Leading the way – still

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At 59, businessman Paul Richards likes to joke with one of his company’s partners that they’re the “gray hairs” in the room, and while he’ll readily admit that the 20-somethings of the world are often leading new technology, he says nothing beats a little experience, too.

Since 1983, Richards has founded three companies in the high-tech realm, all with an eye toward data processing, a field that has seen vast and almost unimaginable changes in three decades. But for him, a combination of tech savvy and wisdom is key.

“People who have an interest in technology, and who stay up with it, and can mash that up with business experience, have an advantage over the 20-somethings,” he said.

With new technology comes dizzying change in almost every field of work, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. While there is a sense that baby boomers are struggling to keep up, the opposite is often more accurate – boomers are either leading or thriving alongside the millennials who are often credited with technological advances.

Richards’ relatively new company, Wireless Sensors, founded in 2009, offers cutting-edge wireless systems for large data centers – groups of multiple processing computers – for businesses worldwide. One of the company’s highly touted offerings is a network of sensors that can detect temperature, humidity and energy consumption within a data center, upping efficiency, at “a fraction” of the cost of the older class of sensors, he said.

Richards said that in the mid-2000s, his former company developed these sensors, running on batteries. But now, he said, “imagine that you could make your cell phone battery last two years. That’s the challenge that we addressed and solved with these devices.”

Based in Falmouth, his company of five sells sensor networks and other ahead-of-the-curve products to a range of industrial and tech businesses, and, Richards said, the focus on efficiency is needed.

“Somewhere around 3 percent of the world’s electricity is used just to run data processing centers,” he said, using large companies like Google and Amazon as examples. “Forty percent of that electrical consumption is just to keep the equipment cool.”

Richards added that yet another portion of the consumption is wasted through inefficiency, but that new technological advances, some of which didn’t exist even three years ago, have made Wireless Systems able to adapt to the changing market, and offer ways to manage data centers with greater efficiency.

While the staff he leads is small, Richards is also surrounded by bright minds, including multiple employees with master’s degrees in computer science, and an employee with a master’s in mechanical engineering. Together, he said, they’re always looking at new ways to branch out.

On the other end of the technological spectrum, longtime professional photographer Felice Boucher, now 63, likes to stay true to craftsmanship in the face of big changes in the arts. But, that’s not to say she isn’t taking advantage of new technology.

Practicing photography for 22 years, Boucher has recently seen a boom in success. This year alone, she has been named Maine Photographer of the Year, and International Photographer of the Year by Professional Photographers of America.

Boucher has a bachelor’s degree from Maine College of Art. When she began taking graphic design classes at the former Portland School of Art , she did “everything by hand.”

“There were a bunch of us,” she said of her friends and fellow photographers. “But once it went from film to digital, they just dropped like flies.”

However, a few decades later, Boucher has accepted current technology, albeit with a pinch of skepticism, and used it to her advantage. While working weddings and snapping senior photos, Boucher also uses up-to-date and experimental techniques to make lasting art.

Boucher said she called herself “a purist” when it came to black-and-white photos on film, but said that once she could no longer tell the difference between a digital and film print, she made the jump.

“I’m always experimenting, and always taking classes,” she said about keeping ahead of the game. “Everything moves faster and faster.”

For a recent series entitled “Deified,” Boucher blends her photography into the realm of surrealism by using her self-proclaimed focus – craftsmanship, as well as some digital techniques.

Describing a photo called “Feathered Crown,” which depicts a young woman sitting next to a dog, Boucher said the process “takes a village.” For the shot, she employed a friend to apply the girl’s hair and makeup, used Facebook to find a greyhound she could use for the shot, and used the online clothing and craft outlet Etsy to find a dress with a timeless feel. She added that she used further connections to use the Portland Club as a backdrop for the photo.

This is all before Boucher looked at them on her computer. Following the original photo session, Boucher said, she changed the painting above the girl’s head, switched the dog’s head from another photograph of the dog she had taken, “changed the dog’s legs to match the position of the girl’s arms and hands, added paneling to the sides, added an overlay, and there you have it.”

Boucher said she embraces change, but has mixed feelings on what it means for professionals.

“I love my smartphone, and I love that technology, because you grab a moment,” she said. “But, on the other hand, I feel sad that the craftsmanship of photography is going.”

Boucher gave an example, when she once discussed with a few younger photographers the act of simply taking a photo, without focusing on lighting, and simply running it through a computer program.

“She said, the ‘old timers,’ meaning me, ‘wait for the right light,” Boucher said, describing the exchange. “She said just take the damn photo and run it through. But I thought, photography is about light.”

Andrew Rice is a staff writer at Current Publishing.

My Generation November 2014Felice Boucher, right, with her brother, Marcel, says she keeps her focus on craftsmanship, while embracing new technology. Paul RichardsBoucher’s photo “Feathered Crown,” part of a series called “Deified,” was created through an extensive process combining processes new and old.  

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