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Slower Learning Curves


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I, too got thrown into this role as an In-House Developer about 2 years ago. My question is this: What do you do when you the demands of your clients outweigh the time you have to learn new tools? I work in a school district and it seems the requests I receive come in daily: Add a button here, a report there, a page here, etc. We have 12 schools, 10,000 students and 300 staff who all access Filemaker for their grades, report cards, local assessments, you name it!! It's an awesome tool, but I feel like I can't get my brain around it because I wansn't the one who built it from the ground up. We still have the original developer, but I really don't like relying on him for every major thing. Any suggestions? BTW, I'm glad to know there are others in the same situation. :( :(

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He makes all the major structural changes, however, I am being relied upon to make other changes and additions as stated in my last post. It's all about the bottom line. It's more cost effective to have me learn and develop in-house than to constantly try to hunt down someone who lives in another state and is hard to reach at times.

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My question is this: What do you do when you the demands of your clients outweigh the time you have to learn new tools?

Greetings Sophia,

I think your situation points to at least two of the challenges of in-house developers:

1. How to get on-going training.

2. How to get the organization to give you time to do periodic planned revisions of databases (rather than just the fixes and adjustments that happen on a daily basis).

These can be a problem because often in-house developers are tasked with additional roles (IT Manager, Help Desk, Web Developer, Business Analyst, Computer Trainer, and/or whatever your actual title is). Keeping everything running may not leave time to get additional training, and certainly makes it harder to work on planned revisions of existing systems.

These may also be difficult because of lack of "clout" within the organization. Your manager may not take your training or project development time seriously.

So what can we do? Here's my thoughts based on our session, and my own experience:

1. Make sure your supervisor (and co-workers) understand the importance of the database system, and that attention needs to be focused on continuing to improve it.

2. Designate "development time" for planned projects. You might need a couple hours every day, or a day or two a week, where you can turn the phone off and lock the door.

3. Look and act like a professional. This will help build your "clout" and make people more likely to listen to you.

4. Acquire Developer Certification, attend DevCon or other FileMaker training and user group meetings. These can give you clout and improve your skills and resources.

5. Formalize revisions. Get your users and managers to use formal channels (revision request meetings, or something) when they want to add modules or reports. When they meet with you like this, they will have a better sense of the importance of the process, and hopefully be more prepared with what they are asking. When a project is complete, formalize the rollout. Announce the change and plan training for the appropriate people.

6. Show brief "proof of concept" samples, using a cool feature or technique that might be a better way to do an existing process in your system.

I hope that's helpful. Good luck!

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