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Discussion on: I used to work with vessel tracking data. Ask Me Anything!

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cathodion profile image
Dustin King Ask Me Anything

That's pretty cool, what's the origin story behind how you got into all of it?

I think government IT contracting is a big part of this area's economy, though I didn't know that at the time.

I came to this area (eastern panhandle, WV) to work with a friend I met in college (at a place that makes software for libraries). After a few years at that company I wanted a change, and through the grapevine heard that someone else I sort of knew from college was looking for a developer at "the Coast Guard" (actually a facility staffed by mostly contractors).

I agonized over my resume for a couple weeks and eventually sent him a copy. This guy was working there as a developer and technical lead. Over email we talked about what he was looking for. At the time, the main thing they were looking for was maintenance on a C++ server program, and I had a little experience with C++. I think my background with Java helped, because they had other Java stuff I ended up working on later but I don't remember if it came up at the time. I went in for a short interview with the manager and another senior dev, mostly just questions about what I had worked with and what I was interested in working with.

The next day the HR department called back with an offer. I slept on it and accepted the next day. Then they said I should wait to give my notice until my interim security clearance went through. That took a week or two. I've heard they often take longer, but I think I may have already been in the system due to a government data entry job I worked one summer during college.

That might have been more detail than you were looking for :)

Also, interesting that you made web apps. Forgive me because I might be being naive or ignorant, but did your users have internet access out in the ocean?

The sailors on the ocean weren't who our users were. The Coast Guard runs a network of receivers, and my team's job was to store the data from those receivers, and make it available to (mainly) government clients. So there was one web app for Coast Guard "watchstanders" to monitor the status of receivers, so they could respond quickly and troubleshoot it if one had a problem. And our other end users were organizations (such as law enforcment or VTS, which is like air traffic control but for a seaport) who would get a live feed of this data, which they would get by connecting a (Java) client we provided to our (non-web) server that would feed them a stream of this data. Then later a web app for (shore-side) coast guard users was developed that let them query our data for things like vessel status, location, and destination. People could also make requests for an archive of a certain period or area of this data, either through FOIA or through another Coast Guard unit, which I think all got e-mailed to our DBA.