But by this time next year, she’s counting on being immersed in a different kind of full-time work: court reporting.
“I love stories and I really like being in the courtroom,” said Pikala, who is about a year-and-a-half into Anoka Tech’s judicial reporting program. “You’re going to get a lot of interesting stories and just kind of get to be a fly on the wall in the room and hear some interesting things.”
The program allows students to learn theory of stenography and apply it to real-world situations, including learning how to close-caption live TV programming.
“It’s a really difficult program and it takes a lot of time,” said Pikala. “I’m trying to get through the (typing) speeds, and that’s the hardest part.”
The students use professional stenography machines–the typewriter-like contraptions that can cost thousands of dollars but allow the operator to crank out as many as (an average of) 225 words per minute using a particular kind of short-hand.
“Theory if your foundation,” said long-time Anoka Tech stenography instructor Jennifer Sati. “You learn to write phonetically. You have all of the consonants on the left of the machine and the right and vowels in the middle, so we write words at a time.”
“You start to hear things a little bit differently,” said Pikala. “You need to really pay attention to just how things are phonetically working.”
Sati, who still freelances as a court reporter and captioner, said there is no shortage of job opportunities for graduates of the program.
“I get calls every week from judges looking for court reporters,” she said. “The job market is wide open.”
Instructors say its an industry full of passionate people, and they try to pass that passion along to their students.
“It’s just a really fun skill and you really enjoy writing on the machine,” said Sati.
She said Zoom and online learning has allowed students from across the state and even both Dakotas to join in. The school also offers periodic free courses, including one this month.
“This program is amazing and I never thought I would love it as much as I do,” said Pikala. “I think once people hear about it and what it really is, they can become really passionate about it. It’s totally worth all of the hard work.”