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A Trip to the Lake

28 Apr

Lizzie Williams, OST’s Marketing Specialist, shares her experience traveling with Sibley Elementary School out to Lake Michigan on April 24, 2014.

I am reporting to you that the representatives from Hoffmaster State Park related that students at Sibley were the best behaved and most respectful group that they have seen at the state park in the past year and how these kids were so “taken” by the state park and the experience.  I can also report that almost 80% of our students had NEVER been to Lake Michigan. I spoke with many kids and they said it was the BEST trip they have ever had. Please share our immense thanks! This was one of the best trips ever!

Andrew J. Alvesteffer, Sibley Elementary Principal

This heartfelt note was in response to a field trip that OST helped sponsor and coordinate for the fifth grade class at Sibley Elementary on Thursday, April 24. I was fortunate enough to attend this unique excursion with the students and would echo the remarks of Hoffmaster State Park in regard to the thoughtfulness of the students I was exploring the dunes with: they were excited, attentive and curious, and it was beautiful to witness.

The seed for this trip was planted back when the ground was still frozen as a few of us from OST shared coffee and conversation with John Helmholt, Executive Director of Communications & External Affairs for Grand Rapids Public Schools, and Jon O’Connor, a GRPS Board Member. The conversation drifted to talks of summer and trips to Lake Michigan, when a quiet comment about how unfortunate it is that so many of the kids who live right here in Grand Rapids haven’t even seen the lake sparked an idea. Dan Behm’s face lit up, and immediately the wheels were set in motion to make sure that every kid on the West Side would have a chance to see Lake Michigan by the end of the school year. As a kid from Grand Haven, it’s no surprise that the lake holds a special place in Dan’s heart.

Thursday was the first of four trips that will be made “out to the drink” and it was everything we could have hoped for. Watching 70 kids run down the dunes, panting as they climb back up, just to do it all over again, was a remarkable sight. Thank you’s, hugs and high-fives were plentiful as we popped off that big yellow bus. If there is one thing that unites us all in Michigan it is the Great Lakes, and we are so excited that GRPS was, and always is, open to our funky ideas on what it means to be a community partner because watching the kids in stare out in amazement at the horizon was a moment that won’t soon be forgotten.

We are looking forward to joining Harrison Park and Stocking Elementary on their Great Lake expeditions this week!

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View more photos here

Professor Turned Intern? Dr. McFall Enrolls in App Dev 101 at OST for his Fall Semester

19 Sep

Hi – my name is Ryan McFall, and I am excited to be spending my sabbatical as an Application Development Intern at OST!  My day job is as Professor and Chair of the Computer Science Department at Hope College.  While normally I am accustomed to being called “Dr. McFall” or “Prof. McFall”, I currently go by the moniker “Intern Ryan,” which I happily enjoy.

Many people outside academia wonder exactly what a sabbatical is.  Contrary to many people’s perception, it’s not the same thing as a vacation!  Hope faculty who are granted a sabbatical are expected to spend their time doing work that contributes to their professional development, as well as to the academic programs offered to Hope students.  Deciding to spend my fall here at OST will certainly meet both of those goals.  Software development is something that I love to do, and the opportunity to work with and learn from professionals in the field will undoubtedly help shape the curriculum that I help deliver at Hope.  Keeping up with the state of the practice in the rapidly changing discipline of Computer Science is very challenging.  CS faculty have a daunting task – the must first identify which technologies, frameworks and tools to teach their students, then they must learn to use those technologies, and they must determine how best to teach those concepts to undergraduate students.  I expect that being at OST will significantly help me in identifying and learning state of the art technologies and tools, leaving me with the responsibility to teach those concepts to my students when I return to Hope in January of 2014.

