Challenge, Resilience, and Community: 3 Stories of Authenticity
Here at the CATLab, one of our core values is authenticity. Every job involves challenges, but this summer we’ve taken those challenges head-on, learning how to rise to the occasion, how to recover resiliently, and how to use those experiences to deepen our bonds with each other. We thought we’d share a few stories of what authenticity has looked like for us.
Kristen: Rising to the Challenge
A number of people at the CATLab have been inspired by Kristen’s hard work and organizational skills. She and Rebecca were placed in charge of creating all the software involved in managing students’ visits to campus. This “visit” object must help admissions counselors promote, schedule, plan, and log student visits. It must accommodate every situation from a prospective student wanting to meet with an admissions counselor to a sports event hosting dozens of kids from different schools. It must bring together professors’ availability, meal times, event schedules, and the visitor’s expressed preferences. The interface must contain all this complexity, and yet be intuitive, not intimidating, to use—it’s a huge project.
But Rebecca and Kristen set to work wholeheartedly. According to another programmer, “They spent hours talking to admissions; they spent days planning it out, building the logic of it… and I believe now they’re working on writing the classes and everything for it… They won’t just start jumping in and writing stuff—they’ll plan it out.” Even Nancy, whose team is working on something completely different, brought up how she was blown away by Kristen’s “big huge diagram on the whiteboard” and how it showed that Kristen had taken the time to "think about every detail and what every screen is gonna look like.”
Even though the diagram was spattered with her slightly frenzied notes-to-self about how much work lay ahead, Kristen did a wonderful job presenting her plans to the Admissions team when they visited. Her work ethic, tempered by her candidness, toward the towering task before her demonstrated both her commitment and her authenticity.
Ethan and Rebecca: Success out of Setbacks
As soon as we finished our basic training, Ethan and Rebecca were assigned to build a trigger that would create all the records needed for a student’s application to Westmont. They worked side-by-side—“kind of like a race, almost,” said Ethan—approaching the problem from different angles so they could offer a few different solutions to Admissions. “The nice thing about it,” Ethan said, “is we’re also on a team… we’re both struggling with similar things… so I can ask, ‘Hey, how’d you get to that step?’ Then from there, I can catch up. It’s kind of like leapfrogging over each other.”
Once they got the trigger working, Rebecca and Ethan demonstrated the new software when the Admissions Office next came to visit. The people from Admissions liked what they saw, but told the programmers to change some technical details of the class. This change wasn’t just a simple tweak—“We had to step back a lot, to reformat the whole logic behind what we were doing.”
After getting this feedback, they had to go back over “a bunch of the code and everything in it.” Although it was initially frustrating to redo all the code they’d already labored over, “by doing that we went down another trail” that revealed a way to elegantly integrate their code with the other programmers’ projects. “Even though it did take a long time,” said Ethan, “it’s so useful and it’s so compatible with everything else that it’s just a good feeling to get it pushed out, to have it all working, to have everything running correctly and all the tests passing.”
Nancy, Clayton, and James: Building Relationships
While many members of the CATLab appreciate the technical support they are able to provide for each other, our sense of being a team extends far beyond our work.
Nancy, for instance, said that a lot of the time, the problems she faced were more mental than technical. As a team, we certainly offer practical help—“Oh, did you try this?” or “Did you look here?” or “I did it this way”— but sometimes it’s the moral support that makes the difference. As Nancy said, “You can do it yourself, but you just need someone else to be there, assuring you, ‘You’re doing it the right way, you’re getting these problems, but that’s normal and the solution you’re doing is correct—just keep going.” For her, even just knowing there’s a solution out there helps her get past a block.
For Clayton, in spite of all the practical and professional experience he’s gained this summer, his proudest accomplishment is the friendships he’s made. On the one hand, he’s excited about “the relationships and the networking and connections I’ve made on a professional level.” He cited James as his inspiration for diving deeper into business and marketing, relating how James’s example “inspired me to start doing things as simple as working on my LinkedIn account or reaching out to people within the community to talk to and make connections with.” On the other hand, he’s mostly glad to have made good friends:
“I think people here are pretty supportive. Some of the guys I’ve bonded with more have helped me out when I’ve needed a ride, or like they invite me to things outside of the office, just to hang out and like worship nights. And I’ve done similar things… I’ve given James a ride home a couple of times. I definitely think there’s a sort of support at the CATLab that comes out of the office… I’ve for sure been inspired—a lot actually, I would say—by people in this office.”
As we declared at the beginning of the summer, authenticity means that we are thrilled by success, refined by failure, challenged by conflict, and inspired by forgiveness. We will run into problems and encounter obstacles, but we will face our whole journey with honesty and fellowship. We’re glad we’ve had the opportunity to live those values out.
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