Eight Freaking Years

Good news. As of today, I only need to work at Etown for another 22 years before I can retire. I started at Etown eight years ago today: February 23, 1998.

I started as Technology Specialist II. This is a fancy way of saying that I did frontline helpdesk kind of stuff: plugging in printers, restarting computers, and other deskside support.

After a short while, I was asked to whip up a database that we could use to track our tech support requests. That was when I discovered the joy of FileMaker Pro. I took that FileMaker project and ran with it, getting more and more involved in database work.

Then I took on a 4D project which shall remain nameless, which was to revolutionize the way we looked at curriculum. It did not, at least not much. But it did succeed mightily in getting our teachers fired up and pissed off. When Mike came on board in the summer of 2000, he brought with him a far greater knowledge of 4D than I have even now, so I was only too happy to give him that project.

By then, my title had become Assistant Director of Technology, and I was taking care of the servers, routers, and stuff like that, while still trying frantically to keep up with the day to day grind of tech requests. It was beginning to wear quite thin.

In 2001, I attended the FileMaker Developer Conference in Orlando, and I realized that databases were where my interests really were. Over the next couple months, I invested heavily in FileMaker Pro development, only to realize that FileMaker’s limitations were no longer something I could work around. I began searching for a better tool.

That was when I discovered REALbasic. I did the tutorial, twice. I did all the sample projects. I read Matt Neuberg’s book cover to cover twice. I read REALbasic for Dummies cover to cover. I subscribed to the REALbasic mailing lists and read every message, trying to take it all in.

But I needed a database to work with. I didn’t want mySQL, because I have some misgivings about the GPL, and mySQL AB’s licensing seemed to be deliberately hard to understand. I couldn’t afford to get into any of the commercial players. Then a CD arrived in the mail at work. It was a copy of PostgreSQL, another open source database, with a BSD license. Perfect.

While all of this was developing, Etown was deciding to make student achievement data a higher priority. Mike was ready to step away from the aforementioned 4D project (as well as PowerSchool, which we had also taken on). So when the district decided to hire an official Data Manager, I was able to walk right into the position.

I’ve shared before here, I think, how the products we were using simply weren’t cutting it, especially when it came to looking at achievement data. I was able to fall back on REALbasic and PostgreSQL to save the day in a number of ways.

So in eight years, I’ve gone from helpdesk grunt to database administrator and programmer. Not bad for an English major who couldn’t get a teaching job!

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