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    How a Lifetime of Tech Keeps Me Popping

    By NaNoshka “Nosh” Johnson–

    The importance of the internet as a business tool cannot be denied. When used correctly, it can lead to increased sales and enhanced customer service. I’ve been preaching this mantra to business owners and executives since the inception of the world wide web. Before I opened my first business NPI (a technology consulting firm) in the early 1990s, I was a consultant working with companies to translate their print document libraries into digital form. I became known as an industry expert and companies were desperate to share their content with their audiences, thus desperate for my services. I was in demand.

    Photos courtesy of Nosh’s Dirty Popcorn

    Back in that day, PostScript was content king. However, once the military got involved … their needs for smaller file sizes and easier portability coupled with platform independence gave rise to the evolution of SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language). Now there was a new king in town. I became one of a small group of SGML tool experts in the nation, and entities with large volumes of document sets/libraries were ready, wanting, and willing to convert. The cost saving and accessibility within and across organizations was great. This gave me the ability to pick my projects and I had the pleasure of being brought in as a consultant to convert the California Code of Regulations for the winning bidder, Ford Aerospace and Space Systems Loral, in support of the Space Station Freedom Project and went on to Sun Microsystems in support of their publishing department.

    Web Beginnings

    While at Sun, I and a handful of others worked with a CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) university research group who were exploring this new document standard as something that would be easier and more user friendly than SGML; something the general public—especially university branches and departments—could use to share information. We were a testing group for them. 

    The new technology would be called HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). This would change everything, allowing users the ability to use basic text editors to create content. It also provided the ability to link from one document set to another just by clicking on a blue highlighted text. These were truly exciting times. It also happened to be around the time World Cup Soccer came over to Stanford.

    Up until this point, all web content consisted of static pages; essentially online brochures. This in itself was a great feat, but our test marked the beginning of a critical aspect of the virtual world as we understand it today. Our test created the first live real-time statistics online (in support of the World Cup Soccer tournament). Before departing Sun, I created a print-on-demand system, SunDocs, which created a new revenue stream for them and an in-house intranet system to support employees and vendors.

    The organizations we serve include all sectors ranging from corporate, government, political, emerging technology, education, and nonprofits. It turns out that a lot of the issues overlap.

    Now I’m a Business Owner?

    If we have the pleasure of meeting, you should ask how I stumbled upon entrepreneurship. This is a story for another time. The short version is that, in 1994, we transformed the company into a “behind-the-screens” strategist for businesses desiring an effective online presence. This is also when I went from being a consultant to being a business owner of a technology consulting firm.

    I found myself working more hours than in a day. In an effort to create some sort of work-life balance and actually see my friends, around the same time I was delivering our first major software product to our first major client, I decided to sponsor my softball team. This guaranteed I maintained some type of social life.

    Things to Look Out For

    Many organizations become enamored by the latest technologies and through all the glamour and glitz forget how the solutions they select must match their business strategies/goals. Now with the addition of artificial intelligence, it’s even more necessary to keep this front-of-mind. 

    As a strategic business consultancy, I work with clients to use technology in ways that will allow you to implement your core goals and get better returns from your sites, web/mobile/AI technology, while keeping an eye for the future. Your solutions should not just solve your problem but evolve to the next step or two with your organization—ultimately providing the best way to position you for the results you need, and sometimes want.

    One of NPI’s long-term clients, KPMG (an eBusiness practice in Silicon Valley), found us extremely flexible and customer-focused, even when the business priorities of our joint customer shifted over the length of the project. NPI was always able to grasp the subtleties of those changes.

    We stayed focused and remained on an aggressive timeline for getting the project launched and understood the objectives and implemented them in an extremely creative way.

    Time to Share What You Know

    Around 1994, I realized we had more inquiries for help than we could filter, and a significant portion of our leads were at the “pre-solution level, meaning they needed help determining exactly what they needed. You don’t know what you don’t know. So, I created a seminar series that would provide managers, department heads, and business owners with the strategic plan outline to help them articulate their needs.

    The series was very successful, so much so that I was invited to a ton of business networking groups and associations to keynote on this issue. The industry was evolving and many people were hired into new positions and just told to find a way to make IT happen. There wasn’t a lot of training or even, in some cases, documentation to help out. The world was changing fast, and all companies knew was they didn’t want to be left behind. At a certain moment I looked up and realized how I was teaching and training more than coding. And I wanted to change that.

