Apprenticeship Lessons

by Alex Tooly - Information Specialist / Apprentice

An apprenticeship with Codence is a fast paced one that is designed to present an aspiring professional with a wealth of information and all the resources necessary to be engulfed into the world of FileMaker. I am a data-oriented economics graduate with a foundation in multiple coding languages such as SQL, JavaScript, and C++. I have a strong interest in the computer science world but left university with a big “what if” as I chose to pursue a hybrid education rather than fully commit to the world of coding. Codence is allowing me to take that “what if” away and has thrown me headfirst back into the world that I have loved but never committed to. Here is the story of my journey to completing my first data parsing project with Codence.

Apprenticeship Journey

Only a day into my apprenticeship, Codence was presented with a task to clean up a set of poorly reported data and the consensus was that there is no better way for me to start learning FileMaker than to have me deal with a real-world issue.

I spent the first week learning the absolute basics of FileMaker using the training modules provided but on the second week it was time to hit the ground running. I was paired with Nathan, a Tech Lead for Codence, who walked me through this real-world example and took me through some ways we could go about parsing the data set provided to us.

The data set was unlike anything I had worked with in my professional or educational career up until this point. The data came to us in a format with inconsistent spacing and with varying information across different lines. The original data was also separated by headers every so often that kept spacing from being consistent from case to case. Nathan provided me with the tools to deal with the inconsistencies in the data set using a text editor, simple enough but a nuance that I hadn’t anticipated.

Parsing Puzzle 

At this point we had consistent cases of information, but we still had the hard part ahead of us, extracting individual pieces of information from a data set where there is no set structure as to where things go. We were looking at client information, but we would have multiple pieces of information on one line such as company name, company code, and a phone number.

It would be one thing if at least the multiple occurrences were consistent, but we would have a line with an address in one sample of information and that same line would have something entirely different in the next. This project jumpstarted my learning experience and threw me right into the meat of in my eyes, scripting.

We could not simply report that the first line of the data set was always reporting A and the following line was always reporting B, we needed a script that could execute a more complex sequence of commands. I worked in tandem with Nathan to learn some basic tools that would be useful and was then cut loose to attempt to make progress on my own for a day. Even with some tools in front of me I was lost.

Hands on Kind of Apprenticeship

Nathan and I reconnected the following day and this session is where things began to click for me. Nathan saw where my thought process was and continued to lead me in my own direction, but with the knowledge of the commands available to us in FileMaker. We spent several hours for the next couple days hammering away at this project and Nathan outlined everything we did very clearly and if I ever had trouble following his logic we would stop and revisit a line of code.

After these couple days we had a finished product, a script that could parse through the messy sample of data using “if’ statements and many text functions that allowed us to report every piece of information we needed. The day following the completion of the first data parsing task, I was handed another similar data parsing assignment from the same company and I was asked to give it a shot from start to finish on my own.

The process on how to solve the issues in the data set remained the same but the spacing and the variables in the different lines were all different now. This was a perfect opportunity to apply everything that I had spent the last several days learning and use it to solve my very own real problem. I was given a day to write a script that would apply to this new data set and I was determined to do it without relying too heavily on Nathan.

Fast paced Learning

To my surprise I was able to come up with something resembling a finished product all on my own after only two weeks at Codence working with FileMaker. I could apply all of the same logic that I used with Nathan in our first project but needed to tweak all of the pieces to work for this new information.

Nathan provided me with all of the pieces to the puzzle, it was not an easy puzzle for me to solve but I wasn’t missing any pieces so within just a few hours that day I was able to pull it off. I took Nathan through all of the script that I wrote and explained what every line was doing and outside of a few small tweaks we were able to turn in the project as it was.

After two weeks of apprenticeship at Codence I was incredibly proud of myself to be able to pull this project off because just two weeks ago I would have been completely at a loss. Along the way I applied some basic principles that I have used in all of my coding languages but for the most part this was all new information to me. I feel incredibly grateful to be able to work with a team of experienced FileMaker experts who constantly assist me in learning this new language.

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