Last month I had the pleasure of meeting fellow tech fan Albany Irvin when she was a speaker at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women. Irvin is a host at QVC and is a public speaker for STEM programs (science, technology, engineering and math). She was a chemistry and biology major in college and is also a Zumba instructor. Irvin’s passion for knowledge helps her discover and master new tech. She’s a self-described super geek, but brings chic to the geek!
Irvin was speaking my language when she shared with me her insights about how she uses tech in her everyday life. Her views are a perfect fit for what The Wonder of Tech represents. “Tech should be fun. it’s is one of those areas where you have to be brave, to jump in. Tech isn’t one-size fits all, you have to decide which one fits for you and then you play.”
Bringing Humanity to Tech
One of the challenges in explaining tech is doing so without using tech terms. As part of her role as a QVC host, Irvin has a limited time to explain tech in plain English to her audience. Her secret? “I try to make the tech personal or relatable to something else.” She gave the example of a cake, something that everyone can relate to. “Tell me what type of cake you want and I can give you the recipe.”
“I particularly enjoy talking to someone from an older generation whose never had a smartphone. They just wanted to make calls but all of a sudden they figure out they could have all of the pictures of their grandchildren on a phone.” She pointed out that people also appreciate the ability to take pictures of what they’re doing and share that instantly with others.
Irvin bought her grandparents their first computer eight years ago. They claimed they didn’t need one, but after Irvin gave them a computer her grandfather got interested in ancestry and researched their family history back to other countries. Her grandparents now use Skype to connect with her aunt and uncle who live in Australia, instead of running up large long distance bills.
Using Tech in Our Daily Lives
Irvin gets excited about new tech and its impact on our lives. “We’re living a bit of history here, we’re living in a Star Trek world where you’re seeing things come to life that we see on TV.” New tech is constantly amazing her when it advances while becoming more affordable. “It used to be that computers were a nice thing to have. They’re a must-have now.”
Tablets are also becoming a must-have tech tool, according to Irvin. Her kids’ school is now requiring students to have iPads. While providing a child an iPad may seem expensive, Irvin compares the cost of one chemistry book which was $800 when she was in college. “Now I could buy an iPad and all of my chemistry books for $800 and the iPad could last me longer than four years.”
Only Get the Tech You Need
Irvin and I share the belief that not everyone needs to get the latest and greatest tech. “Some people get their eyes glazed over by the newest and greatest tech.” She cautioned about thinking of tech as disposable and needing the latest gadget all the time.
Irvin gave the example of buying a car and compared those who do mostly city driving and may want a smaller, nimble car to those people who drive country roads in bad weather who may need a 4-wheel drive model. “Sometimes you just need transportation.”
People can take the same approach with smartphones, considering how they use the phones in their everyday lives. “If you’re getting a smartphone and you’re only going to make phone calls and really only going to call two people, you may not need a smartphone. Maybe you want a tablet instead because you like to play Sudoku or Solitaire or Candy Crush. I try to figure out what it is you’ll be using the tech for and then help explain what something does.”
How Irvin Uses Tech in Her Everyday Life
“I literally am surrounded by tech because I love it, I crave it.” Her tech arsenal includes an iPhone, iPad and Kindle. Her iPad is her most important tech tool. “It’s like my left arm,” she said. “It tells me where I need to be. I know I can search a restaurant or a recipe. I can keep pictures there, I can design ideas for blogs. It’s my walking command center, file cabinet, family organizer and more.” Irvin also keeps her family health records and other important documents on her iPad.
She uses tech to curate information. “At QVC we’re inundated with information and so many apps and new technologies.” To sift through this overload, she consults websites such as Mashable and Buzzfeed to discover new tech.
Her Favorite App
Irvin relies on an app called Pocket Informant to stay organized.. “The most expensive app I ever purchased was the Pocket Informant app for $17.99 (note that now the full version of the app costs $14.99). That was before Google Calendar and iCal.”
The app helps combine her business and personal calendars as well as those of her husband and babysitter. Events are color-coded to help her stay organized. “Gmail does a lot of those things now and they do them for free” but she has found that Pocket Informant is still better for her than any other organization app she has tried.
“I’m a very visual person. At any point I can look at a color-coded graph or spreadsheet and know where my time is being spent, where the kids’ time is being spent, where my open space is and what’s personal and what’s work.” Irvin called Pocket Informant her “Command Central.” She can give access to her calendar to others and can customize it incorporating other organization tools such as Franklin Covey and Toodeloo.
How Irvin Doesn’t Use Tech in Her Everyday Life
Irvin believes that how people don’t use tech is more important than how they use tech. She consciously unplugs from tech often, especially when driving. “When I get in the car I put my purse in the back seat and that’s where my phone is.”
Her family doesn’t use tech at the dinner table to make sure her family is connected at meals. She compares the parental responsibility in teaching a child to drive and teaching a child to use tech and social media wisely.
Family Fun (Tech-Free) Fridays
Tech is banned from Irvin’s house on Fridays after school so the family can have fun together. She wanted to teach her children to enjoy life without using tech or social media. Her children now look forward to Family Fun Fridays, her daughter even skipped a high school dance so she wouldn’t miss out on her family’s fun. Her kids invite their friends along, even without knowing what activity is planned.
Everyone suggests ideas for activities that the whole family would like to do, such as watching a movie, ice skating or riding bicycles. They discovered the kids loved cooking so they often plan and cook a family meal, then enjoy eating it together.
Irvin’s family even did a chemistry experiment, disguised as a craft: making home-made lip gloss and hand balm. The children could see matter transform from solid to liquid and back to solid and no one guessed the activity was educational.
Tech and Fitness
Irvin is a fitness buff and uses tech to help her stay fit. As a Zumba instructor, Irvin uses tech to find new routines and research trends. Because she is so busy with work and family, she uses tech to discover exercises she can do on the go, while she’s waiting for a soccer game to start, for example.
Tech also helps her research nutrition and meal management so she makes sure her family is eating healthy foods. Irvin uses the Lose It! app to help her plan meals and scan foods. The app tracks nutrition and syncs with her FitBit to give her feedback on her day. She earns gift cards from her health insurance plan for achieving fitness goals with her FitBit.
Do you like the idea of a tech-free family fun night? Do you use an organizational app such as Pocket Informant? What are your must-have tech tools? Let us know in the Comments section below!
Albany Irvin joined QVC in May 2009 as a program host. Prior to the Q, Albany was a spokesperson for a variety of clients throughout North America and Europe, including Ford Motor Company, Canon USA, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, and DIRECTV. Albany enjoys hosting charity events such as the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Labor Day Telethon. She received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
Verizon Connection Day
Good news for Verizon Wireless customers! Verizon has a holiday treat to make your Thanksgiving holiday even more special. From the company:
Verizon has declared November 26 – the day before Thanksgiving, and one of the busiest travel days of the year – Connection Day. Connection Day will provide free content for all, thanks to partnerships between Verizon and a variety of leading content providers, including Amazon, Condé Nast, Gogo Technologies, JetBlue, Pandora, and more. Mobile users can enjoy free wifi, books, music and more, so that travel can be a little more enjoyable and connections to all the things mobile users love can be a little easier to maintain.
Connection Day gets even sweeter for Verizon Wireless users. MORE Everything customers who register for Connection Day are eligible to immediately receive a one-time gift of 1GB of shareable data applied to their account. Plus, they’ll get another 1GB of data in their next billing cycle.