Since joining the ICS team here at the Church, I have had the opportunity to get my hands dirty with just about every department. I have worked on membership and financial applications, travel and booking systems, and most of the software in the Missionary Department. I have been down into the internal workings of most of these systems. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most impressive people. Please accept it as truth that most of these systems are extremely complex—most are large and handle thousands to millions of transactions each day.
I hold it as a value that when I am working on something it must add value and that people need to be able to connect what they do to an actual outcome. The challenge there is that life tends to get a little abstract and removed when you are constantly focusing on nothing but the work or the crisis directly in front of you. For example, when a DBA sees his world as data and transactions and indexes, etc., he will act differently than he would if he sees his world as providing a service to a customer. That connection is only deepened if he can see the way he connects to the customer’s users. The past few years I have been dedicated to supporting the Missionary Department and the Public Affairs Department. It has been a remarkable experience, but I had an experience recently that enhanced my perspective.
A few months ago, I was privileged to be able to be present when my nephew received and opened his mission call. That experience helped me to see what I do through different eyes. As I mentioned before, I hold it as a core value that you have to be able to connect to your customer, and I feel I have always been able to do that in my professional career. But on this day, with all the family that could get there (within one day) gathered around with cell phones held high so those that couldn’t be there could also hear, my heart was changed. As I listened as everybody made their predictions, I began to see things more deeply. As I watched my nephew open what is likely to be one of the most important letters of his life, I didn’t find myself thinking about the software that prints out the letters after the assignments are made; I found myself thinking how blessed I was to be part of an organization that allows me to participate in this kind of work. As he read through his packet of mission-specific information (suits, shirts, etc.) with his mom crying in the background and his dad not quite sure what to do, I didn’t think about any of the recent crises that we faced supporting these applications. I found myself focused on things I could do to make this process smoother for families. I began to think about the hundreds of people all over the world who open their letters from the prophet and how real and how rich this experience is.
So now, when I’m tempted to get frustrated at the way our database is performing or that our app-servers don’t have the right memory configuration, I take a moment and remember that what I do impacts missionaries, it impacts missionaries families, it impacts the work being done in the field. And I am reminded that I truly am part of something far greater than myself and I am honored to be counted among those who do this work.
David Skidmore is a lead program manager for the Church.