October 25, 1999
Whether they work in far-flung embassies or in the space program, with movie stars or baseball pros, some technologists get more than their fair share of excitement
By Bronwyn Fryer
Face it: Programming a line of code, sitting at a help desk or sweating it out in a network closet is pretty much the same experience the world over. Only the projects, people and places vary. Still, some information technology jobs are pretty unique.
In fact, if IT professionals ever held a contest for the most memorable moments on the job, Nikki Strange, Ari Kaplan, Greg Brandeau, Steve Jasak and Richard Alena could all vie for top prizes. Boring is a word that rarely, if ever, crosses their lips.
They work with movie stars and CEOs and on projects that most IT professionals can only dream about. But they are also living proof that wonderful—and extreme—jobs aren’t unattainable. The following profiles offer a glimpse into the worlds of these professionals, how they got their jobs and their advice to career-minded folks who would like to emulate them.
TITLE: Oracle database administration consultant, Chicago
CLIENTS INCLUDE: The Montreal Expos, Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves, as well as Playboy Enterprises Inc. in Chicago and Fortune 1,000 companies.
WHAT HE DOES: Kaplan spends half his time building FoxPro- and Access-based computer systems for Major League Baseball teams. (Kaplan is the inventor of a statistical analysis methodology that helps scouts and managers assess players’ abilities.) The rest of the time he works as an Oracle database administrator for clients like Playboy.
GREATEST CHALLENGE: Sticking to the consulting work that really appeals to him. (Kaplan says he dreams of managing a Major League Baseball team one day.)
GREATEST REWARD: Like Strange, Kaplan enjoys "interacting with a wide variety of people from Major League Baseball, military intelligence, telecommunications and the Hollywood film industry."
MEMORABLE MOMENTS: In 1997, he was name the California Institute of Technology’s Alumnus of the Decade—putting him in the company of movie director Frank Capra and Nobel laureate Linus Pauling. He also makes frequent trips to Russia with University of Chicago professor Marvin Makinen. Kaplan is working with Makinen on a database of clues to try to determine the fate of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved at least 20,000 Hungarian Jews from the Nazis during World War II. (Wallenberg is said to have been imprisoned in a Soviet gulag, or labor camp, far passed his "official" death in 1947).
HOW HE GOT THE JOB: In September 1989, Kaplan presented his college research on baseball statistics analysis at a meeting of the California Institute of Technology’s board of trustees. In the audience was Orioles owner Eli Jacobs, who was said to be impressed. Kaplan worked for the Orioles in 1990 and for Padres during the summer of 1991. In 1992, he built a computer system for the Expos.
ADVICE TO JOB SEEKERS: "Make yourself exposed to the community by writing articles for magazines, giving speeches at conferences and so on. All the cool jobs are found by going the networking route."
ca'>ADVICE TO JOB SEEKERS: "Make yourself exposed to the community by writing articles for magazines, giving speeches at conferences and so on. All the cool jobs are found by going the networking route."
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