But living as an application developer isn’t just about “geeky” things like programming languages, development environments and frameworks.  It’s also about working with customers to identify their needs and requirements, and figuring out how to structure a solution that will help them efficiently meet those needs while growing their business.  Effective application developers are also good project managers, learning how to estimate the amount of time it will take to complete a given task, how many resources are needed to complete it, and how to measure whether they are on track.  During my time at OST I hope to be fully involved in these processes as well – while you can read about strategies for being successful at managing relationships and projects, actually doing it is the supreme teacher.  Being able to relate my OST experiences to my students will be an invaluable resource to them as they seek to grow into professionals in the field as well.

While I am just getting started working on my project, I have already learned a lot that I will be able to take back to the classroom.  I am thankful that many of the tasks I have been given have fit in well with the experiences and skills that I have gained while teaching at Hope.  This has meant that while many specific frameworks and tools have been relatively new to me, they have fit into the framework of my previous knowledge quite well.  This means that in my first two weeks I have actually been able to make some contributions to my project, much to my delight!

I have found OST employees to be knowledgeable, collegial and willing to help.  Most importantly, they are a lot of fun to work with.  While I am the only Hope person in what often seems like a sea of Calvin graduates, no one seems to be holding that against me!  I am looking forward to continuing to refine and enhance my application development skills and tool set, and to make a positive contribution to the success of my team’s project.  I am also excited to be able to continue to grow a mutually relationship between Hope’s Computer Science program and OST.

 

Dr. Ryan McFallDr. Ryan McFall is a Professor and Chair of the Computer Science Department at Hope College and is currently spending his sabbatical interning at OST on the Application Development Team. Look forward to a follow up post at the conclusion of his internship to hear more about his experiences!

OST’s Magic Recipe for Chicken (Dancing)

28 Aug

Whitecaps 2013192. That’s how many tickets I handed out for this year’s OST Night at the Ballpark – our annual summer celebration for our Grand Rapids employees and their families. 192! That’s one hundred more guests than last year!

Growth. That’s what we’ve been experiencing – but not just this year, every year. As a matter in fact, just last week we found out that OST landed on the Inc 500 | 5000 list for the seventh year in a row as one of the fastest growing private companies in the US. We recognize this level of exponential growth is unprecedented and are grateful every day for the opportunities it provides, but how does that happen? What’s the secret?

Well, I’ll say it here, but it’s been said hundreds of times before me– we believe that one of the main contributions to our success has been this magical little recipe that our entire organization follows when making all major business decisions:

  1. Employees First
  2. Clients Second
  3. Profits To Follow

Back in 1997 when Hanson was Hmmbop-ing on the radio and overalls were über chic, OST was formed. And right from the beginning, the team decided to always make sure that employees needs were the company’s top priority, followed by the clients. They didn’t let the neon of the 90’s cloud their decision and to this day we are led by a team that understands if you take care of your employees first and your clients immediately following, the profits will fall into place.

So when the seventh inning stretch rolls around and the chicken dance starts to play, we at OST feel confident that we are part of a family that supports us and respects us as individuals, and we shake our little tail feathers with no hesitation.  When you know the company you work for has your back, it’s much easier to stand tall and put in your best effort, every day. And that, we believe, is one major reason we have been able to continue to grow and succeed.

Photos from the Whitecaps game: http://www.flickr.com/photos/open-systems-technologies/sets/72157635137308197/

#WeLoveThisStuff

Lizzie Williams, Marketing Specialist at OST

Lizzie Williams
OST Marketing Specialist

Lizzie Williams is the Marketing Specialist at OST and focuses on creating, executing and measuring marketing programs and events to support the growth and expansion of the OST brand, products and services through traditional and creative digital marketing activities.
 
Prior to OST Lizzie was the marketing coordinator for the Center for Community Leadership, a program of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. The combination of her experience in community leadership and technology has led to her involvement with a variety of organizations that work creatively to solve community issues such as Habitat for HumanityFriends of Grand Rapids Parks, Opening Village Doors, WGVU and the Saint Mary’s FoundationFeel free to connect with her via twitter or linkedin.