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Career Story: Data Center Manager For A Large Public School System

Data Center Manager For A Large Public School System

Job Title: Data Center Manager

Type of Company: I work for a major school district in Massachusetts.

Education: BS Information Services, Northeastern University

Previous Experience: I started as a computer programmer, followed by a systems analyst position, advancing to project manager to my current position managing a data center/warehouse.

Job Tasks: My title is data center manager but my responsibilities are varied but are all related to student data. I respond to requests for data extracts from school department users, state and federal agencies as well as outside organizations doing research or evaluations on programs within the school system. I give hands on support to the schools in the areas of student scheduling, attendance recording, report card entry, assessments and discipline.

A typical day may include calculating grade point averages, updating student schedules, correcting attendance entry mistakes, doing global changes to student records, running report cards, producing suspension reports or resolving 'bad' data issues for the data warehouse load. I respond to service desk inquiries on student applications that have bugs or that the user does not know how to use correctly. I participate in meetings dealing with existing applications that need modification. I analyze current systems, processes and needs and propose data solutions - either new portal applications or conversion to the data warehouse business intelligence reports. I am essentially an information operator - if someone is looking for data, they call me.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is knowing I've really helped a user out by either giving them their requested data in a useable format or fixed their mistakes or just pointed them in the right direction to get their own answers. The worst part of the job is when users think you just push that magic button and produce exactly what they need in thirty seconds or less. When you realize that you are responding to the same question to the same person over and over again, it can get depressing.

Job Tips:
1. Be organized - learn good documenting skills - it will save you hours in the long run

2. Develop good listening and questioning skills - many times a data user doesn't really know what they want or are unable to articulate their needs

3. Understand data relationships and modeling; avoid data redundancy

4. Be sure to remember that you cannot make everyone happy all of the time

Additional Thoughts: I think the most surprising thing about my job is that I am still in the same field and still get satisfaction from the job after more than 30 years. Technology changes so much it really keeps things interesting.

I think you need patience, logic, organizational, and communication skills when you are in a position dealing with high volume data requests. It takes more than just technical skills to write queries; you need to understand the data itself, how information from different sources relate to each other, how you can come up with the best solution.

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