Friday is always a bit of a hodge-podge because I often volunteer in my kids’ elementary school classes for an hour. In general, I schedule fewer meetings on Friday and I use the time to catch up on work that has accumulated during the week. This is my last day before vacation, so I will not be starting anything new.
I spend an hour in the morning making cotton ball snowmen with my daughter and her pre-K class.
I begin my workday by starting to consolidate two databases for a client. The client is new to the platform and he started by building some applications himself. Before long he found the applications hard to maintain and asked us for advice. We determine that combining the two databases will simplify things, but we need to keep in mind that both applications are live (actively being used), and we need to minimize downtime for his users. I’ll take this moment to say a word about impact.
As a scientist my area of interest had a small but engaged research community. I like to think my work had an impact on future work in the field but the impact was probably small and certainly not immediate. As a business consultant and a database developer my work has immediate impact on large groups of users. It is wonderful to get feedback that a process we initiated resulted in people working smarter and more efficiently. It also means that when mistakes are made, the users notice, and we need to fix these problems quickly. While these situations are rare it produces a different type of stress than I experienced in academic research.
My next hour is spent helping my son and his first grade class to make bird seed ornaments which includes helping to read instructions.
In the afternoon, I tackle two projects that have been on the back burner during the week. During a weekly meeting with a client, my point of contact introduce a new set of requirements for notifications. For example, the client wants an email sent when people are assigned work or an activity is completed. These correspond directly to changes in the database. We start by discussing the current business process, the ‘pain points’ and the desired end result. Today I take some time to map out how we can get from the beginning (entering data) to the end result (notifications) while eliminating or reducing the pain points.
The second project is helping a client who is trying out a new online data visualization program. I take a brief tour of the site, and it was indeed attractive. I am amazed at how fast the landscape for data analytics is expanding. I have been creating reports for this client over the past few months so that they have a live feed of business data providing input to this new visualization program. The interface is fantastic and I have a few suggestions for evaluating the underlying data.
Time to head back to the schoolyard to pick up the kids. It’s been a fairly typical week. Thanks for sharing it with me!
Debbie Weil Taylor says
Great writing. Thanks for sharing it.
Thank you for sharing your experiences, Alison! I am finishing up my PhD in human development this semester, but I have always been intrigued by technology and have recently become very interested in database development. What tips would you give for switching to a position like yours from academia? It sounds like you really got lucky with the perfect networking opportunity to land your current career. How could others (like me) make that transition in the economy of today?
I did get lucky but in retrospect I could have done some work on my own before I left my grad program which would have eased the transition. I would start by gaining database skills at your current institution. Find out if anyone you work with or collaborate with (or better yet, in your department office) needs a database and volunteer to help. Start with Access and then try to find projects that have the money to use an online (cloud based) tool. Outside academia, the demand for developing cloud based databases is high and growing.