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Monday, January 09, 2023

I hardly ever cry.

This post provides supplemental information supporting experience summaries noted in my online résumé.

Under the Rockwell International work experience, I provide I am a Microsoft Office Power User. In addition, the next bullet describes the in house Human Resources (HR) system I developed using Microsoft Access.

In 1993 when I developed this system, the program was widely praised for its sophistication, cost effectiveness, time utilization reduction, and the fact I was able to bring together so many HR features under one system in a short period of time.

The system supported the Rockwell International Washington Engineering office in all matters related to human resources and the contracts my office held with NAVSEA and other areas of the U.S. Military.

In 1993 when I developed the HR system, I was doing mostly Graphical User Interface (GUI) software/SQL database development for NAVSEA using the programming languages C and FORTRAN, and the X-Windows system on Unix and DEC VAX platforms.

At the time, graphical user interface development using MIT's x-Windows system, C, Oracle's SQL compliant database systems, along with Borland C++ on PC platforms were areas considered cutting edge technologies that developers were using for this type of development work.

Developers in those areas were in high demand and being in the Washington area with an undergraduate degree in a science (i.e., electrical engineering, computer science, math), and DOD security clearances meant you could basically write your own ticket. I always had head hunters checking in to see whether I wanted to look at new opportunities.

So how did I end up developing the in house HR system using Microsoft Access?

In March 1993 or so, our office transferred all of the engineers, and management staff to a wholly owned subsidiary of Rockwell called CISCO (Collins International Service Company). At the same time a lot of the support staff was also laid off. These moves were done to cut our costs insofar charges to the government contracts we held. Operating as CISCO was a lot less than operating as Rockwell International.

How did I know so much about how our contracts worked? We had large OMNIBUS contracts. I often led tasks that were written off the larger contract. The support staff in our office would ask me for data related to my tasks (how much support staff, how much engineering staff- me and other members of my team, how much program management) and then provide me with cost estimates I could take to the Navy.

In addition, I received weekly updates as estimates and actual costs on my tasks. In my world tasks were like program management efforts in that I had to worry about everything related to the task. Software development, documentation (user's guides, software specification and requirements specs), and staying on budget.

I was grateful for the small nature of my engineering office in that I got to do things other engineers in other larger offices did not do. In addition, our offices were connected to the Washington Corporate offices of Rockwell and an international office, so our small engineering office got perks like we were a corporate office rather than an engineering office.

Let me step back a moment and explain what happened in September 1992. At that time a Korean female (I was told she had VIP relations to officials from the South Korean government) with a EE from the University of Maryland had decided to go back to Korea with her husband who had completed his doctoral work at the University of Maryland. My female co-worker said her husband did not want his daughters raised here so they were going back to South Korea.

This female engineer worked on mostly in house projects, related to databases and supported the support staff with software for HR functions. When she decided to leave, our manager asked me to look at her duties. I believed that because the HR functions were scattered about and did not run on a PC, it made it difficult for the support staff to handle without technical support and I simply did not have the time to support those HR functions on a day to day level.

I also knew that the reports the girls generated for our tasks- were mostly for our benefit, the engineers managing the task, and actual numbers were maintained in Anaheim (my engineering office's reporting office). No, Anaheim did not send me reports on my tasks, local support staff put them in my in basket.

My offer, I will write something for the PC so that the girls can work more independently. Support staff did not have to know how to use a SQL command prompt on a DEC machine, and I thought it would be easier for them to use a Microsoft product to correct errors they may have had with data.

I started to demonstrate some tools I had developed using Microsoft Excel, however the support staff was not overly impressed. Keep in mind, I wanted to move all off their software and resources to their PCs, taking these tools off of our minis (engineering staff systems) so that they could better handle their data.

In March 1993, most of support staff was laid off. Our contract year ran with the government's year, so that meant the new year would start October 1993. Over the summer (1993), the program manager, now also the head in our office (director retired about the same time we transferred), asked if I could do something about the HR systems. I started to show him earlier work with Microsoft Excel, when an engineer from our Anaheim office visited and told me about Microsoft Access. I had been working with SQL so I had this skill set. I said I could complete the task with 80 man hours. I started in late August and had to be ready by early October. I worked a great many hours on my own time.

Also in late September 1993, just about the time the system was about to go into production, I was involved in a horrible accident just outside of Fort Meade Maryland. I was meeting my mother on Fort Meade to get new tires. She was coming from Hanover, I was coming from Bowie. Just as I came upon the Goodyear store on RT 175 (no not the tire center we were meeting at), a young female driver and her passenger turned (left) into my path to get to the Goodyear store. I had nowhere to go. My airbag deployed and my car was rendered inoperable.

