Daxko Turns 18 and Says Goodbye to an Old-Timer

By | Building a Company, Culture, Employment Brand, Healthy Stuff, Life at Daxko, Talent, Workplace | 2 Comments

Today, Daxko hits a milestone. It’s our 18th birthday! So in a way, we are now “officially” an adult, even though we don’t always act like it.

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We mark our birthday by the start date of our first-ever team member, Wei Jiang on October 14, 1998. Wei remains a key member of our software development team, and he has played a critical role in our success and growth. 

wei-02Wei has seen and done a lot over the past 18 years. Not only was he the creator and keeper of many of our software products, but he’s also experienced the highs and lows of being a part of a growth and change-oriented company. 

One of the inventible changes is the coming and going of team members, and today marks the celebration of one of those departures — a “retirement” if you will.  

Over her 16 years, 8 months and 13 days at Daxko, April Benetollo has led marketing, sales, product management, our People Team, career development, and more “assignments” I’m sure I’m forgetting.

dsc00013april_nationapril02We’ve experienced 14 straight years of double-digit growth, have a dominant position in our market and have built a very strong brand, and April has played an active, key role in all of it. We’re very thankful for her massive contributions and are excited for what lies ahead in her career.

April now joins an impressive alumni group, including Uncle Barry, Britney, JSides, Holly, Jeremy, Keefus, Toby, Susan, Austin, Tony, Anne and so many others. 

But we also have a great group of remaining old-timers such as Wei, Ming, Saranda, Rick, Patrick, Dan Van, Josh, Bryan, Todd, Heather and several Matts to name but a few, as well as newer team members like Moses, Kelly, Emily, Gabby, Colby, Napo, Alex and Mike that are ready and able to keep the momentum going strong and take us into the future. 

As we celebrate these milestones, it acts as a reminder of how the entire team — alumni, old-timers and relative newbies alike — are the reason behind our success. 

Thanks Team Daxko!

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K.I.S.S.

By | Building a Company, Culture, Free Career Advice, Grow Your Career, Healthy Stuff | No Comments

For years now an issue has been bothering me every time I make a cup of coffee…

As a coffee drinker, my routine has been to first add the sugar and creamer to my cup before pouring in the coffee so I can control the amount of sugar and creamer added, but everyone I know does this the other way around. Besides the time saved by pouring and stirring simultaneously, I see more cons than pros to the other approach such as the clumps of creamer that form at the top due to the hot coffee vapor or over pouring the sugar.

Since I’ve been a software developer, I’ve encounter many little problems that seem so simple yet are so complicated to fix. Building an enterprise application is as simple as creating a deck of playing cards to play every card game possible, but still someone must manage the little decisions at every level.

As a production manager, you contemplate whether we should produce a deck of cards from only 8s to Aces so that we can start targeting Pinochle players, or do we create a whole deck of 52 cards before going into production? It is nice to generate sales to support existing production, but then there’s a risk with the first and second half of the decks being off color.

As a salesperson, it is easier to sell a deck of cards to someone who has never played a single card game.  How about trying to sell to a group of friends who only play chess, dominos or monopoly? Who in the group should we target first so that they can convince the rest of the group to come on board?

As a trainer, how do we teach our card owners how to play a game in a short period of time? Do we train them only on the game they like to play with emphasis on making them better players or teach them the basics of every game available and let them choose what and how to play later?

As technical support, there are a great deal more decisions to be made, but at least they are more exciting. If a client asks for more strategies of a specific game, what’s the most effective or efficient way to explain to them? Through the phone, Friday poker night over some beers, or taking them to the casinos?

Maybe it’s time to apply the first principle of programming: K.I.S.S. (AKA, Keep it simple, stupid).
At the start of production, do not use any fancy colors; keep it simple until the final deck is ready. Try to introduce the idea of an automatic shuffler when making a sale. Lessen the expenditure for training time so the players can feel more comfortable in taking their time to learn. And instead of technical support, think more of customer success so that they are winning at every game played.

