What does a typical day look like for you? The Children’s developers group is responsible for several websites, web applications, desktop applications, databases and reporting systems. As such, my typical day at Children’s might be comprised of anything from planned software development, updates for existing applications and websites, marketing initiatives, or any number of systems administration or maintenance tasks.
All of the Children’s developers manage a pretty substantial workload on a day-to-day basis, and usually have five to 10 active projects in the works at any given time. The scope of the projects ranges from larger applications with a project duration of several months, such as the new pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) quality database system, to mid-size projects, such as the Mighty blog redesign, all the way down to one-off web pages and email templates, such as the microsite for the recent Adrian Peterson “Eat Big, Give Big” fundraiser.
Throw in a pot of coffee (give or take), a few complaints about the Vikings, and a walk around the lake next to the Center Point office, and that about sums up a typical day.
You recently built Mighty — a Children’s health blog. What did that involve? I played a significant role in the development of the new Mighty blog, but it was by no means a singular effort – a lot of other very talented people were involved in the process, from marketing and graphic design to systems administration and architecture. The final release represents the efforts of a number of individuals and departments, a team of which I was happy to be a part.
“Mighty” was a complete overhaul of the existing kids’ health blog. This involved a complete rewrite of the design templates, which dictate the overall look and feel of the site. There were also significant categorization and taxonomy changes, greatly simplifying the number of post categories and the organization of each new post on the blog. We also made several changes to the core WordPress system (the content management system we use for smaller websites and blogs), and added a number of new features and enhancements specific to the Children’s IT environment.
On my end, I started with a general overview of the new site requirements, and a complete set of graphic design mocks from our marketing department. The design mocks are delivered as Photoshop files, which are essentially a series of interwoven text and graphic layers that can be manipulated and extracted into discrete images, fonts and other assets.
Once this process is complete, the overall design and layout is built as a series of HTML page designs and styles, and then converted for use as WordPress templates. Some pages, such as the new homepage, receive special treatment, such as a rotating slideshow of new posts in a featured category or a list of recent updates to the blog. Code from other Children’s websites is then merged into the template (such as the top header, footer, and page navigation from our main internet site), creating a hybrid system containing elements from several different sources.
There is an overarching, concerted effort in the Children’s development group towards the unification of our disparate systems into reusable, centralized modules wherever possible. With the new Mighty site design, we took significant steps to design the final product as a universal, customizable template for future Children’s websites, which should allow us to more easily manage new web development efforts with significantly less maintenance and technical debt.
What do you love most about your job? To a large extent, the developers group is a small consulting team within the larger Children’s organization, and it has been a real treat to meet directly with so many different people in a wide variety of departments and positions. There is never a shortage of variety in the projects we undertake, and it is a rarity in the industry to work with such a broad range of platforms and systems, from our enterprise EMR and clinical systems all the way down to open source content systems and one-off web pages. There is also a strong sense of self-management and product ownership in our group, and with that comes a high degree of creative latitude and innovation.
As cliché as this sounds, it is readily apparent that the work we do as developers has tangible, positive consequences in the lives of our patients. For example, the recently completed PICU Quality Database (the first of its kind in the industry), sponsored by a physician in our PICU, is a custom designed application used to measure specific and proprietary metrics relating to the care of PICU patients. The ongoing analysis and reporting of this information will lead to direct, measurable increases in the quality of care for future PICU patients.
Another example is the recent “Eat Big, Give Big” event with Adrian Peterson. My involvement with the project was limited to a few web pages and email templates, but seeing the photographs of the event the next day showing some of our patients holding a football, shaking hands with AP with huge smiles on their faces provides a sense of purpose for the work. This event will stand out as a bright spot for these kids, and I’m happy that I was able to be a part of it.
When you’re not at work, how do you spend your time? Working on various cars, boats and an assortment of other motorized vehicles, boating on the St. Croix river, building furniture out of old engine parts (seriously), and continuing my quest for the perfect buffalo wing in the Minneapolis area (if you have any wing recommendations, please send them my way).
What is your favorite meal? I’m always jokingly (but not really jokingly) suggesting that our meetings here need to more food involved, so I’m not surprised this question is on here. If I had to choose, it would be either 1) a Manny’s steak dinner, or 2) my mother’s porcupine meatball recipe (1 lb beef, Rice-A-Roni beef flavor, one egg, mix, form into meatballs, simmer for 45 minutes) – seriously good comfort food.