A Graduate Perspective: Employed in an Informatics Field, Part 2

My previous write-up was a history of my prior employment before attaining my job at Capital Region BOCES.  What I am going to focus on for this is what it is I exactly do there.  To begin, I am going to go over a very basic structure of Capital Region BOCES.

Those of you that are reading may have attending school in the state of New York.  During that time you may have heard of this elusive entity known as BOCES.  The acronym stands for the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, and as that suggests, there are more than one of them.  The Capital Region BOCES tends to the needs of districts within all the counties from Greene County to the Canadian border.  A great number of districts, but despite the large geographic area the number of students is not the greatest handled by a BOCES.

Now, whenever BOCES is mentioned, most people think that their sole purpose in the realm of education is managing students that attend VOTEC or providing services for Special Education students.  Though that is a part of what BOCES provide to school districts, they also provide support by means of providing substitute teachers, financial management software, student management software, technical support, data storage, and so on.  Given some of the technical aspects of the services offered, some BOCES have what they call RICs, or Regional Information Centers.  Capital Region BOCES, in particular, have NERIC, the Northeastern Region Information Center, which handles all of the technical needs of the districts that are serviced.  It is at NERIC where I work. NERIC Logo

To put everything that I do at NERIC in one blog post does not seem very possible, that is, if I were to give detail about every aspect of my position.  Instead, I will go into some of the more interesting aspects of the job that I felt were beneficial to know.

I started in the Systems and Programming division of NERIC.  The team there has responsibilities in many parts of NERIC since they both maintain and develop new software for districts, give support for products already available, and managing student data that comes in from the districts.  I worked with one other person in the data side of things, which fits in perfectly with informatics.  Much of the work I was responsible for took place using familiar tools like Microsoft Excel and Access.

However, one thing that I did have to become proficient in was creating and using batch files.  There were processes in place in the servers that housed the data that would create a number of CSV files, hundreds at times, and the best way to manage them would be writing batch files.  Renaming them in mass, moving them in mass, whatever needed to be done to get data from one part of the network to the other was largely done by batch files.  Thankfully, I had enough programming experience to be able to look up some batch file commands and learn the syntax without wasting too much time.

One thing that I was able to bring to the team was my knowledge of VBA, which was a wanting thing for the Systems Programming.  Quite unexpected given the programming prowess of all of the members of the team.  For the longest time it seemed that the team would request a VBA guru from another RIC to provide them with code with use with Excel in order to format some data from the server to be used for a monthly report.  At one point the point person at the other RIC was on vacation and some fields and data types in the report changed.  I volunteered to take a look at it, and though I had to research some additional code I was able to modify the code so that it fit our new needs.  From that point on I became the team’s VBA go-to person, modifying past code and creating new modules to improve the workflow.vba-logo

Essentially, what those two experiences taught me was that to work in a technical field one has to be willing to go outside of their comfort zone in order to accommodate for the needs of the team.  For me that was learning how to use batch files.  I was nervous going into that realm, but I soon realized that I was able to piece things together due to my previous experience in other programming languages.  The other thing I learned was that if you can find a unique niche for yourself in a team, take it and use it to the fullest extent, such as myself with VBA.  The modules I created were not extravagant, but they did help the team with their data processing needs and it made me an essential part of the team.

If you keep an open mind and keep yourself from being shy in an area where you can shine, I believe that anyone would do well in any work environment.  Yet, when it comes to a tech driven field, I believe that success for someone is guaranteed.

Image 1 via K12 Learning Network, link to {http://moodle.k12ln.org/} Image 2 via James Free on his blog, Spatially Adjusted; link to {http://www.spatiallyadjusted.com/2009/09/28/in-defense-of-vba/}

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