As long as we stick with a well-defined mission and concrete core values, our envisioned future will come sooner than expected.

P.S.: After all, my cup of coffee isn’t perfect.  Upon finish, I usually find deposits of undissolved creamer at the bottom. Should I stir and scrape next time? Nah, too much work.


Tai L. is a Software Engineer who loves Brazilian steak, Napa Cabernet, and Argentina Tango.

TaiBlog8

A Walk Down CSI Memory Lane

By | Building a Company, Culture, Technology | No Comments

My name is Tai L. and I joined CSI Software back in 1998. I’m going to share some of our CSI History and how the product came to be what it is currently today. I even included a timeline chart, which resembles from the one in my favorite movie:

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DOS Era

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The first CSI Software Product was written in DataFlex, which ran on the MS-DOS Operating System. Originally developed by CSI’s founder Dr. Robert Ross, the product was further developed by Randy Martin and fellow colleague Cuong Nguyen. The software featured Member Management and General Fitness Assessment (GFA), which was used by Universities Recreation Centers.

Windows 16-bits Era

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CSI originally hired a 5-6 programmers to develop its first member management system for Windows using MS-Access 2.0. When I officially became a part of the team in January of 1998, the product had features such as Member Management, Prospect Management, Point of Sale (POS), Fitness, Accounting, and Grill Mode POS for touch screen monitors (Commonly known as ELO). One of my first projects, aside from current responsibilities of bug fixes, was to complete and finalize the Accounting Module, which offered A/P, Journal Entry, Balance Sheet, Profit/Loss, Cash Flow, etc. By the end of the summer when the product was stabilized, it was time to catch up to the new Windows 32-bit OS that came out in 1995 (Win95 then Win98).

Windows 32-bits Era

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In the 1990’s, VB6 was the hottest platform of the decade. For CSI, here were the factors of why we did not choose to use this platform:

  • VB6 development time, deployment, version control, and client update (dll hell)
  • No experienced web developer, so Visual Interdev was out of the question
  • On site live program debugging (Access rules)
  • You could build, debug, test, and deploy (to all customers if necessary) at least 2 major reports/developer in 1 day versus 2 days developing 1 report with potential bug. Same applies to today’s .NET.
  • Access 97 came with a runtime engine, therefore, installation is no different than any other ordinary Windows applications written in VB6 or any other language.

With this in mind, CSI Member Management database was completely redesigned from the previous version. The tables were separated into 6 different databases: member, transactions, fitness, grill pos, accounting, and check-in, for performance since Access was a file sharing read/write DBMS. For MS Access client, tables in the databases were treated as one since it used linked tables. A local database for local client usage to store temporary table was still the same as of previous version.

The Millennium Era

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Here came the year 2000 with Windows 2000, the best Win OS ever. A must-have request from a client to build an Access 2000 version for Windows 2000. One product conversion, and one deployment, and that was it: the buck stopped here. The timeline was skewed, and we knew that we had to get back.

The SQL Server Era

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The next revolutionary product from Microsoft was MS SQL Server 7. The ease of installation, development, and maintenance was far superior to other database servers in the market. Not to mention that MS SQL came at a fraction of the cost compared to the other big names at the time like Oracle and DB2.

When Virtual Private Network (VPN) became a reality in a stabilized environment, the next version of the CSI Product (Spectrum) was created. Written in Access 97 as the front-end client, Spectrum was a product that supported multi-sites in real-time. The older versions employed data upload/download mechanism from satellite sites to the main site.

The Dot Com Era

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With the boom of the ‘Dot Com’ era, web applications were becoming all the rage. To stay competitive with other vendors, CSI produced a web version of our Spectrum Product called “e-Member”. Written in ASP with a VBscript product, e-Member utilized the same database schema, and offered the full functionalities of our Spectrum, sans some hardware (hand scanner, sig cap) and 3rd party integrations (Micros, Technogym) due to web limitation.

The .NET Era

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When Microsoft released its next revolutionary product, .NET, CSI developed the current revolutionary member management product, Spectrum NG. Spectrum NG was re-written from the ground up, and the database was redesigned to adapt the new environment. For the first time, CSI had a true source control, versioning, and also the largest development staff in company history.

