September 19, 2013
Hi – my name is Ryan McFall, and I am excited to be spending my sabbatical as an Application Development Intern at OST! My day job is as Professor and Chair of the Computer Science Department at Hope College. While normally I am accustomed to being called “Dr. McFall” or “Prof. McFall,” I currently go by the moniker “Intern Ryan,” which I happily enjoy.
Many people outside academia wonder exactly what a sabbatical is. Contrary to many people’s perception, it’s not the same thing as a vacation! Hope faculty who are granted a sabbatical are expected to spend their time doing work that contributes to their professional development, as well as to the academic programs offered to Hope students. Deciding to spend my fall here at OST will certainly meet both of those goals. Software development is something that I love to do, and the opportunity to work with and learn from professionals in the field will undoubtedly help shape the curriculum that I help deliver at Hope. Keeping up with the state of the practice in the rapidly changing discipline of Computer Science is very challenging. CS faculty have a daunting task – the must first identify which technologies, frameworks and tools to teach their students, then they must learn to use those technologies, and they must determine how best to teach those concepts to undergraduate students. I expect that being at OST will significantly help me in identifying and learning state of the art technologies and tools, leaving me with the responsibility to teach those concepts to my students when I return to Hope in January of 2014.
But living as an application developer isn’t just about “geeky” things like programming languages, development environments and frameworks. It’s also about working with customers to identify their needs and requirements, and figuring out how to structure a solution that will help them efficiently meet those needs while growing their business. Effective application developers are also good project managers, learning how to estimate the amount of time it will take to complete a given task, how many resources are needed to complete it, and how to measure whether they are on track. During my time at OST I hope to be fully involved in these processes as well – while you can read about strategies for being successful at managing relationships and projects, actually doing it is the supreme teacher. Being able to relate my OST experiences to my students will be an invaluable resource to them as they seek to grow into professionals in the field as well.
While I am just getting started working on my project, I have already learned a lot that I will be able to take back to the classroom. I am thankful that many of the tasks I have been given have fit in well with the experiences and skills that I have gained while teaching at Hope. This has meant that while many specific frameworks and tools have been relatively new to me, they have fit into the framework of my previous knowledge quite well. This means that in my first two weeks I have actually been able to make some contributions to my project, much to my delight!
I have found OST employees to be knowledgeable, collegial and willing to help. Most importantly, they are a lot of fun to work with. While I am the only Hope person in what often seems like a sea of Calvin graduates, no one seems to be holding that against me! I am looking forward to continuing to refine and enhance my application development skills and tool set, and to make a positive contribution to the success of my team’s project. I am also excited to be able to continue to grow a mutually relationship between Hope’s Computer Science program and OST.