One last time 'AskBetty': 'The best part was being able to teach people something'
Betty de Jonge is a household name in our faculty. As the person behind AskBetty, she knew how to answer every question about Office. Starting this month, she has officially retired.
It took some getting used to, that first week being completely free. ‘I got cleaning nerves,’ Betty says. ‘If that happens during my holiday, I know it’s time to get back to work, but that’s not possible now, of course.’ On 31 May she handed over her last duties to her successor. This was followed by four weeks of holiday and now the real retirement is here, after more than thirty years of service to the faculty.
From recorder to PC
‘I studied recorder at the conservatoire,' she recalls. ‘After that I taught for eight or nine years, but it became more and more like group lessons with children who had no interest at all in playing. Fortunately, the FNV union started offering training courses for women returning to work. If you had intermediate vocational education, you became a medical secretary. If you had a higher vocational education (HBO), you could be trained as a programmer.’
'In the beginning, there were only three of us. We would occasionally meet up for coffee and exchange the latest gossip and information.’
Betty took the programming course, got a work experience position at Utrecht University and ended up a year later as a front-line employee in the IT department of Leiden's Faculty of Arts. She was one of the few women in the faculty. ‘There were two of us: Jeannette Schalke at the Faculty of Theology and me,' she remembers. ‘And there was one other woman at the University Library. We would occasionally meet up for coffee and exchange the latest gossip and information.’
In the early years of her career, she regularly tinkered with computers herself. ‘We still had faculty IT units with their own server park. There, we did everything ourselves: we took all the PCs round to the offices, crawled under the desks to connect them, and sometimes even made the cables ourselves. It wasn’t until most employees were working with computers that IT activities become centralised. I was very happy about that, because for me the heavy lifting work was over. I no longer had to manoeuvre a cart full of PCs along narrow corridors.’
If you have a question, AskBetty!
Betty became the user-support person for everyone with an Office problem. From programmes that got frozen to overflowing mailboxes, she solved it. ‘That was my favourite job,' she says. ‘When I was giving recorder lessons, I never thought I was that great as a teacher, but I really enjoyed teaching people things.’
I think it's important to know people personally.
Thanks to an AskBetty flyer and mailbox, invented by colleague Marjana Rhebergen, people knew how to find her. And if she really couldn't do something herself? Well, then she always knew someone else who could solve the problem. ‘I think it's important not only to phone or mail, but also to know people personally. I knew who could do what at other faculties because we used to have interfaculty meetings. They were all on the useful people list that I had on my shelf. I may not have known everything myself, but I always knew who someone who did.'
No plans to sit still
Now her job as a source of information is done, but she is not afraid of getting bored. ‘My daughter has just bought a house and has announced that the eighteen-metre deep garden needs doing, so I think there will be plenty of requests for help in the near future.’ She is also working on a project to digitise old Dutch personal records and is considering taking in cats. ‘I'm not going to start a business or anything like that, but I saw that volunteers were being sought to take in pets. If people I know go on holiday or are unexpectedly hospitalised, their cats can stay with me.’