Dan C.

Senior Applications Developer, Student Applications — ISC Application & Information Services
Portrait photo of Dan C.

ISC service(s) or programs/projects:  Next Generation Student Systems / Pennant: currently XCAT (in-house-developed application for applying transfer, study abroad, and other external student credits).

Length of time in ISC:  Joined ISC and Penn in 2018

Previous work experience:  I was a consultant with Accenture for just under ten years. I sort of flitted around among subsidiaries, working mostly on defense-related contracts, and never worked on one project more than two years until the final one I was on, which lasted four years—that was for electric utilities. One reason I wanted to come to Penn was to have something a little more stable, and to work for a place with a mission I could really support.

Tell us about a challenge at Penn that made you proud to be part of ISC.

I was part of the team that developed the new XCAT, which enables students to request course credit from other institutions when they transfer or study abroad. We had only a few months to rebuild XCAT from scratch so that it would work with Pennant, the next-generation student system. Despite the tight timelines, a new application stack, and support duties to juggle, the XCAT team delivered the product on schedule — to great reviews by the users and clients.

What’s an interesting technical or business problem you’ve faced with ISC?

One happened when I’d only been here for three months! We were sending a file to one of Penn’s financial systems. Once in a while it would fail, and we couldn’t understand why. When we reviewed the logs, we discovered that it would fail whenever there was an 8 or 9 in one field. Why that one? It turns out the library we were using to convert numbers interpreted that to mean the value was in octal (base 8). For a financial value, it was crucial to get this right. It was a puzzle to figure out, like an undergraduate computer science problem coming back to haunt you. But we solved it!

What do you like best about working with clients?

Maybe it’s just because we’re an Ivy League institution that a lot of smart people just gravitate towards ISC. I work with people who carry all this Penn knowledge around in their heads. The clients have a level of competence that is amazing. They’re extremely reasonable and they understand the systems we work with. In former jobs, there were clients who didn’t care about understanding the problem, they just wanted it fixed and raised a fuss until you did. Here I feel we collaborate a lot with our clients, build relationships, and solve problems together. Maybe because it’s all for Penn — we want to make the mission happen.

How has the pandemic changed the way you approach your role?

When we started working from home in March 2020, I was amazed at how our team didn’t lose a beat. We were very productive from home. I’ve gotten to spend far more time with my wife and daughter, who had just turned two before the pandemic. Being able to spend more time with her as she grows is something I’m grateful for, despite the pandemic. The way everyone on our project came together and maintained productivity was very inspirational. I missed walking around campus, though.

What are you passionate about in your free time?

I love train travel — I’ve traveled cross-country in a sleeper car six or seven times. If I have the time, I love to park myself in my little sleeper, look out the window, and see how the country changes from the eastern forests to the farmland in the Midwest to the deserts and mountains, and finally to California on the other side. I’m really looking forward to doing that more once the pandemic winds down or gets to some manageable state. If you need to get anywhere on Amtrak, I can help get you where you need to go!

What would you like people at Penn to know about you?

My wife’s from Mexico, so I’m bilingual (in addition to “speaking” several programming languages)! I had high-school Spanish and I took one semester of it at Villanova to brush up before I went to Mexico, but I really learned the language when I met my wife there. My daughter is growing up bilingual, and we’re making sure to support her with that. If she wants to be able to have a relationship with her grandma and cousins, she has to be able to speak Spanish. It’s tough though, because she is not immersed in it here.