Tuesday, February 15, 2005

WSDCC Technology Director Questionnaire


Your Name: Chad Lupkes
Your Home Address: 11401 Roosevelt Way NE #12, Seattle, WA 98125
Your Telephone Number: 206-440-1592
Your E-mail Address: chadlupkes@earthlink.net


1. Please explain the nature of your work with database design, training, and implementation. Be sure to reference the products you used.

I have taken Database Management classes at the University of Phoenix. They taught the basics of Database design, and had us create basic databases using Microsoft Access. This was familiar to me, as I had been using the software since 1999. I also have several databases (all in Access) that I manage at work for my own purposes, as well as several that were written by other people that I help maintain. The majority of my own work is using Queries to looking into multiple tables, but I know how to build Forms and Reports as well.

I am in the process of learning MySQL. I do understand the basics behind the SQL language, and I can use pre-existing databases built with MySQL for website design, specifically for the Drupal and CivicSpace website engines.

2. The Democratic Party is a fast-paced nonprofit organization made up of committed individuals, elected officials, and candidates from across the state. Please explain any interaction you've had with the Party, political candidates, or issue-based nonprofit organizations. What did you like, what did you not like, and what would be your expectations working for the Party? If you have ever managed a voter file before, please explain when and where.

I started paying attention to politics in May of 2003, when I attended my first meeting of the 46th District Democrats. I was encouraged to attend by an instructor at the University, and picked up a copy of the PCO Handbook. For one of my assignments in a website design class, I transcribed the entire PCO Handbook onto the web. That version of the document is currently on the Democracy for Washington website, although I have seen two versions come out since then with minor changes.

My main experience in campaigns came from a Mercer Island City Council race. Bob Gelb, a good friend of mine, decided to run for El Jahncke's seat. I signed on as his treasurer, and while we only gained 33% of the vote, we felt very good about what we had done, and he is thinking hard of running again in '05.

In December, 2003, I volunteered to take over the website for the 46th District Democrats. Scott brought me in as an interim Executive Board member, and I kept the website updated through the Caucus Cycle. I ran for and won a seat as an At Large member of the 46dems E-board at the Reorganization meeting on December 2nd, and I am working with the Legislative and Research Committee with Sarajane Siegfried as well as the Community Outreach Committee under Bev Marcus.

I am also volunteering as the website manager for the Rainier Institute, which is a non-partisan think tank based in Seattle.

I have used the Online Voter File, and the system seems like a good start. I would want to gather ideas from users at various levels from Party Chair down to PCO and come up with a plan for any modifications based on their needs and desires. The biggest problem that I had during the last election season was the lack of a quick way to update information and have it show up in the system. I understand that there are procedures that need to be followed before changes can be made, and I believe those procedures need to be reviewed. Specifically, there is nothing in the online users guide that explains what it takes to make a change permanent. (I also notice that I am still listed as a 'B'.)

3. This position requires interaction with individuals of varying computer and database knowledge, customer service, and training. Please explain what experience you have producing training materials, giving customer service to less technical individuals, and giving oral presentations.

I have been working with computers since 1983, mostly on a user level. Over those 21 years, I have spent a lot of time helping people learn tricks and bringing them up to speed in DOS, Windows, Office, and the World Wide Web. I have worked for Nordstrom in a support role for the past 5 years, where customer service is the first consideration in any interaction or transaction. The courses that I took at the University of Phoenix all required presentations at the end of each class, and I am very familiar with PowerPoint.

4. This position requires the utilization of several different databases, online content, IT, as well as internal and external support. Considering this level of multitasking, how do you foresee organizing yourself to accomplish all tasks? Have you had experience setting priorities and ensuring follow-through on those priorities?

One of the jobs I held at Nordstrom was doing Special Orders for the Menswear department. The salespeople would enter their request into an online database, and we would process the requests. I gained familiarity with the ordering procedures for about 40 different vendors, 92 stores and up to 10 sales people at each store. Every order received a purchase order, and whatever follow through was required to make sure that the right item was at the right store at the right time. For each request, we would get as far as we could, then send off for any missing information and go on to the next request until we heard back with an answer. The salespeople could check the status of their requests at any time. I would like to see something like that implemented for the requests for voterfile lists and PCO update requests.

