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Behind the Scenes with the Special Projects Division

Written By:
Chris Carl
Thursday, July 22, 2021

A Day in the Life of a Slate Strategist

Rise and Shine

7:45 am - Most days begin the same way. Some time between 7:45 and 8 am my son, Brayden, wakes up from his long sleep. Luckily we’ve been blessed with a good sleeper (Knock on wood). Here’s the view about 0.5 seconds after I walked in to his room. My wife, Megan, is due in November with our second child, so I do much of the heavy lifting these days, including getting Brayden out of bed in the morning!

While I’m getting him ready for the day, Megan is downstairs preparing his breakfast - half of a Costco muffin, cucumbers, and watermelon. The breakfast of true champions! Today’s Thursday so my mother comes to the house to watch Brayden, while I work from home.

Meet Brayden Carl, future Slate Strategist

8:45 am – I pour myself some coffee and sit down at my desk to review what I accomplished the day before and prepare for my client calls and any other meetings I have scheduled for the day. This generally consists of me reviewing my notes from the previous call with the clients and any following up on any To-Do’s I may have missed.

Time for Client Calls

9:30 am – It’s time for my first client call of the day. It’s with a small-medium sized institution in my home state of New Jersey. After commiserating about Taylor Ham and The Boss, we move on to talking about their student portal! We’re currently building an applicant portal, complete with Financial Aid charts, ways to contact peer counselors, social media feeds all in a sleek mobile design…the works! It’s coming along nicely and we’re a couple weeks out from our testing phase before launching the portal at the beginning of the cycle! After taking my notes for where to go next on the project it's time for more coffee.

11:00 am – My next client call was scheduled for 11, but their campus is having network issues so we have to postpone. Just when you think you'll have some down time, not so fast! My door is busted down by one of my large, ferocious dogs (Bella, the boxer) who wants to show me one of her favorite toys! In case you can’t tell from the picture, it’s a hot dog. I can’t ignore that face, so I take a little break and play with both dogs, Brayden, and grandma for a little bit.

Bell and her hot dog toy

11:15 am – Time to jump back into some coding. A huge chunk of what the Special Projects division does for our portals is customized content in individualized layouts. All of our student portals are designed with your institution's specific goals and brand in mind. This allows us to really capture the look and feel of the college or university, as well as its unique voice and tone. But its more than just the look and feel of the portal that is unique. Each Underscore portal is built around institutional business processes and is set up to best serve your specific team.

One recent instance I’ve been working on is for an institution where multiple applications within the same active period are common. In this situation, we decided that we would need to create a landing page when they log in to see all of their open applications at a glance. It looks so good and is coming along great! I must admit, I struggled a bit at first with this one. I was trying to overcomplicate the query and wasn’t getting the result I needed. Luckily, I was able to get some help from Rob Tallerico in our Implementation & Consultation division, and we sorted out the problem in no time. That's one part about Underscore that I love - if you ever run into an issue with Slate, or are having a hard time working through a problem, you always have a team of Slate experts on the team that I can go to with questions.

12:00 pm – Time for a demo call with a potential new client on the capabilities of our Athletics portal. Our athletics portals harness the power of Slate, mixed with a dash of jQuery, custom CSS, and a few plug-ins to have a one-stop-shop for coaches and athletics administrators to see targeted info they need at any given time.

1:00 pm – I’m on two more portal calls in a row. One institution has a non-traditional admissions process so really trying to hammer down their funnel is key to capture their tone at the right times throughout the cycle. I have two main principles that I stand by when building a portal: 1. If it’s in Slate, we can get it in a portal, and 2. I don’t like to show examples, per se, because what works for one school doesn’t work for all, and I don’t like to put our clients in a box and limit the possibilities. BUT, sometimes if you’ve never seen a fully functional portal it’s hard to know what you don’t know. With that in mind, I show an example of a portal we’ve done before to help get the creative juices flowing for which parts of their process we can help with and it really starts the conversation on the right track!

4:00 pm – It’s time to touch base with our newest colleague, Emily Kraus! Emily came to us from UCLA with a wealth of knowledge in design and front-end programming. One of the absolute trickiest pieces of our jobs are trying to get code that we know should and does work (in a normal programming environment) to interact with and create the correct output through Slate. Slate puts CSS classes on widgets that can throw off even the most simple code. As we’ve eased Emily into more and more client work as she gets acclimated, we spend the next hour or so troubleshooting some of the issues she’s encountered as she builds out some applicant portals for our clients.

5:15 – Just as you think you’re done for the day, not so fast! Ryan Ostendorf from our sales team sends me a screenshot of a website and says ‘can we do this?’ a potential client wants to know. Short answer was, yes! I look forward to meeting with that institution to show them some of the options of how we can meet their needs next week. Rob also Slacks me to ask if I can help diagnose some custom JavaScript to have a question conditionally show based on a previous answer. I know we can, I took a quick look, but fatherly duty calls as I take over for grandma and feed Brayden his dinner of tortellini, broccoli, and a full apple (he only ate the apply…toddlers!).

7:00 pm – After putting Brayden to bed, it’s time to watch TV with my wife until it’s entirely too late. Tonight’s choice is another true crime documentary followed by the NBA finals. Then it’s off to bed so I can get up for another wonderful day in this busy life that I love.

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About the Author

The change agent. You can say Chris Carl lives and breathes higher education. Starting as an admissions counselor for his alma mater Marywood University, Chris spent his days working directly with students and parents in the recruitment process. He later went on to hold various roles in enrollment management at the University of Mary Washington, with his most recent position as a CRM manager.


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