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 Balloons, Tattoos, and Biology 

 The Story of Judy Lightfoot 

At Newtek, we believe what makes us different is our people — from engineering to customer support. As an on-going, occasional series, we’re sharing the personal stories of Newtekers, like Judy Lightfoot, who are not only talented, hardworking professionals, but also interesting people outside the office.

Judy“And did you know the sloth was a relative of the armadillo and the anteater?” informs Judy Lightfoot, Newtek tech support agent who named Costa Rica and Australia as the two top destinations she would love to visit.

Her reasoning?

“Biodiversity,” she knowingly points out with a hint of “what else could it be?” in her tone. And not in a judgmental way either; rather, with the matter-of-fact presumptuousness held by someone who’s been deeply connected to a concept or a specific field of thought for many years.

Of course, biodiversity … precisely the topic one might expect to learn about from a lady who spends 8+ hours a day helping people and businesses along with technological questions and difficulties.

And the last name again, was it “Lightfoot?”

History tells that the name Lightfoot was given to a highway robber back in Scotland who would rob travelers, take a few valuable pieces, and then take off … running. “Apparently, he was plenty fast,” laughs Judy, presumably speaking about her distant progenitor.

She continues the story about the history of her surname, “Because he (the robber) was never caught, and his reputation grew throughout the lands, Mr. Lightfoot was asked to appear before the Queen of England. She asked him to serve the Queen as a mercenary (Pirate, more specifically) to help their cause against the Spanish Armada.

“In an amazing twist of fate, the fleet-of-foot landlubber was a natural for mayhem on the high seas as well – so much so, in fact, he earned the right to choose his future. He selected a large plot of land in the New World. It would become what we now know as Lightfoot, Virginia.”

So Lightfoot is not a Native American name?

“It does sound as though it could be, but no,” explains Judy, concluding, “In fact, Mr. Lightfoot was a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. If you look online, you can see the Lightfoot Coat of Arms. It is comprised of blood, a heart, and seashells (presumably from his pirating adventures).”

gordonlightfootAre you related to Gordon (the popular 70s singer)?

“It is likely, though I have never met him,” Judy acknowledges, flashing a smile befitting a customer service representative (despite the fact that most only know her by voice or her chosen chat/email font). She adds, “Though I have been on the Carefree Highway, which, as you know, is only about 4 miles north of our office here.”

The next minute or so were spent harmonizing – providing further testament to the fact that both Judy and her interviewer had chosen their career paths wisely.

“Apparently, he was plenty fast”

And to that point, Judy tells a bit about her specialty, from her seasoned perspective, “When I am called upon, the reason is typically because someone is experiencing difficulty and the fix is something beyond their comfort level.

“I learned how to fix these types of things with great training and experience. Chances are, I’ll know what to do, but they don’t.  They’re probably stressed whether they say so or not. So really, the first task at hand is to put our clients at ease. Let them know that we are going to resolve the issue and that they are in good hands. That we are not going to let them down. From there, once we put their minds at ease, the experience can be positive and enjoyable for both parties.”

Does it ever get monotonous?

“In every job, you will find aspects that get monotonous. Think about the deadliest catch, crew (The Bearing Sea crab fisherman.) There is a part of their job that includes crab cage inventory,” she points out, “For me the process of verifying an account is not my favorite; but to ensure the protection of our clients it is an absolute necessity. Though, I do try to make it fun. Typically, clients don’t feel like going through the process either and I remind them to look on the bright side. I tell them, I have gone through it 37 times already … and that’s just today. Then they typically laugh and it opens up conversation. I love the getting to know them part.”

Is that the best part?

“No. Actually helping people who really need it is the best part. Just a few weeks ago, I spoke to a lovely elderly woman named Barbara, for the very first time. She owned a business with her husband and he had just passed. She understood the business inside and out, but was a stranger to technology. I spent time with her every day for two weeks teaching her the ins and outs of her ecommerce website, how to change things in WordPress. You name it; we reviewed it, and even practiced it. She really began to grasp things, and was enjoying the process.”

How is Barbara doing now?

“No disrespected to her late husband, whom I certainly remember fondly, but she absolutely has a knack. In addition, we have both garnered a new friendship … all because of her first, distressed phone call. I have to tell you, I feel so blessed to be able to work with people like her. I am so glad I made the switch to Support.”

From?

“Oh,” acknowledges Judy, “I was a high school science teacher for 10 years at one point.”

Not the thing for you?

“I loved the kids …” she points out. “LOVED them. I loved being a teacher. And I love science. But the politics involved with the Kent_Roosevelt_sciencemodern school environment I found I could do without.”

What happened?

“Lets just say making a recruiting-first football coach the principal was the final straw. Not that I would have wanted that position, but I would have preferred to see someone with a learning-first philosophy. Now, I still have some connection to science through technology. I still get to work closely with people. I still get to teach. But now I have the luxury of working with some of the brightest minds in our field, day in and day out. And I don’t have to deal with the misgivings of Coach Stonebrain.”

But was teaching high schoolers the dream?

“No, no” Judy reassures, “I am an enjoy lifer. I just have gumption for science and technology and I love to work with people. I am as content as I have ever been, doing what I do – particularly with whom I get to do it. We do great work here.

“If there ever was a dream, it belonged to my parents. They envisioned me a veterinarian,” she remembers.

Not your thing?