5. Success in this position requires vision, the ability to assess what the state needs in a big-picture way and ensure that identified priorities get implemented. How would you illustrate your technical vision?

Something I see missing from what is visible to the Grassroots is the connection between Big-Picture and every day efforts. I know it exists, but it's not obvious beyond the platform. I hope to work within the 46th to gain a better understanding of the party caucuses and committees and how people can get involved. One of my goals for the position of Technical Director would be to increase the opportunities for people to get involved in the ongoing issue based campaigns in support of the Party platform and candidate campaigns for people wanting to run for office to support and push forward that platform. This would necessitate a way of listing those campaigns on the website, something that is not being done right now.

I have some big dreams and ideas on how I would like to do this, and I'm still gathering the skills to put these ideas forward.

6. This is a senior position in the Party that requires management of a small staff, as well as a large amount of indirect management. Do you have any experience managing staff? Have you managed volunteers? Regardless of whether you have direct management experience, what traits do you possess that make you feel you would be a good manager?

I owned and managed a bookstore in Everett for 3 years, with a few employees and several volunteers. I am also one of the rotating chairs of the Progressive Democratic Caucus of the 46th. At Nordstrom I work with the supervisors and managers to coordinate work flow for multiple projects.

I can identify the direction that I want a project to go, then listen to the people within the group that I am working with to find the best way of getting it done. This utilizies the skills from the people who have them, and develops those skills within the rest of the group. For example, I have been working with DFW and PDCW to find the best way of engaging the grassroots, and I am thrilled with the amount of effort that everyone is putting forth. The final result is always greater than what any one of us could have accomplished on our own.


7. In which data management software systems are you able to work? What professional experience do you have in designing and/or managing databases?

Microsoft Access, Excel, and the basics of MySQL. Nordstrom uses an Oracle database with a Java front-end, and the Special Orders department uses a Web-based interface to a Microsoft SQL server, with reporting software in Access.

8. Do you have experience managing and building websites?

Several. I manage 17 domain names directly, with my base of online operations at seattlewebcrafters.com. Three of these domains are for candidates in the 2004 election, as well as for Democracy for Washington, the Metropolitan Democratic Club and the Washington State Success by Six effort. I currently manage the Democratic Party websites of the 39th, 46th, 13th and Kittitas County. I designed the website for Rep. Jim McIntire, the Progressive Demcratic Caucuses of Washington, Progressive Change for Washington and the Rainier Institute. The 23rd District has asked me to design a new site for them, as have the Island County Democrats. I know HTML very well, Javascript reasonably well and enough PHP to get the job done. Most of my larger sites use the Drupal or Civicspace Content Management System, usually alongside handcoded PHP pages. I am learning Perl as well, although that is a slow process with so much going on. I would like to learn more about XML and how it can be used to syncronize data among multiple sites. I have also set up a Wiki system for Democracy for Washington, which allows multiple users to edit content on the fly.

9. Please give an explanation of your technical skills or an anecdote that illustrates your ability to quickly learn new skills when needed.

I have been working with computers since 1983, following the evolution of DOS, Windows, Office and the World Wide Web. If I find a type of technology useful, I plug myself in until I understand how I can use it to my advantage, or to the advantage of the organization I am working with. I have no problem delegating specific technical problems to people with more experience, but I also have an intense curiosity about what they are doing so I can keep up with them and make suggestions for improvements. No system is ever perfect.

10. What do you think of the Web interface for this questionnaire? (Be honest!)

This is a very cool way of gathering input, and it's a heck of a time saver when compared with detailed forms. I've seen it used for writing letters to elected representatives on some websites, and I've been looking at creating this type of system on DFW or PDCW. Now I have extra motivation. (The 'n' variable must come from the email. Also a neat idea.)

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