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GirlGeek of the Week
May 2000

Sherry Monarko

Sherry Monarko

I grew up in a tiny town outside of Pittsburgh, PA (accent on the PITTS) where computers were regarded as "those things that are taking all of our jobs away." My main interest has always been art, but as soon as I learned I wasn't going to make a dime as a painter, I decided to go to college for graphic design. There weren't any computer graphics classes at the time, but I could smell how important this was going to be for me. Or maybe it was just the spilled coffee in the Mac lab that I lived in? Anyway, I made up my own classes (which you could do at my college), and taught myself Freehand, Quark, Illustrator, and PageMaker--oh, and something called TypeStyler, which nobody uses anymore.

When I got my first job as a graphic designer, we lacked an IS department--and boy, did we need one! Frustrated with stuff that didn't work, I taught myself (mainly by trial-and error) how to troubleshoot the Macs, the PCs, the network, the phones, the printers, the modem, and everything else that wasn't making life "easier". Then I heard about something magical called "the Internet" from a client. He was one of those insanely smart people who only sleeps three hours a night. When I started looking at all those Netscape-grey backgrounds and purple-on-brown Websites, I thought "boy, these guys need me!" and set out to teach myself HTML as well.

Eventually, I escaped Pittsburgh and moved to San Francisco in a van I painted to look like the Mystery Machine. I hooked up with a magazine then called boot, which I described as "a mag for boys who like their computers more than their girls." Since then, the editors' enthusiasm has been infectious, and things have turned out quite surprisingly...

When did you first discover your love and/or obsession with computers and technology?

Back in high school--was it 1987?--yes that's it--we all took a class in what was called Statistics & Computing. It was technically part of the math division, but I wasn't that interested in the math. Here I learned to write in BASIC on a barely-working TI, and when I saw the interactive creative possibilities, got immediately sucked in. I wrote several games, all of which were silly and based on random--hangman, the lottery, poker, and a space adventure where you had to shoot at little green men before they annihilated your ship. The teacher was so impressed, he never asked me to work on statistics problems again. I lost most of them to the metal tape they were saved to, though. Never could find the beginning of the programs again!

How do you earn a living?

Currently, I earn a living as the Associate Art Director/Digital Media Designer of Maximum PC--the most hardcore computer mag on the planet. In this position I get to communicate the editors' PC obsession to a readership of 300,000, and get to touch and play with all the hardware that comes in. I am regarded the staff's photo, illustration, and publishing software guru. I also ghost-write a good chunk of code for the magazine's Website at, as well as design the user-interface and all the graphics that go into it. Lastly, I'm responsible for the interface and graphics for the interactive CD that ships with the magazine.

My ghost-writing eventually got noticed, so soon I'm off to become the Chief Designer for FutureNet's Global Computing initiative. FutureNet is the global new media effort of Future Network (Imagine Media's parent company), which currently runs out of MacDaily and the Maximum PC Network, in the US, and has quite a few new launches planned. Here I'll become a full-time UI and online marketing mistress, as well as help to develop tools that make the online experience invaluable and a joy to use. But I won't entirely be leaving Maximum PC either, as I've just accepted the position of being a columnist, covering the Internet beat.

Do you consider yourself a Geek?

I mainly consider myself a cultural mutt. I don't dig labels; never did. People have always tried to call me skater, punk, goth, brain, geek, freak, whatever. None of this really affects me, because know who am.

What is your favorite Website?

Hmm, other than mine?! ;) Well, for fun I love to hang out at, the celebrity death pool Website. Even if you think it's sick, you gotta check out the ultra-cool Select-O-Meter. It's a programming wonder!

What do you do when you are not working?

I usually like to joke that "I cook and I sew." But I don't tell them I'm a vegan gourmet and I mainly sew PVC clothing! I also enjoy playing in dirt, biking, hiking, arguing about movies, "starting my own Website" (which is always being re-designed, but never launched), and trying to explain technology to my sexy hubby, Joe.


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