Sun, 22 Sep, 2019

"Raise your hand as much as you can", says Craig Appl

By Bidish Acharya

Craig Appl, a lecturer at DWIT and a Project Manager at Maiti Nepal has been working in software development field throughout his life. To gather some more information about him, we sat with him for about half an hour for an interview. Q: Tell us a little bit about your background… A: I did my degree in “Public Health Informatics” in John Hopkins University, Baltimore. Life before Nepal, I've been to number of places, I used to work in Uganda as a Clinic Administrator. Over the years, I’ve developed the understanding of how to work hard and how to make things happen, fortunately. I have been put in situations that have been difficult and I've been able to put my nose in the grindstone, and do some good work that has been beneficial to others. So, I’ve worked at all levels; small businesses, non-profit businesses, government, and worked for big corporations. Through all of those, I’ve slowly developed a work ethic that has led me here in Nepal and my family. So, hopefully, we can continue doing that. Q: How did you get into the software development field? A: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been so interested in IT. We got our first computer when I was 13, and we, my brother and I, have been doing hardware and software ever since. I have realized in college that I was not interested in hardcoding, but I was really happy with software development. So, I switched from my Computer Science degree over to Economics, so that I could build systems that helps the economy and found efficiencies across that. So, it’s been developing since I was a young kid, and now, here I am in the project management role, precisely in the Business Requirements field. Technically, my job title was ‘Informatician’, which is, using IT systems to improve the health of the public. Q: How did you get connected to Deerwalk? A: It’s a very roundabout way, but really wonderful. I arrived in Nepal in January of 2013 as an intern during my Masters of Public Health Degree. And, as an intern, I came to document the information flow of Maiti Nepal. There’s a sister organization in the US, it’s called Friends of Maiti Nepal. They were the ones who sponsored my original trip. And, I read a report; it was beneficial, and I realized that it would be possible for me to continue working after I graduated. The executives of Maiti Nepal happened to be good friends of Rudra Pandey. So, Rudra and John B. Collins worked out a plan for me to come to Nepal. So, I could bring my expertise as a professor for the DWIT Students and to Maiti Nepal as a Project Manager. Q: What are you working on at Maiti Nepal? A: We are building two enterprise information systems, 1) we are focusing on tracking missing person reports to Maiti Nepal. 2) We are building IT system which switches their paper records on client management over to digital. So, we are working on two big projects over the next year. Q: Can you please tell us about your previous job experiences. A: I was a clinic administrator at Uganda for a year and half. I got a little bit of IT and management and international health experience. I was working in two small clinics, one focused on HIV and treating HIV patients, and the other one focused on improving the primary care. So, these clinics really set the stage for my future development. I returned to the US with the goal of getting some more education and going back out to the field. I went to community college and I had a couple of jobs. I went to get my Masters in public health, and fortunately, I’ve been able to come back to Nepal in good capacity. Q: You teach classes in Deerwalk. How do you feel about teaching? A: Oh! It’s lovely. I think Deerwalk has an excellent professional environment. And, the students are learning what I didn’t have the chance to learn when I was an undergraduate student, and those are real world applications. The structure of the courses here is very similar to how you would run a business. So, you’re learning how to develop products that are going to be used, and it was missing in my undergraduate curricula. I’m really excited about bringing real world applications and teaching the students how to start from an idea all the way through making a good product. Q: What do you feel about DWIT as a college? A: Deerwalk is a young college. Just like any educational institution, you start from scratch and you build a solid foundation for the students, you build a solid reputation, and you become great. Deerwalk is successfully walking in that path, as a small college, and by the time you graduate in two years, DWIT will be a much different college. And, I expect that the reputation and requirements to get into the class will be much higher than they are right now. So, as Deerwalk succeeds, you will succeed and as you succeed, Deerwalk will succeed. Q: Can you share your goals, as a teacher in Deerwalk? A: My goal is to teach the students how to be creative, to think outside of traditional computer science thinking. So, I want to teach the students not to jump into the problem with a technical solution. I want to teach the students how to find the best solution regardless of the technology. And if we can teach creativity, how to make something out of nothing, then we will succeed in a great way, as an institution. Q: Tell us about the best accomplishment of your life. A: I don’t believe that there is a best accomplishment. In life, I think that every day if you put in the most amount of energy that you possibly can and you go to bed tired, then you’ve accomplished a great thing. And, of course we also need to rest. As long as you plan to rest on Saturday, then you do that only, you don’t do work. You need to take care of yourselves as well. Q: Your biggest failure. A: I can’t think of a specific one, because they happen every day. Small things, big things; we fail. As long as you turn that failure around and you learn from it, you won’t repeat the same mistake and you will succeed in the future because of that. Q: Which team are you rooting for in the World Cup? A: I’m a big football fan. My team is Chelsea. In the World Cup this year, I would really like to see Brazil win in their home ground. It will be extremely exciting. They have the capacity; they have the team. They’re my chosen winners and I really hope it happens. Q: What are your suggestions to the Students of DWIT? A: College is structured to be a very unique environment in life. Right now, you’re building the habits that you will use for the rest of your life. You are learning the things that will make a very strong foundation in the future. So, during these few years, work as hard as you possibly can, learn as much as you possibly can, raise your hand as much as you can, and participate fully. So that, when you finish, you can get a lot of experiences; you will be a hard worker, and an excellent team member. And, you will obviously have a good foundation for future success. You don’t have to be the smartest, but you have to be the person who works the hardest.