This semester, my team was tasked with creating a CRM (Client Relationship Management) database for Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light (HIPL). Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light uses faith as an avenue to educate and encourage people to reduce the carbon footprints of their homes and places of worship.
Upon receiving the semester’s deliverables, my team did an audit of HIPL’s current website concluded that they could benefit from our expertise in areas other than the implementation of a CRM system. Consequently, we tacked a website redesign onto the semester’s to-do list.
As our project unfolded, we decided to migrate HIPL’s website from WordPress to Drupal, where we would create a custom theme and utilize CiviCRM, an open source CRM module that provides all functionality requested by HIPL.
Aside from redesigning the website and implementing a CRM system, we are using our volunteer hours to complete the following tasks for HIPL: Develop a solution for online office collaboration, organize resources and create a training for HIPL staff members regarding the effective use of social media, create content about “Greening for Renters” for use on HIPL’s new website, locate individuals, congregations and organization that would be interested in joining HIPL’s cause, and locating potential sources of funds and support for HIPL and it’s cause.
I speak on behalf of my team when I say that ServeIT has been a very fulfilling experience this semester. It’s always great to work with individuals who are so passionate about their projects. I’m grateful for my experience thus far, and look forward to continuing my work with the ServeIT Clinic next year.
I’ve decided that for those seriously interested in their IT career, ServeIT is a must. Simply the opportunity to put the skills you’ve gained to work is invaluable, even leaving aside the great resume piece that you come away with in the end. It’s been very rewarding to actually feel as if I could be of assistance, and I’ve had a great time.
Originally in my college career, I personally struggled with finding a goal, reason, or meaning behind informatics itself – I spent quite some time jumping around between cognates hoping something would fit better, or just disparaging that I would be stuck after graduation with a degree that only partly fit what I wanted to do, or that had taught me very little in my field. However, don’t despair! I don’t mean for you to take this as a condemnation of the informatics program – quite the opposite! What I mean to explain is how through ServeIT I was finally able to actually have a chance to apply myself.
In a sense, ServeIT has really given me a new sense of informatics itself. Of course, other disciplines are welcome and greatly appreciated here in ServeIT, but I think even they now have a sense of what informatics really is. When I first showed up, I felt in over my head – I was ‘lead developer’ on a team, and all my HTML/CSS knowledge came from a few weeks back in I101. – But I needn’t have feared. I had to put work in myself yes, but I was helped along at every instance by others in the team, others in the clinic, and even some outside of the school. I even found myself returning with advice for some, whether on something that I was an expert in, or a beginner.
And to me, that is what informatics is about. It’s the drive to be helpful in all things IT, even across a variety of disciplines, and nowhere but ServeIT has given me such a good look at it in that perspective. I’m grateful for the experience, and I implore anyone who can to give it a shot.
Serve IT Blog – Spring 2012
My role this semester is Project Manager for the Special Operations team within the Serve IT Clinic for spring of 2012. The Special Operations team is tasked with finishing up the website development projects initiated last semester. We are currently focusing the Bloomington Playwrights Project and Stepping Stones. Both projects were given to us after their completion of the design stages, so we have been trying to turn the creative genius developed last semester into reality. We have experienced many road blocks along the way but we can proudly say that we definitely have made great strides towards our goals and towards the completion of the site.
The best thing, about working within the clinic this semester, is that there are a lot of new people around to get to know and to help out. As a senior, I recognize my ability to lead not only my team but within the clinic as well as a role model and a three-time returnee. It has been a fun semester with the social activities that the clinic has hosted and it is great to see the camaraderie that makes it so great is still thriving within the clinic space itself. I look forward to the completion of the projects and the future fun and challenges that the semester will bring.
Until then… cheers!
So what is PHP? It stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessing, but that doesn’t really explain it. PHP is a programming language created specifically for websites and web applications. It allows your web server (where your website is stored) to interact with information before the webpage ever actually loads on a users browser. With PHP, you can interact easily with user input, databases, and mounds of information. You can create dynamic websites that allow an administrator to have certain rights on the website, while restricting other users. The cool things you can create and do with PHP are infinite.
Since working with the Serve IT clinic, I have learned many things. Not only have I learned how to understand and write PHP code, I have also learned of its incredible capabilities. Server-side scripting is a necessity for websites nowadays for countless tasks, such as login, database references, and much more. I couldn’t imagine using any language other than PHP to do it. PHP is so basic and easy to learn, I recommend it to everyone with a website, even if you use a CMS (content management system). In fact, especially if you use a CMS! The powers of PHP have come in handy on so many occasions, and I intend to use it often in the future. I hope you will too!
So far, my first semester with Serve IT has been amazing. I have learned so much while working
with such a great organization in Area 10, Agency on Aging. One of my favorite things about Serve IT is
the mandatory volunteer hours. I have done about half of my volunteer hours and have enjoyed every
minute of them. I have volunteered with the Caring Companions program which serves elderly and
people with disabilities around Bloomington and Ellettsville Indiana. What Caring Companions does is
you go to the person’s house and help out with little jobs and tasks the person is not able to do on their
own. We also go to the store and pick up groceries for them. Another important aspect is that you stay
with the same person and build a friendship with them. This is very rewarding because you actually get
to see the person you are helping. Volunteering with Area 10 has helped me understand what a great
organization they are and how important they are for the surrounding community.
I have learned a lot this semester, but the most important skill I have learned so far is improving
my communication skills. I have greatly improved my team communication and client meeting skills.
Working in a team environment can be tough at times, especially finding meeting times that work for
everyone, but my team does a great job meeting up and always being on time. I think that being on time
is one of the most important traits of a team, which is why my team gets along very well. My team is
currently working on coding the website to Drupal. This is very exciting because all of the progress is
finally starting to show. I think we are on great pace to complete the website before the end of the
semester which is going to be awesome!