Everyone survived. I was bleeding in the face from the airbag and my right knee was damaged a bit- hit the dashboard. When the father of the young girl and her very heavy passenger (passenger side took the impact of my car) came on the scene, he asked me what I did to his kids. Law enforcement, my insurance company and everyone else knew she cut me off. The young female driver had no insurance.

I was mostly complete with the HR system when this accident took place, and had received wide praise for the work. I never questioned why that accident happened when it did, that is not until...

Why was it so easy for me to build this HR system? I had been building X-Windows GUI systems using SQL compliant databases I had developed, and x-windows GUI development was very time consuming. Each time a user clicked a button I had to write lines of code to have the program do what I needed it to do. In Access, I could fill in a dialog box with what happened on an 'onClick' event. I thought MS Access very powerful and less time consuming as compared to X-Windows and c software development.

I was familiar with FoxPro another database system Microsoft had acquired from another source, however the two systems were not the same. The Foxpro system I had used, was more a DOS program and in my opinion not the Windows system I could sell to support staff.

That said, 80 man hours of company time was not enough, and I worked day and night to complete the effort. I had not used MS Access before August 1993, therefore had to come up to speed on the software. It is still something I recommend highly. Let me say also, I did own other elements of the 1993 Microsoft Office suite, including Word and Excel. So I was very familiar with the Microsoft Office suite of software programs. I used Harvard Graphics for graphics and liked doing my own graphics for my user's guides, and software product and requirements specs rather than MS publisher. If I did this at home, the charge did not hit my tasks because the girls did not do it for me. My boss once said to me, "Regina, I do not pay you to format documents.". This meant my own graphics, too. I could do it off contract. I used XV for screen-grabs of my x-windows programs for documentation and loved going home to write and layout these documents. If I needed a chart, I could just do it and see the whole thing with Word for Windows which was getting better and better at displaying 'what you see is what you get'. I loved knowing what my documents were going to look like, the reason I would go home and insert my screen-grabs and other graphics without using the girls. I would edit, tweak and write- right up until I had to deliver the document (contract deliverable).

The day I left Rockwell I was told I should have used the girls more, in a round about way. On the same day, the EEOC told me to go shopping.

The program manager and one of the girls who was not laid off began using my system in Oct 1993. It worked and worked well.

Allow me to explain one of the first features I developed for system. The Work Assignment Memo (WAM) shown below was printed yesterday using the program. I have redacted my social security number.

Originally, every month the support staff had to type a similar sheet for every employee. Management, engineers, support staff. Over the course of a month if a modification was needed, the person in charge of updates had to retype everything adding or deleting a charge number that was either now available or no longer available. They used blank forms to accomplish this task.

For my system, I created a report that looked just like the blank WAM forms. Each employee had all of their charge numbers assigned within the database and I developed a form to easily add or delete charge numbers. I also allowed for printing all of the current employees WAMs or only the current EMPLOYEE WAM on the screen.

This saved a great deal of time for the staff that had to prepare the WAM forms. Prior to moving all of the HR data to this MS Access database, parts of the data were stored in a RDBMS database running on a VAX. Though employee charge numbers were contained in the VAX database, this data was only used for the task cost reports that were provided on a weekly basis. It was more that no one had written an ADA program to automatically print the WAM sheets from the data stored in the VAX RDBMS database.

The above discussion provided in part, to explain one of the queries I developed to write the cost reports using data that had once been stored on a VAX mini. I converted the ADA program reports using MS Access Queries, Macros, Modules, and Tables.

I was able to easily export data from the VAX VMS databases and spreadsheets the support staff used on their PCs- to populate the many tables of the new MS Access HR system. Back then some of the data was stored in a spreadsheet offered by the Smart Suite of office productivity software. It was the first productivity suite I ever used, mainly the word processor.

In November 1992, I was given the direct labor rates for every employee in the office to explore options for a new HR system. In September 1994 I filed a complaint with the EEOC mostly because of the data in the DLR data provided to me. I did not think it was a race issue. I thought an internal complaint filed in 1990 or so had been the problem. The EEOC agreed.

Today, would you be surprised by the number of messages I get from government contractors? I think you would be.

I wanted to provide data that supported my skill set in that I want to do more financial software/database development gig work. I started writing this post, and the memories came flooding back.

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