Employee Spotlight: From the manufacturing line to a line of code

David Williams

Featured Employee: David Williams

When chatting with David Williams, the word "learning" is mentioned more often than not.

An attribute ingrained in him from both of his teacher parents, Williams, software engineer for the Expert Alerts IT team is always trying to learn something new. "It's the way I like to live my life," he said.

And Williams has taken learning to a whole new level.

Williams moved from Montana to the Quad Cities with a dual degree in mechanical engineering and weld engineering and joined the Engineering Development Program (EDP) as a manufacturing engineer at Harvester Works. Initially, he supported the line that made corn heads for combines, then worked as a factory automation and robotics engineer, and finished his time there on the PDP team that created the hinged draper.

In September of 2020, because of the Smart Industrial Redesign (SIRD) and the pandemic, there were fewer jobs for those employees finishing the EDP, so Williams, along with 25 of his peers were offered the opportunity to enter the IT reskilling program and learn how to become software engineers.

"For me, I'd seen a little bit of programming with the robots in the factory, and I enjoyed it," he said. "I thought the reskilling program might be similar, so I entered the program to see if I'd enjoy it just as much."

A move he definitely doesn't regret.

Reskilling program opens doors for learning

The reskilling program teaches employees how to become full-stack engineers, but Williams said it isn't just about learning software.

"The program teaches you foundational skills with front end and API development, and how to be really good at your job," he said.

Additionally, the program sparked Williams' intrigue for learning, something he picked up from his father.

"My dad taught high school mechanics in a small rural area, and he got creative with how to teach his students to do things," he said. 'He didn't want every year to be the same, he wanted to be resourceful with the kids, and not just settle for the same thing over and over. I saw that and it has stuck with me ever since."

So, Williams became resourceful about how to teach himself the things he didn't know. He learned more about AWS and cloud architecture by watching YouTube videos and asking a lot of questions.

"One of the things that intrigued me the most was why we do what we do, and the way we do it?" he added. "I knew I was going to ask stupid questions, but I identified people who were more experienced and collaborated with them where I needed better understanding."

When Williams joined the Expert Alerts team, he voluntarily learned about the web application front-end development and has tremendously contributed to the development of the Expert Alerts Web Admin Tool used by production system data scientists/rule authors to define recommendations for the Expert Alerts. His work has been in production and is used by end users.

David is also learning AWS Serverless computing and is actively involved in the successful data migration activities needed as part of the major Expert Alerts re-architecture efforts.

"When I joined the team this year, I had very limited knowledge of coding and of the IT side of the business," Williams said. "All the extra hours put in 'studying', and conversations with my scrum master, product owner, engineering manager, and senior engineer at the beginning really helped me to quickly become a highly productive member of our team."

Williams demonstrates the difference

Not only has he been productive with his new-found knowledge, but an employee who has made an impact on his team.

During 2021, there was quite a bit of turnover on his team, and two or three employees were doing the work of six. Team members had to step up, work hard, and not be afraid to try new things to get the work done. That is when Williams was really able to make a difference.

"When we were working on the front-end portion of the app, I was the most experienced and knowledgeable of that piece," he said. "If we had stuff we needed to get done quickly, I would jump right in and get it done. I tried to be a flexible teammate, and I think I helped our team out because I was willing to take the work that others either didn't feel comfortable with or didn't want to do."

The Expert Alerts team has benefited from his diverse style of working, simplicity, and humility about learning. He has had a very positive influence on the other team members as well. His diverse background and inclusive style of working has proven to be an extremely productive way for the team to learn and grow from each other.

"I really enjoy working in IT," he added. "In the manufacturing environment, nothing really changes and there isn't much room for growth other than becoming a manager, but in IT, there is something different every day and I have opportunities for growth where I can become better and better in my job all the time."

Looks like Williams found his learning stride.

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