Tag Archives: wcmc

Moving Up

I am pleased to announce that effective March 21, 2011, I will be the *Associate Director of Design and Development* at Weill Cornell Medical College and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. (This will be my fifth position since I joined WCMC in 2004.)

While I traditionally have had trouble describing what exactly it is I do professionally, the specifics this time are quite clear: I will be leading a team of ~25 talented designers, programmers, administrators and managers in providing web solutions for both the college and the hospital. This is a massive undertaking to say the least, with a lot of work ahead to get my bearings and start forming a robust vision for web strategy at both institutions.

That said, I’m incredibly excited and humbled by the opportunity, and can’t wait to get started.

Shooting The Bullshot

Activision had posted a job opening for an “Art Services Screenshot Associate“. Among the many bullet points of requirements (four year degree!) and job duties was this gem:

Perform advanced retouching of screenshots and teach skills to others as needed.

This sort of “honesty” from Activision is becoming more and more common. I look forward to the inevitable “Game Reviewer Bullying Associate” position getting posted.
But this isn’t a post to knock Activision around again. This is about career paths.

Continue reading Shooting The Bullshot

Milestones

It’s been nearly four years since I joined the staff of Weill Cornell Medical College. In that time I’ve held three different titles and worked on over what feels like a hundred projects.

The first project I worked on, the one I was hired for, has stuck with me through all four years. In one capacity or another, I’ve always had a hand in the WCMC Elearning team, supporting the curriculum efforts at the Qatar branch of the Medical College. In the spirit of honesty, it hasn’t been my favorite project over the years: an operational effort that rarely gets acknowledged for keeping things running, but the first under fire when it falls apart. It’s been a rough existence, fighting with 270 millisecond latency and MPEG-4 encoders. (Good thing we’re not streaming live 99% of the time.)

On May 8th, the very first class of students graduated from WCMC-Q. This is the first time an American medical school has awarded M.D. degrees outside of US borders. These are the students that my work went towards teaching for those first two years when I was most involved with the project.

I’m proud to have been a part of this effort, knowing that it has achieved substantial good in the world. And I’m proud of the team I’ve worked with over those four years to help make fifteen students halfway around the world make history.

Promotion

While it hasn’t formally been announced to the entire department, it was seemingly announced to enough people last night that now seems to be a good time to post about it.

I am no longer a *Technology Services Analyst* with ITS. Effective July 1, I am now the *Manager, Collaborative Technologies*.

I will be heading up a new group that covers a lot of ground – wikis, enterprise IM, enterprise syndication, video conferencing, etc. This is, unsurprisingly, the stuff that I tend to be knowledgeable about. I’m looking forward to diving into it in a formal leadership role. I’m especially looking forward to see how we can do more to link technology between the three Cornell campuses.

Fiscal Year End vs. iPhone

For much of the last week, the conversation with nearly everyone I know has been the same.

“Are you getting an iPhone?”
“When are you getting in line for the iPhone?”
“Are you ditching your Sidekick?”
“I don’t understand the iPhone hype.”

I need to let you folks in on a little secret that does not immediately appear to have anything to do with the iPhone: I hate the last week of June.

Everyone, in the course of their professional lives, will find at least one day a year that fills them with dread. This day is not a surprise or appear out of the blue, but instead telegraphed by the calendar. It can be a busy season like holidays (retail), the arrival of students (education), tax season (small businesses), the end of the calendar year, whatever.

For me, it’s the last week of June, because it is the end of the fiscal year.

A Crash Course In Fiscaliciousness

Many people hear the term “fiscal year” and correct identify it as something to do with money and time. The idea is simple: your budget extends for one year. The date where one budget year stops and the next one starts is called the (say it with me now) fiscal year end.

For companies that make money, the fiscal year end is when they have to close all their deals for the accounting year to make sure they can report it to the investors as a good year. (This happens on a quarterly basis, too – hence quarterly earnings reports – but the year end raises the stakes a bit.) For institutions that aren’t in the profit business – say, education – the stakes are different.

Our goal is not to make money, but instead to spend it. And not in some willy-nilly fashion: we have countless support contracts on both hardware and software that expire in time with the fiscal year end. We also have some new purchases that we try to do if there’s money left over in the budget.

Now Back To Your Regularly Scheduled Complaining

Why this sucks: It takes anywhere from five to nine people to get a purchase from merely a requisition to a purchase order. These people must act serially, not in parallel. They often have to talk to each other, or send each other documentation. The process traditionally takes five business days and is pretty low-key.

During fiscal year end, however, it is occasionally necessary to get this full process to happen, from start to finish, within an hour.
Now repeat that well-defined, multi-person process over one hundred times. In one week.

Oh, and we must not forget about the vendors. You can’t requisition something without a vendor giving you a quote – and many vendors are slammed this time of year, as it’s their end of quarter/year as well. So best of luck trying to get quotes revised and clarified. This also means that when they do call you, it’s to get the purchase orders because they need to book that revenue.

This was a sixty hour week with almost no downtime. No windows, no sunlight (working lunches only!), the familiar smell of whiteboard markers and my laptop, the eye-ruining grid of Excel. Endless context switching, drilling through an ever increasing pile of email, scribbling on white boards, learning how mainframes work.

