Each Friday during the Summer, VSA Future hosts their renowned Global Speech Series where campers are exposed to real-world events with exciting and engaging talks that broaden their perspective of the world. The goal of these classes is to provide students with an opportunity to interact with experts in all sorts of topics from global warming to the day-to-day life of a scientist. Students will be exposed to concepts, ideas, and perspectives that are new and unfamiliar
through age-appropriate talks by VSA Future’s expert panel of speakers which include lawyers, scientists, financial experts, programmers and so much more! The Global Speech Series will not only inspire children but also allow them to grow as empathetic citizens of the world. In a recent speech, children were able to engage with a Systems Programming Analyst who provided a vast insight into our increasingly digitalized world. They explained how so much of what we do is surrounded by code, whether we realize it or not. Our phones, our smart homes, our electric cars—we’d be at a loss without them. But what goes on behind the scenes? How can these systems and applications work and what happens if they crash? Meet Vini Mehta. She’s a systems programming analyst at UPS (United Parcel Service) who came in to introduce VSA Future’s students to her fascinating career and the broader programming world.
Before becoming a systems programming analyst, Ms. Vini studied electrical engineering at NJIT. She then shifted from engineering to IT, along the way interning as a point of sale systems analyst at a grocery store and a restaurant. Point of sale, as Ms. Vini explained, is the place where a customer makes the payment for a product, like paying for a soda at the checkout counter. Her job was to work with the hardware and software that enables that process, including inputting data and figuring out how barcodes are scanned. Ms. Vini said that even though her job had nothing to do with engineering, she was able to draw from the problem-solving and creative thinking skills lent by her engineering degree, which shows that everything one learns is valuable.
If you’re still confused about what exactly a systems programming analyst does, don’t worry. To understand what a systems programming analyst does, one has to know what a software developer does, since the two work hand in hand. As Ms. Vini explained, developers are the ones who create the software we use, like computer apps and software. A systems programming analyst in turn analyzes, manages, and helps design the systems that developers use to code. For instance, if a developer’s system breaks or malfunctions, a systems programming analyst steps in to identify the bug and resolve the issue. At UPS specifically, Ms. Vini develops code that makes sure people’s packages are successfully delivered to them. She helps design algorithms that determine the most efficient routes for trucks to take (fun fact: UPS trucks never make left turns since there’s a degree of difficulty that data has shown to result in more accidents!).
Tools and Gadgets Used
Ms. Vini was kind enough to introduce to us the various tools and software she uses as part of her job. She first talked about the three main systems she works with, which support roughly 4,000 developers. They include:
● SonarQube: analyzes code and checks if it’s written correctly and efficiently. It also flags any bugs or vulnerabilities (e.g. if a password is accidentally included in the code, other security loopholes, etc.)
● Azure DevOps: similar to a planner for developers
● Jfrog: scans code that is pulled from outside of the company to make sure it is safe to use
She also discussed the other tools she uses and their purposes:
● Excel: data mining (she analyzes huge amounts of data to find patterns and trends)
● Power BI: dashboarding; it creates data in a format (e.g. graphs) that allow people to quickly scan and understand the data easily
● PowerShell: scripting; it automates repetitive tasks, though is not powerful enough to create applications. With this tool, Ms. Vini demonstrated some of its basic uses like creating variables and performing simple mathematical formulas. She explained that it can also be used to compare Excel files, pull information from the internet, and generate reports
● Google: “We Google a lot,” said Ms. Vini. “There’s no shame; if you don’t know something, just ask!” Additionally, Ms. Vini talked about the programming languages she uses—not to be confused with spoken languages like English, as one student innocently did. Programming languages are meant to “bridge the gap between the 0’s and 1’s the computer understands and humans.” She uses Java, Python, and C++. When Ms. Vini asked if any students had any programming experience, several excitedly raised their hand to say they had coded before in Scratch and Python. What talented students!
An average day begins with checking emails to see if any developers need assistance. Checking emails actually takes up most of Ms. Vini’s day as new bugs and issues never cease to crop up. Sometimes, she’s even called late at night at 3 am to solve an issue (but according to Ms. Vini, she doesn’t mind because she enjoys solving problems!). Ms. Vini also checks if there are any problems that need to be fixed regarding mining data and checks if the RAM, CPU and file systems are running smoothly. In addition, Ms. Vini works with other groups to ensure all systems are up and running. They include the:
● Security team: she uses Jfrog and SonarQube
● Air and travel teams: works with them to create applications that help airplanes and
trucks determine the most efficient route
● Finance and accountant team: supports them to make sure they can successfully track
and keep money safe
Is this Job any Fun?
Yes! According to Ms. Vini, whenever she’s solving a problem or picking through developers’ code to find errors, it feels like she’s solving a puzzle or being a detective. She enjoys the challenges that each new day poses and the great people she works with. In addition, she said there are plenty of opportunities to grow in this career field and one can easily transfer their skills into other careers like accounting, marketing, and finance. Plus, Ms. Vini gets to participate in hackathons, which are exciting competitions where programmers create apps and websites to solve problems.
As for what the future holds, Ms. Vini is currently pursuing a graduate degree in analytics at Georgia Tech. She’s also working on getting certified on the tools she’s worked with to further her career. To our students interested in getting involved in coding, Ms. Vini recommended starting off by learning Python, as it’s an easy language to learn and provides a foundation for logical thinking necessary for learning all other languages. Ms. Vini ended by quoting B.B. King:
“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” Thank you Ms. Vini for teaching us about being systems programming analyst! This week’s
Global Speaking Series has truly shown us the vast opportunities available to us in the future.
For more information about VSA Future’s Summer Program and Global Speech Series, visit our online learning center’s website including their very own Online Public Speaking Classes!