice I heard is to look at the person who is speaking when reporting. This might just be more of a personal preference, but I feel more focused when I’m watching the person who’s speaking. 

UTS | If you were to go to a high school career fair to recruit students, what would you say to them about a career in court reporting and captioning? 

ZA | I would tell them that it’s in high demand and that there’s practically 100 percent job availability when you graduate. I would tell them you only need a two-year degree to be a court reporter and that there’s a high earning potential. Their age is the perfect time to get into court reporting since our minds are still developing, so we’re able to absorb information easily. (That will be very handy when learning the ridiculous amounts of phrases and briefs.) I would tell them that having a background in music or video games can help, and even if you’re not into either of those, you can still do well in this field. And lastly, I would tell them how much a fun career in court reporting is. Every day when I’m court reporting, I’m always learning something new, and I always get to hear interesting court stories.

UTS | What is your dream job? Where do you see yourself in five  years?

ZA | My dream job would be, well, a court reporter! I definitely would like to have the opportunity as a court reporter to provide captions for a Cubs game! In five years, I will be with a court reporting firm and downtown (I’m not that into the whole freelance reporting gig), and I would also like to be participating in speed competitions at that time. I would also want to be known as a trustworthy and distinguished court reporter who is very passionate about his job.

MacCormac College’s court reporting program was recently featured on Chicago Tonight, a local PBS program. Watch the news story and a television interview with Alicea here.

Working from home while parenting

Holly Smith with her sons

The benefits of working from home for some people are priceless. For example, a work-at-home situation can offer flexibility, a more casual surrounding, and more time with the family. But for work-at-home professionals with small children, the situation often means creating a balanced environment where both work and family receive the needed attention.

In a recent JCR Weekly question of the week, readers who work from home and have small children were asked to share insights into how they manage to create a successful balance between the two. The answers ranged from hiring child care or sending a child to camp, to cutting back on work, relying on friends and family for help, and employing the game Fortnite or turning on YouTube.

Holly Smith, an online student at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga., has two sons, ages 2 and 6 years old. To help manage her studies and parenting duties, Smith said she typically works on her assignments or other tasks involving school while the boys are preoccupied. “My 6-year-old loves video games, and my 2-year-old is usually playing with trains and cars or coloring,” she said.

“It’s important to me that my kids don’t feel ignored. They will only be little once. Typically, I will pull my machine out and practice in small 15- to 30-minute increments so that I don’t get overwhelmed. That’s usually the amount of time that my kids will stay preoccupied until they need or want something,” she said. “If they do happen to interrupt me during class time, I end up just putting my machine to the side and tending to them or playing with them until I can get back to my machine. It’s definitely a juggling act, and when my husband is home, he tries to help and distract as much as possible. But if you want it bad enough — and I do — you have to make it work. My boys, as well as my husband, are my reason to push through. So it makes it all worth it and keeps my motivation alive,” she added.

Rowan Knight working in the home office his mother made him out of a cardboard box complete with an open source steno machine, sound mixer, TV remote, and calculator.

Mirabai Knight, RDR, CRC, CRR, a captioner from New York, N.Y., often works from home and has a son Rowan, who will be 3 years old in August. While she said that sometimes he “works” alongside her when she has an at-home assignment or when she is practicing on her machine, she has the help of her wife when it comes to keeping the little one busy.

“My wife stays home and watches our son while I caption. I usually work in the living room, so he’s often in the room with me, but fortunately my wife is able to keep him from interfering with my equipment, though he’s actually getting much better about respecting that himself these days,” Knight said.

Smith said her 6-year-old also often helps her when she is practicing by working on his reading. “I have had him read me some Dr. Seuss books previously. It’s a challenge with all of the silly words that Dr. Seuss uses. My son is also getting so good at reading that it’s difficult to keep up with him, so it’s a challenge. A part of our homework assignment is reading steno notes to be able to understand them just as well as we understand English words. So I will treat those steno notes like little stories and practice reading them to my boys,” she added.

Machines fascinate kids

Mirabai Knight and her son, Rowan

“He loves playing with all my steno machines,” Knight said of her son. “He also knows how to get into ‘insert mode’ from ‘command mode’ in Vim, the text editor I use for much of my captioning, which makes me so proud! He always says, ‘I need to do some steno machine and computer work now! Let me work!’ And he knows where the R key is! I’m going to teach him steno as early as I possibly can.”

Likewise for Smith’s boys, said their mother, who noted that they are both also fascinated with her machine. “Sometimes I have to put my machine in a place in our apartment that they can’t get to just to keep them off of it, especially my 2-year-old. He knows how to turn it on and off. My 6-year-old has been interested in learning where the letters are and trying to write,” she said,

A flexible career that helps with parenting

Both Smith and Knight agree that a career in court reporting or captioning absolutely helps with parenting duties. For one, it allows parents the opportunity to spend more time at home with their children.

“That is one of the reasons I started looking into this career path,” Smith said. “I have been so indecisive with a career path that will allow me to be the mom I want to be to my boys, as well as allow the income potential that court reporting and captioning offers. I often feel like I won’t be good enough to make it. So the income and flexibility potential help push me to get back onto my machine when I’ve had a rough practice day and feel frustrated,” she said.

“It will open so many doors for my family that we wouldn’t be able to attain otherwise. My husband works so hard to provide for us, but while he makes good money, his job would never present the opportunities that court reporting can.”

Smith added that any money she can make once she enters the workforce will help with the family savings, as well as allow her husband to be home more often to spend time with the family. “We want to be able to take vacations together more often. We want to be able to retire at a reasonable age so that we can be the grandparents we want to be to our future grandchildren. I believe that this career choice is going to create a much better life for our family,” she said.

“Being able to work fewer hours with a fairly high hourly rate helps a lot. I’m the sole breadwinner for my family, so that let’s me be home with my son much more than if I’d had to work 40 hours a week,” Knight said. “Also I was able to take several months off and live on savings when he was born, which wouldn’t necessarily have been possible in a non-freelance job. And I can do some of my work from home. Being able to watch my kid eat breakfast while I remote caption international conferences has been such a joy,” she added.

Advice for other work-at-home parents

“It’s a battle in itself just choosing to open up your machine and spend time practicing, especially if you’re trying to be a full-time mom, keep your household chores up to date, spend time with your kids, and give your husband the attention he needs,” Smith said. “But you have to keep your eye on the prize. You have to focus on why you chose this field in the first place.

“Remember the possibilities that will open up to you. Those little people that are pulling on your arms and legs, interrupting your practicing and making you feel like you can’t do it, those are the same people that you have to do this for. Take your time. Close your machine and take a break when you’re feeling frustrated. Play with your kids for a little bit instead. Choose your battles, but don’t give up.”

And the best piece of advice Knight offers others: “Teach them steno!”