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Career Story: Program Designer And Systems Manager For A Large Manufacturing Company

Program Designer And Systems Manager For A Large Manufacturing Company

Job Title: Information Systems Manager

Type of Company: I work for a company that manufactures high performance materials. In my division, we manufacture "coated abrasives," commonly known as sandpaper.

Education: AAS, Data Processing, SUNY-Cobleskill •• BS, Computer Science & Social Science, SUNY-Albany

Previous Experience: I started out as a junior programmer for NCR corporation, working there for two years. I then worked for a consulting company for two years.

Job Tasks: I manage a team of four people who develop and implement business computer software for our manufacturing company. Our projects can range from small ones, that take less than a week, to large projects that take over a year to complete.

I am currently working on a program to help people schedule the manufacturing machines more efficiently and quickly. After putting together a team of business and technical users, the first thing I did was hold a number of meetings with the users to understand how they currently schedule their machines. I then translated their requirements into a program specification to give to a computer programmer to develop. After the programming is completed, the programmer and I will conduct unit testing to see if the program works as we think it should. Finally, I will work with the business users to test the functionality of the program. If they're happy with the application, I will ask them to sign off and I'll install the application for their use.

After a system is put into use, my team monitors and maintains it. Some systems run 24 hours a day, seven days a week and require us to fix the system if it has a problem during our off hours.

As project manager, I am responsible for managing the project plan to make sure that we stay on track and within budget. I also log all of the issues identified throughout the project and make sure that they are getting resolved in a timely manner. I generate weekly status reports that are sent out to the project team and to upper management to keep them aware of our progress and any problems we have encountered.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is that is not routine or boring. We work with many departments on many different projects and technology changes so fast that we are always learning new things.

The worst part of the job is the stress. We are always working to meet project deadlines and have to fix systems whose problems are an urgent concern. This job also requires preparing a lot of documentation. This is a very important part of the job but it's not my favorite.

Job Tips: During your college years, pursue as many internships as possible at different types of companies that use different computer platforms. Although the job requirements may be similar, developing systems for large manufacturing companies is very different from developing them for a bank. This will help you determine what size company you would like to work for and whether you would like to work on internet-based applications, or mainframe or mid-size applications. Also, take some business courses. This will help you understand the user's needs and help you to support them better.

Additional Thoughts: People who become business system programmers and analysts need to be team players. Many projects require teams of business and systems people to work in tandem.

What surprises most people is that I spend so much of my time in meetings. They think that I am sitting at a computer all day. but whether I do so or not depends on what phase of a project I am in. At the beginning of a project, you are in a lot of meetings because you are gathering requirements but then as you shift to programming and testing, you spend more time at your computer.

Having good customer service skills is also important. People don't think of computer programmers and analysts as needing customer service skills but you are truly providing a service and the business users are your customers.

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