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They're geeks, and proud of it

Who hasn't been called a geek at some time or another? Whether it was for wearing floods in high school or standing in line for the opening of Lord of the Rings, everyone has felt the sting. But, depending on what you're into, being a geek can be cool, smart and hip. Some people even flaunt it. Here are a few locals who have made their geekiness part of their identity — and name. — Susan Thurston sthurston@tampabay.com

The Happy Geek

To Chad Whitermore, geeks aren't just nerdy. They're happy.

Hence his title: Head Happy Geek.

Whitermore, 25, owns The Happy Geek website design company in St. Petersburg. He started it four years ago to help small and mid-size companies create a strong web presence.

What makes him a geek? Just about everything. He studied computer programming at the University of South Florida. He works on computers all day and dabbles in remote controlled helicopters. When his wife sees him going into an Apple store, she knows it's going to be awhile.

"I have just about every Apple thing they have,'' he said.

He started playing with computers at age 12 and making money as a geek when he was 14, fixing the computers at his dad's office. A soldier in the Army Reserve, he earned the nickname "Gadget'' from his unit administrator.

Geek Pride Day is a highlight of his year. On May 25, his website (thehappygeek.com) gets a spike in hits from celebratory geeks worldwide who stumble upon his site.

This year, Whitermore plans to tweak his logo and post a Top 10 list of geeky things to do. He'll buy a new gadget and wear large, black-framed glasses and a geeky shirt like Mario Brothers.

After work, he'll host a Star Wars movie night at his house.

The Savvy Chic Geek

Cara Bernstein Chernoff learned the basics of being a savvy, chic geek from her mother, who shunned paying retail. She gets a thrill exploring something new without having to invest a lot and loves the social media aspect of marketing.

Bernstein Chernoff, 28, combined the two to create thesavvychicgeek.com, a month-old website devoted to connecting people with good deals online.

The Carrollwood resident finds bargains through Living Social, Groupon, Dealsurf and other deal sites and blasts them out to family and friends.

"There's some savvy deals out there and people don't know where to find them,'' she said.

Her research pays off, usually in the form of half-price or better. She was certified in scuba diving for $149 and bought a canvas print of her wedding photo for $45. Anything she wants to do, she looks for a deal first.

A newbie from Atlanta, she said hunting for discounts has helped her discover restaurants, stores and services. She found Datz Deli through Groupon, and the Tampa Pitcher Show.

She keeps track of store sales and tests products through bzzagent and other social-marketing companies. In the world of daily discounts, she knows the value of patience.

"If you can plan ahead for something you can get it a good price,'' she said.

Geek Girl

Tracy Bentley Jagiello says if you think you're a geek girl, you probably are.

And she ought to know. She co-authored IBM Redbook: Deploying a Secure Portal Solution on Linux using WebSphere Portal V5.0.2 and Tivoli Access Manager V5.1.

Huh? If you have to ask, you probably won't appreciate it anyway.

Bentley, 34, is a technical sales manager for IBM and director of Women in Technology International's Central Florida network.

Through WITI, she organizes monthly Geek Girl Happy Hours and career advancement events for woman in the science and technology fields. They make no apologies for liking motherboards and Macs. It's part of their DNA.

Bentley says she became a Geek Girl in college when she got hooked on AOL for communicating long distance with family and friends. She was intrigued by the technical aspect and wanted to understand the magic behind it all.

She joined IBM 12 years ago and now heads a Southeast team that sells software to Fortune 500 companies. Though fascinated by gadgets, she has a particular interest in the social network side of computers. In less than a year, she grew her WITI group to 120 women exclusively through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

"I just love seeing how quickly you can bring people together,'' said Bentley, who works out of her home in Safety Harbor.

Bentley hopes the WITI group helps women collaborate and learn from others in an industry still dominated by men. Their mantra: "Encourage girls to fly their geek flag proudly.''

Geek out!

Women in Technology International's central Florida network hosts a WITI Social Mixer, a.k.a. Geek Girl Happy Hour, at 5 p.m. June 7 at Mitchell's Fish Market at WestShore Plaza, Tampa. Cost is $15 for members and $25 for nonmembers. For information, go to witi.com/centralflorida.

They're geeks, and proud of it 05/23/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 23, 2011 2:40pm]

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