Couple weeks ago, I was on duty for my first volunteer task. It was Food Pantry with a church around downtown area. Every other week, some volunteers will come to the church and help put together bags after bags of food for all the seniors who need support from the church. The task was easy. For two hours, I was moving around and distributing all kinds of food. I put them in the paper bags, one bag after another. In the end, each bag was getting so big, and I can’t even hold it myself. I was so sure that each bag of food allows me to survive at least a month. It is lucky to be in a country where people who need help can get direct support from others. Somehow, I keep thinking about the photos that my friend took when he went to Africa. The kids there were smiling happily, but in fact they didn’t even have food to survive. My friend told me that for the whole month of staying he couldn’t drink water and was rely solely on soft drinks, because there was no pure water in the area where he stayed. The water that was available had all kind of diseases. There were days when all they could eat were fruits.
First time meeting the client, I was told to design a site that is similar to Apple’s and Google’s site design aesthetic. It is challenging in the sense of making something superior than the so-called masterpiece design. Instead of struggling in mimic their design style, I decided to jump outside of the box, and create couple designs that each got some specialties in it. My approach was kinda successful, because instead of choosing a purely business driven design, the client found themselves fall in love with the most creative design. It was a rewarding feeling when someone appreciates what you come up with. The work then fell back on tweaking all the design details. It’s been three weeks since we started on refining the final design. Slow it may gets, but still in the progress of getting it done. I really felt grateful working with LBMC. T.J really cares about the design, and he was working so hard with us in reaching what we all wish to see —- a perfect design that everyone will love it when first see it.
As a second semester intern involved with the Serve IT Clinic at IU, I’ve had the opportunity to work with
two wonderful clients, both requiring a web-site build. Both semesters I’ve also worked with a team of
two developers, a designer, and this semester I have a business analyst as well. Last semester was my
first time working as a team-lead and project manager, and gave me a glimpse into all the different tools
I could use to manage my team.
We started out by using a combination of tools: Exchange for communications, Google for the team site
and Docs, and the server provided for housing our content. This semester, I sought out a tool with a
deliverable-based nature so that we could stay on task throughout the short sixteen week time period
we had to complete the website. Since we are working for a Non-Profit clinic, we utilize as many free
resources as possible.
I believe I found the perfect answer to my project management desires: Podio.com. It’s purpose:
to improve execution and collaboration for projects, business processes, and knowledge. You can
customize your own workspaces (with no known limit) for virtually everything going on in your life.
Example: I currently have four workspaces; Spring 2012 classes, my UITS internship, LBMCAA (Serve
IT), and even my “Columbus Prep” which includes an apartment/car search and documents for my
upcoming full-time job. Podio also allows you to merge with Google docs and has a free app for the
iPhone. I would recommend checking it out – they have several video tutorials (30+) for you to learn by,
What makes the best client?
This is my third semester working with the Serve IT Clinic, and thus I have had the opportunity to assist three clients so far. Each has been different in their own way, however one has stood out to me as being the easiest to work with. But what does that mean?
People in the business world often spend a great amount of time thinking about how they can provide the best service to their customers, but not many people consider how to be a better client to the teams helping them. In Serve IT, we interns are building a website for our client. The client should want to be as helpful as possible, but many of them get so caught up with their current work that they do not have the time to devote to our project. The client that has stood out to me the most has excelled in these areas:
- Be open to new ideas. We interns do a lot of research into what will look the best and work well with the target audience. Granted we’re not experts, but the site-creation will flow much more smoothly if we are able to discuss ideas and suggestions that might lead to a more user-friendly site
- Be organized and timely. Unlike most jobs, our projects end at the end of the semester. This means that we need to go live with the website in under 16 weeks. Most of the work comes from us, but things like site content is one of the last things that gets added to the site. If the client designates a person to gather the materials on their end and send them to our team, it allows us to see the end result of our labor!
- Be friendly! The Serve IT Clinic is composed of all years of students, from our veteran seniors and grad students to second-semester freshmen. But we are students, and we are still learning basic workforce skills like project-and time-management and even email etiquette.
“I am a developer for the LBMCAA team. We are currently transitioning from the design phase of our site into the implementation phase. The LBMCAA needs a site created completely from scratch, so it will take quite a lot of planning and work to finish it by the end of the semester. My experience with Serve IT has given me a taste of what it will be like to have a “real job”, or career. Through Serve IT, I have experienced my first board meeting, complete with coffee and donuts. I have gained experience with customer satisfaction, and I have worked with a client and a team to reach a specific goal. In some ways, Serve IT is like a class, because I have learned new skills and applied them to a project. However, it is also so much more than a class, because there is no teacher telling us what is due, when it is due, and how to do it. We are much more independent, and have to use teamwork more than most of us are probably used to doing. This provides both a challenge and an opportunity to let our creativity and independence emerge. I would recommend this program to anybody that is looking for a challenging and exciting way to gain experience in the IT field.”
Serve IT is undoubtedly the best organization I’ve had the chance to be a part of since arriving at IU. The opportunity to do what I like (web development) for a local non-profit organization really makes me feel like I’m contributing something more than just a website. Aside from redesigning and developing their website, I also get to volunteer which really helps me to better understand their organization. My furthered understanding of what the Area 10 Agency on Aging does will definitely show in the work I contribute to get their new website up and running.
This is my first semester with Serve IT and I will surely be here in the future, perhaps for the rest of my time at IU. The unique experience it provides to further my skills as well as allowing me to contribute to my community is great, and I look forward to future opportunities and time with the Serve IT Clinic.