This month we are taking a look into the working life of, Michael Blumenthal, our Charity Solutions Software Developer. So, Michael, paint us the picture of a typical day for you…
The day starts with some routine checks on the overnight software jobs – report generation, outgoing data feeds and the like. Occasionally something may hiccup on a piece of unusual data; most days this is uneventful.
That’s the predictable part of the day over. From here, variety is the only expectation.
There will likely be incoming campaign briefs to work with, configuring our software in advance of a mailing to use files from the client to look up donor details, restrict the data that can be keyed according to the brief, set up thanking rules and texts, and key a representative range of test records to demonstrate that the logic matches the brief, and to prepare proof copies of thanking letters. Hopefully, the brief should be with us a couple of weeks before mailing, but if it’s a close thing, this configuration work can be turned around inside the day.
Reporting and data exports constitute a major part of what we deliver, and when our clients’ needs here change, we change our software accordingly, so there may well be some of this work to do – a tweak to a calculation in a report, a format change to a column in an outgoing data file, a new file entirely perhaps. Writing software to make these changes happen is the lesser part of the task, though. The really valuable use of time is in identifying precisely what the client wants, through a mix of email and telephone conversation. The edge cases are the interesting part here – the one-in-a-thousand scenarios that actually arrive in the post every few days when you mail 80,000 people. 25 million data captures into this venture, we have seen a lot of one-in-a-thousand cases, and a fair few that-will-never-happen ones, so we try to make sure these are catered for before envelopes ever hit doormats.
We’ve been working with and enhancing our data capture system for 15 years, and we have a huge range of tools for our colleagues and our customers to query and analyse the data we hold. But the world turns, and there are always new questions, new ways people need to look at the data. It would be an unusual day where we weren’t asked a question we’ve not seen before, so most days will involve some ad-hoc querying in one or more of our databases. We keep the programming code for these queries, and by the third time of asking, we’ll start discussing how to make the question more available in our software, be that internally or over the web for our clients to use directly.
Whatever the day brought, it will finish with one eye open on the end-of-day reports generated by our software – in the last half hour of the day dozens of reports and data exports are generated. While that’s happening, we’ll review what we’ve achieved today, consider what’s arrived during the day, and build a plan for tomorrow – in one sense it will be more of the same, where “the same” means another day not quite like any that’s gone before. That’s what keeps it exciting.
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