“Well, actually, I love animals. And being a doctor for animals was definitely something that I considered. I did earn a degree in Biology, and as life played out, I became a nurse practitioner for many years.”

“Absolutely. That is what I did first. I was a nurse practitioner, then I was a high school sciences teacher, then did a stint in the education departments at both the Phoenix Zoo and AZ Science Center (we’ll get back to those), and now I am a mom, and a Tier 1.5 (that means she knows her stuff … WELL) technology support agent for Newtek.” You must have something of a rigorous schedule these days. Anything you like to do on your free time? “I make sure my time is spent doing what I love, so yes; but it’s not exactly “free” time. I own a business too.” Um, may I ask? judyglitterart“Oh yes, please!” Judy’s eyes grow wide. “I own a professional glitter tattoo and balloon shaping company. We do parties and events all over the Valley. I even work with Sara (from Newtek’s billing department) as often as we can. She is a real talent.” Something you just picked up? “Oh yeah, I love it. I was always “projecty,” she explains. “You know, experimenting with different crafts. But those two (glitter tattoos and balloon design) were particularly fun. It gives me a chance to bring some joy to children (and adults), while I get to paint and create. Win, win for me. And as a single mom, it does produce a nice additional revenue stream.” So which are you more natural at doing, the balloons or glitter tattoos? Judy chuckles, “I could always paint, but you don’t know if you are going to be ‘natural’ with balloons until you start to play around with them.” Well, how do you know you are any good, then? Again, Judy lights up the room with her contagious smile, “Because,” she pauses, and raises and eyebrow, “I am a decorated, speed twister.” Come again? Like competition balloon animal maker?judywithtoomanyballoons “No.” This time she laughs, “But they actually DO have people who are into that. In fact, I think the world record is like 20 designs in a minute. What I do is more in accordance with event-capable delivery speed. In other words, I can produce up to say, 50, balloon designs in an hour.” That’s amazing Judy. But having to do that sounds like the inner workings of some lonely clown’s nightmare. “Seldom must I ever work so fast,” admits Judy, “the declination simply means I have the credentials to work the upscale, high volume events. While I am sure speed twisting doesn’t mean much to the layperson, it speaks volumes to the event planner. In their world, I am a dream come true.”

“In their world, I am a dream come true.”

Judy’s charm belies an intellectual competency that her spectacled eyes fail to conceal. In her presence, you know you are in the company of someone who is naturally capable of nearly anything.

You dropped in something about the Zoo and ScienceCenter.

“Yes, I spent some time at both,” she agrees. “After teaching, I thought places like those who did outreach for kids – ones that were grounded in education would be a great landing spot for me. And in many ways, they didn’t disappoint. I got to work with some great people on some very meaningful projects. I began at the Phoenix Zoo, did that for awhile, and then a position caught my eye at the AZ Science Center.”

What was it that led you away from the Zoo, initially?

She confesses, “As it would turn out, it was the very same thing that led me away from the ScienceCenter to Newtek. It was working in education, as I said, except for one critical function; I wasn’t teaching anymore. I was designing. I was creating. I was developing conceptual ideas, but I was seriously lacking interaction – the sharing and enjoyment that goes along with the learning process. For some reason, that is something that I cannot live without. It just fills me up more than other things for some reason.

“It’s funny. You can kind of have something with you, throughout your life. But for some reason, you need to live a little before you become fully, consciously aware that “that thing” is truly a part of your fundamental self – one of the few veritable pieces that essentially make you, you. Knowing what I am, and ostensibly, what I need professionally, goes a long way to helping me appreciate where I am and why what I am doing is right for me.

So, why does Judy know so much about the sloth? (This is true of both two- and three-toed varieties.)

Well, if Judy could write the ending to her own fairytale, she would travel the world studying her favorite animals.

Which are?

“I am completely obsessed with sloths and turtles, for now,” she concedes. “But if I were able to get around like I want to, I am sure I would come upon some animals to rival them. It’s different when you get to be around them in person, rather than just reading about them online or in a book.”

Get around like you want to?

“Well, I am not crazy about flying. And though it doesn’t make me uncomfortable enough to NOT do it, I am hoping that somebody, somewhere will have the good sense of inventing the transport beam, so I may come and go as I please. No TSA, no baggage claim … I am talking, “ZAP,” to Costa Rica and then, “ZOOSH” to Australia,” she explains.

Judy pauses from her fantasy of Star Trek technology commoditization. She seems irritated, and asks, “Don’t you think by now they should have something like that in place?” She shakes her head with a modicum of disappointment in an “oh, what could be” kind of way.

Want to make a plea to the inventors out there?

Judy smiles, again, “I am fairly confident that enough of those who could, are working on it, or are at least thinking about working on it. We will beam when beaming time comes. In the meantime, I continue to love what I do. So, if there’s any plea I’ll make, it’s this: I am Judy Lightfoot from Newtek, Tech Support. If you are a customer or thinking about becoming one, you are (or are about to be) in a great place. And if you ever think you might need some assistance, don’t hesitate. My colleagues love what they do as much as I do, and we will never let you down. We are here around the clock, every day of the year … and fluently speak the language you are reading this article in.

“And we can’t wait to meet you, solve your problem, and get you going as quickly as possible.”

If Judy is any indication, there will the opportunity to “get educated” throughout the process. (Yes, she just raised her eyebrows again, sporting a wry smile.) Go ahead; you can add part-time mind reader to her CV.