The Inevitable Question

Yes, you, in the back.

“Dan, I thought you worked with, you know, computers. You’ve got a degree in computer science. Last I knew you were doing server administration and all that. What the hell are you doing?”

I will skip the elaborate description of how my job got this way. The short version: I seem to have a significant gift of keeping tabs on nearly everything our organization is doing. (I blame my NADD.) This is a blessing – everyone knows they can come to me and I’ll probably have the answer, if not a direction to point them in. This is a curse – everyone knows they can come to me.

I have been pegged with so many random projects over the last year in my current role that my self-appraisal could only be completed by scrubbing over all of my outgoing mail for the last year. “Oh yeah, I did that!” is never a fun thing to hear yourself say.

And so, since it appears that nearly everything falls under my purview, so too does the fiscal year end.

Maintaining Sanity While Going Insane

This is obviously not the first year I’ve gone through this, but it was the first year where I’ve had a major portion of the workload for it. As such, here are a few observations as to how to keep your head from falling off when faced with major time-limited projects.

  • As soon as you see sit coming, firebomb your calendar. Remove anything you don’t need to be in, and blanket the rest in contiguous blocks of time. Long stripes from 9-5 every day send a clear message to your coworkers: stop booking me into your meetings.
  • Bring in things that will make you happy and remove stress – music and snacks are safe bets.
  • Prepare your family for the coming onslaught, but don’t forget to call them when you can.
  • If you feel yourself start to fry, take a lap. Find someone else and catch up with them for five minutes. Then get back to it.
  • Defer the people who call or email you. Say no. Otherwise, you will have something pulling you off point.
  • Slightly disregarding the last point: it may be in your best interest to plan something totally ridiculous as a major stress break in the middle of the project, like a group lunch. Note that this can backfire totally if you’re not careful, so try to have some extra help.

(These observations may seem obvious or useless. I think I may be writing them down more for my own future reference.)


Back to the question I started with: was I going to camp out for an iPhone? Would I join the crowd of Apple faithful, early adopters, and media circus at 5th Avenue and 59th Street? Would I be first in line for what Steve Jobs described as “the most revolutionary and exciting product in Apple’s history”?

No, friends, I would not. There was work to be done, and you better believe I got it done. The fiscal year end waits for no product launch.

I got mine Saturday instead.

Blinded By The Lights

I need to preface this by saying that while I’ve blogged through many major event in my life, what follows is not only major change but affects a number of people who have been my friends, peers, and coworkers for the last four years.

Over a week ago, I declared that my 24th birthday was going to be “most unremarkable”. Life, thankfully, has a way of making me eat my words.

Last year, while I was working remotely from Ithaca, I was making occasional trips into New York City to help out at the Freeverse office, usually during a time when the office was going to be short-handed. Somehow, in the middle of one of these trips – one in late June – I was pulled into a sudden interview at the Cornell Medical School. I wasn’t prepared, I wasn’t aware of what I was interviewing for, I was just there and trying my best.

Over the following year, a bizarre series of events continued to unfold at a slow rate – slow enough to simultaneously make me both anxious for resolution and to forget about the process entirely at times.

But, as you may have figured out by me now posting about this, the process has in fact come to an end.

I have been offered – and accepted – a position with the Office Of Academic Computing at the Cornell Medical Center. The position will have me playing a number of roles relating to the distance learning program for the school in Qatar.

To a number of people who are so used to me being a part of the Freeverse equation, I’m sure this comes as a bit of a shock. At the very least, it’s been a difficult concept to wrap my own head around, despite having done the mental math and seen that this is undoubtedly a good thing. Having been with Freeverse since March of 2000, there’s a large lump in my throat as I have to disconnect what’s been a fairly constant part of my life for the last four years. From the bizarre position of “distance intern”, through a drought, then back for occasional work, then to CTO, then to CTO/Webmaster, and then to some weird amalgamation of so many roles I would often make up new job titles as needed, I think I’ve probably done everything possible at one point or another. When you’ve been that entrenched in something, it’s hard to move on.

This is beginning to sound like a break up letter, isn’t it? I don’t want it to be read that way. I’ll still show up on GameSmith, I’ll still keep my ear in the Mac gaming industry, and I’ll still be willing to give you all the same shrill advice I’ve become known for over the last four years.

There are roughly a thousand people who I’d like to thank, and I think most of you are going to get yours over IM as I can’t possible drag this blog entry any longer.

But to Ian and Colin – you two took a ridiculous chance on a kid you didn’t know, and gave me so much more leeway and room to grow than I ever could’ve hoped for. You put up with my devotion for minutiae and went out of your way to help me out, and for all of this I am eternally grateful.

Clarifications:

I will not be leaving NYC, and I’m not moving back to Ithaca. The Cornell Medical School is on 69th & York Ave, in the Upper East Side. It’s actually closer to my current apartment than the Freeverse HQ is.

I will not be traveling to Qatar. Incidently, It’s pronounced “Cutter”, not “kah-tar”. I still consistently get it wrong.