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Sorren

Sorren Jao

Communication, Art + Technology › Interactive Arts + Technology › Interactive Systems
Co-operative Education › Local Co-op

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Photo of Sorren
I encourage anyone pursuing Co-op to accept the work given to you as a learning experience because you may be surprised at what you will get out of your efforts.

Raymond Kroc, the founder and builder of McDonald’s Corporation, loved to say “I put the hamburger on the assembly line." His methods of running McDonald's as an "operating system" were key to a successful business. Kroc’s philosophy was serving burgers of the exact same size, quality and duration of time for production and delivery.

This resonated with me while designing profile pages for the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) website. Kroc’s concept allowed me to transform an idea to design consistent profiles. I received numerous requests for profiles from graduate students, so starting from scratch with each one would be taxing (of time and energy). I realized a functioning “operating system” was required–not one that makes burgers, but one that deals with profile templates.

A photoshopped image depicting a McDonald’s cheeseburger, freshly graduating with its Master’s degree.
Credit
Sorren Jao
Context

As you may know, GPS at Simon Fraser University (SFU) is a department that supports certificate, master’s, and doctoral students as well as postdoctoral fellows. GPS provides graduate students networking opportunities, finds funding for research, promotes research, and much more. One service allows SFU graduate students to submit a profile to the SFU GPS website. This allows the student to be recognized for their achievements, get recognized by professionals/employers, and have an opportunity to promote their research on an official SFU web page. And of course, all of this is completely free for the graduate student. Sounds like a pretty good deal. On top of this, any graduate student with major awards of the year receives social media promotion. If you are a graduate student from SFU reading this, I highly recommend taking the time to submit a profile.

I was a Design and Marketing Associate for GPS and one of my responsibilities was to design profile pages. I was also responsible for updating the various web pages found on the GPS site such as the job page, event page, and awards page, and coding the template for the GPS news bulletin.

Profile Helper Prototype: Hypertext Preprocessor
Graph showing the efficacy of Sorren's tool
The profile per day began to increase around Feb. 11, the day when I made this helper.

Last-minute profile submissions have piled up since the winter break of 2020. Perhaps graduate students had more time to submit it over the break. With over 60 profiles to be completed within a short time frame, the volume is overwhelming. My solution for this problem was to create a program to aid with the formatting. This generates a pre-made template for the profile pages. As a result of my innovation, I was able to complete the profile pages at a faster rate and with more consistency.

Profile Helper User Version

My supervisor was proud of my innovations in accomplishing this task and required the Profile Helper to continue with operations within the department especially when there were large volumes of profiles requested. Unfortunately, there was a problem with my prototype Profile Helper. This version was built with the scripting programming language: Hypertext Preprocessor, which deals with web server functionalities and was not accessible to the department.

I used jQuery (an alternative programming language) to build the Profile Helper. jQuery is a JavaScript library that can be used to create dynamic web pages. While using jQuery, I could generate profile templates just like before and accessible to my supervisor.

I also improved the user experience within the Profile Helper. This user-friendly version contains colour-coded buttons, tabs to separate content, save and download functions, and a text editor to test out the generated HTML.

You can try out my Profile Helper here.

Conclusion

As a result of my innovation–a tool to aid with profile creations–my supervisor shared my work with the GPS staff. Minor tweaks were made based on my supervisor’s feedback.

Looking back, I realized that if it weren’t for the numerous profile requests, this project would not have existed. The deadlines and the profile requests unexpectedly taught me the fundamentals of Hypertext Preprocessor and jQuery.

I compared my project to the assembly system of McDonald's from the way it seamlessly automates and generates burgers. One might say that this method of automation diminishes the quality of McDonald's food (no offence to McDonald's). However, this method does not diminish the quality of a profile as one may believe, rather it assists users with the process of creating quality content by allowing them to begin with a template.

As I conclude this blog, I encourage anyone pursuing Co-op to accept the work given to you as a learning experience because you may be surprised at what you will get out of your efforts.


Feel free to chat: soalexjao@gmail.com 

To see more of my projects, please visit my portfolio.

Author

Sorren

Sorren Jao

Communication, Art + Technology › Interactive Arts + Technology › Interactive Systems
Co-operative Education › Local Co-op

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