    In 1995, UC Santa Cruz reached out and asked me to head up their new web multimedia & graphic design department for their students. My focus would be developing certification programs that students working in the industry could use to prove they had the skills necessary for all of these new jobs. Apparently, a few of my clients were students at UCSC and had passed my name on to the administration. Behold, a teacher was officially born. 

    I taught at UCSC until 2017. I would also teach web design and front and back InDesign principles, e-commerce, business strategy, and more at San Jose State University, Golden Gate University, UNLV, and various Silicon Valley corporate Universities, like SunU. Now I just do guest speaking. It is nice to almost be retired!

    What an Idea!

    Like many entrepreneurs, I daydream about new product ideas. After guest speaking for the annual Meeting Professionals  International group on the state of technology in meeting and event planning, I was struck with an idea. It came to me post panel during my Q&A session. The planners were complaining about the process of collecting and managing all of the data associated with running events and meetings. What seemed like an easy thing to resolve to me was clearly one of their largest challenges. So, I asked my audience two questions: 1- If there was a tool in the marketplace that could solve these issues for you, would you use it? There was a resounding yes. And 2 – Would you help in the creation and crafting of the tool? A smaller, yet still significant, percentage of the audience said yes. So, with that brainstorm, was born in 1998.

    Until 2015, it was an online portal for meeting and event planners. This part of our business took off like gangbusters. That was the good news. The not so good news was that the effort required to launch our new product, followed by the success, meant I was never home, so that life balance we all strive for was definitely off kilter. I was unbalanced and proverbial plates began to fall.  As a result, we created a management system for the management system. And all was good again, at least for a while.

    A Son Is Born

    1999 was a special year for me, not because I was partying like it was 1999, but because my son Miles was born. I also foster parented two other older siblings of Miles, William and Sarah, and am so proud of all three! True statement, parenthood changes everything. Life would never be the same. I thought I was sleep deprived before Miles showed up, but now I really understand what people had been telling me. For the record, it was worth it, in spades. Choosing to be a parent is the best and most rewarding decision I ever made.

    Miles is now 25, and has come a long way from that seven-year-old boy who beat me at chess (captured on the cover of the San Francisco Chronicle as part of a feature on a day in the life of female entrepreneurs). I’m glad to say he is completing his doctorate at CalTech.

    Civic Engagement

    Beginning in the mid 1990s, organizations began calling. I found myself either leading, training, teaching, or sitting on the boards of various organizations or counsels including the Golden Gate Business Association, the National Institute on Aging, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Women Business Owners, Women Presidents Organization, and so on … you get the drift. But there truly is only so much bandwidth in one day and eventually I had to slow my participation.

    The Body Can Only Handle So Much

    Crash! My body had had enough. Now I need to say I’m used to this. I have an extremely compromised immune system, so when I got sick during the early 2000s, I could feel it was serious. I ended up having open heart surgery in 2008. Last year, I had my tricuspid valve replaced due to a wonderful medical trial I’m a part of. My medical issues officially categorize me as disabled.  My new goals take into consideration these limitations. I now put more emphasis on project selection and effort required. But as long as I’m breathing, I will do my best to serve others.

    Nosh’s Dirty Popcorn

    As a parent, you are responsible for snack time. In our house, that consisted of my special blend of sweet and savory vegan popcorn. Everyone in my circles new of this product because I brought it to every event, etc. I would also bring it to church, and one day, as I was handing my Pastor (City of Refuge, Oakland, CA) a bag of my snacks, she told me that I should be selling it. It hadn’t really crossed my mind before that moment.

    Once she planted the seed, I decided it would be a great way to teach my son about entrepreneurship. So, I asked my kids to name the product and Nosh’s Dirty Popcorn was launched. Nosh’s Dirty Popcorn is sold online and is guaranteed to be addictive. Give it a try!


    Whether it’s a snack or a little strategical help or training, I remain here to serve and look forward to meeting new friends along the way!

    NaNoshka “Nosh” Johnson is an information systems expert and founder of Nosh Productions, Inc. (NPI), as well as Nosh’s Dirty Popcorn. She lectures, keynotes on topics including E-Business, E-Commerce, web/mobile/AI technology, and making the design transition from print media to online web publications. Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown appointed her as Technology Chair for San Francisco’s Small Business Forum. Her projects have included supporting the Space Station Freedom Program, the California Code of Regulations, and web projects for Sun Microsystems World Cup Soccer effort, NIKE running shoes, Grants for the Arts, and local politicians. As for that tasty popcorn, you can order some at

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