Compared to past products, there was no debate on what we needed Spectrum NG feature so we decided that the product needed to have:

  • Smart client – able to control users and interact with peripherals
  • True client/server application – no direct link to database tables
  • ClickOnce – one click installation and automatic update on individual workstation(s)

The Big Bang Era

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The next major trends in the software industries were beginning to take shape in the form of the “Cloud” and “Mobility”. CSI decided we needed to take our product to the next level.

Software as a Service (Saas) is an extension of the idea of the ASP model started from the 90’s. With that Cloud movement, CSI extended Spectrum NG to run on the in Microsoft Azure platform.

With release of the Apple iPhone and iPad, the industry shifted to mobility computing. CSI extended Spectrum NG with the development of the Vanguard API to create mobile applications for iOS and Android Platforms.

It feels like Chinese New Year when people celebrate with big bangs from firecrackers expecting a newer and better year to come. CSI, now Daxko, expects a soon-to-come new product that will make a major impact again.

The journey continues but the fun never stops.


Tai L. is a Software Engineer who likes cheese, wine & dine, and Argentina tango.

Charlie

Spring Training

By | Building a Company, Communication, Culture, Free Career Advice, Grow Your Career, Talent | No Comments

There have been some great posts to the Culture Blog recently by relatively new team members, which is so great to see! 

As a Daxko “veteran”of 16 years, I am still grateful for the career, the growth, and the new challenges that come with being part of the Daxko Nation. In the past year, I have had the great pleasure to work much more closely with our People Team. My greatest focus during that time has been collaborating on Team Lead development. As Daxko grows, we are shifting away from star performers who take on team lead responsibilities in addition to their work. In order to get to the next level, we need talented Team Leads who are passionate about developing high-performing, healthy teams. And that is their work. 

Team Lead work is not for everyone. Some people may think that being a Team Lead is a critical rung on the proverbial ladder of success. That’s not true. What makes us successful in our careers is that we love what we do, we are recognized for good work, and we are fairly compensated for the value we provide the company.  Many Daxko team members are absolute rock stars in their own right, and their career path will take them further down the path of expert software developer, major account sales, or critical account management. One of the worst mistakes Senior Leaders make is to take a rock star who loves what they do, and put them in charge of people, when their passion is the work, not the team. But for people who are gifted at the relational aspect of leadership, bringing together a high-performing team is probably the most rewarding work they’ll ever do. And every team member at Daxko, from those just starting out to those who are way down their rock star career path, will benefit from great leadership. 

On Tuesday, we spent an entire day off-site doing “Spring Training” for Daxko Team Leads. We focused on ways to develop a heightened sense of self awareness and social awareness. We broke into small groups and had lots of discussion on understanding our own emotional triggers, how to manage them, how to recognize them in others, and how to manage those. One of the most insightful take-aways from that session (thank you, Charlie Peters!) was that we need to take the time to respond, not react– and they are different. 

Our afternoon was filled with group work facilitated by Melva Tate. The topic was improving communication across teams. A few things became evident in that session: 

  • We all need to remember our responsibility as “Chief Communication Officer” for our teams.
  • We could use more clarity on which communication channels to use and when.
  • Clearer instructions need to be given on when and how to cascade information.
  • Communication skills like brevity, organization, focus, and action are lacking in some areas.
  • Some communication processes between teams need to be established (e.g. Infrastructure Team getting more lead time from Product).
  • Everyone would benefit from a more holistic view of Daxko and what different teams do, so we can better understand interdependencies.
  • Discussion about exercises involving multiple balls would make a great Kick-Off sketch! (you can thank me later) 

We have more work to do to come up with solves for our communication challenges, so more to come on that. If you are interested in being part of the communication solution, come see me any time! My “door” is always open.


April B. is Daxko’s Senior Vice President of Marketing. She enjoys historical fiction, foreign films, good food, and her career at Daxko.