A Different Kind of VolunteerMarch 11th, 2015
When you think of volunteering for SPES, you probably don’t picture someone working through the night surrounded by computer screens and piles of electrical cords and defunct keyboards. Without Dan Hall, our tireless IT volunteer who keeps us current with the latest and most affordable IT solutions, SPES could not function.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Dan for his invaluable support and give you an idea of just what a SPES IT volunteer does around here…(and if you’d like to join Dan’s IT volunteer team, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dan Hall is a rarity amongst SPES volunteers in that his work doesn’t involve conservation. Most SPES volunteers get their hands dirty restoring habitat at Beaver Creek or removing invasive species from the Park, but not Dan. Nevertheless, that conservation work wouldn’t run so smoothly without his tireless work behind the scenes.
In his spare time, Dan is also a keen drummer and plays in a local 8-piece jazz band. “I actually started drumming quite a few years before I got involved in IT, but I am equally passionate about both these days!”
For six years, Dan has been working behind the scenes to ensure that SPES’ IT systems function properly.
“My dad spotted the volunteer opportunity at SPES when I first arrived from the UK in November 2008. He suggested I contact them and, shortly afterwards, I started as a volunteer,” he explains.
Since then, Dan has grown to be an invaluable part of the SPES team, working on everything from server upgrades to installing new software.
Some of the things I’m most proud of include starting SPES on its journey towards integrating Microsoft’s “Office 365” cloud services offering and establishing network access for the Nature House (situated in a remote location by Lost Lagoon, where regular broadband internet wasn’t an option). For many years, staff had to use a USB flash drive to transfer work from the Nature House back to the Pavilion office. Having to walk between the two offices just to transfer a few spreadsheets was incredibly time consuming and inefficient. Now, the Nature House is connected to the internet via a 3G cellular connection and all this data can flow between the two offices over a secure VPN connection… just with the click of a mouse!”
Over the years, he has also become the first port of call when SPES staff have had IT problems. “I thought it would be useful to set up an official SPES support email so that any of the staff can get in touch with me when there are problems and, as we take on additional IT volunteers to deal with the increasing workload, the new IT volunteers can just check the same email mailbox. This way, staff won’t need to continually update their address books as the IT team grows and develops.”
“I like the variety of the work, the challenges it brings. There are more opportunities to make decisions and experiment than I get at work. It’s a lot of fun. Over the years, we’ve been able to make quite a few improvements to the IT infrastructure here – having a modest IT budget hasn’t really stopped us getting this to work the way we want it to.
“The great thing about working with SPES as a volunteer is that I feel the staff really appreciate the work I do. They also understand when I can’t do things immediately because of work or other commitments. Although the computer network needs to be up and running for SPES to run smoothly, when something does go wrong they respect the fact that I’m a volunteer, so can’t always help straight away, especially during office hours.”
Dan remains excited by his volunteer work at SPES and would unhesitatingly recommend others follow his example.
“The thing about volunteering with SPES is that you can create your own opportunities. It is what you make of it! I’ve certainly learnt a lot here that I now use in my day job.”