No Small Change

NAME: Joyce Harris
AGE: 38
OCCUPATION: Division chief, Web Content Office of Application Development at the U.S. Mint
Location: Washington, D.C.
Duties: Manages Web staff; content developer and manager for Inter-, intra-, and extranet; markets the Web site and the Mint’s merchandise; studies Web trends; works closely with the U.S. Treasury Department
Salary Range: $65,000 to $100,000; $75,000 to $150,000 in private sector

There have been many casualties from the crash and burn of dotcoms, but Joyce Harris, division chief for the U.S. Mint’s Website (www.usmint.gov), sits securely counting her coins. During her first month on the job, which is the equivalent to an executive producer or Web director position in the private sector, she couldn’t help but notice that there were few visitors to the Internet site. “The door to your enterprise should have a grand presentation. I wanted to entice people and let them know this was not only an informational site, but [also] included products.”

Harris redesigned the front page and developed a children’s section with interactive games and lesson plans for teachers. It is now mentioned as one of the best educational sites for kids by the London Financial Times. Over a year and a half, she has been the catalyst for taking the site from obscurity to one of the top 30 e-commerce sites in the country, according to the National Retail Federation. In 2000, the U.S. Mint Website made $156 million in sales to coin collectors. Presently, the Internet site receives, on average, one million visitors per month.

Background: This Howard University grad began her career in newspapers, making the transition from print to programming while working at Gannett as a former assistant news editor at USAToday.com.

Transition: “When I left to go upstairs to the information network — that’s what we were calling USAToday.com back then — some of my colleagues joked about what I’d be doing in two years when I was out of a job. It was kind of a scary thing. No one knew where this thing was going. I took the risk, and I’m glad I did.”

Adjustments: “This job has kept me busier than my jobs in journalism.”

Evolving from journalist to Web director during the fledgling period of e-commerce was not easy. “I was used to getting information up on the Internet and across the servers within minutes. At the Mint, waiting for approvals sometimes means weeks before something is up on the site.”

Training: Harris learned to read and write HTML code on the job, and was fully versed the day USAToday.com launched. Close to completing her M.B.A. in marketing at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Harris offers simple advice for those interested in entering this field: “I wouldn’t suggest anybody get an e-commerce degree,” she relates. She suggests studying computer science, engineering, business, and finance. “They should also understand marketing. Once you understand marketing, you can apply it to any medium — even the Net.”

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