Take Your Dante To Work Day

I work for the University of Colorado Boulder, which is about 35-45 minutes (depending on traffic) away from my home. In our earlier parenting years, Dante saw my workplace quite a bit, because Laura would have afternoon appointments in Boulder, so we’d do a kid handoff where she drove him up to me and then I drove him home while she went to her appointments. However, as she’s started working and various factors shifted, that pattern dropped away, so that Dante hadn’t seen my office for a couple of years. Meanwhile, I’d changed jobs within the university, and I’m in a whole different building than the one he used to visit.

For a few months now he’s been agitating to come see my workplace, so this year we decided to actually take advantage of Take Your Kids To Work Day, which was April 24. Now, Laura’s workplace has a whole awesome deal that they do with the kids, including a scavenger hunt, working with the big library book sorting machine, various activities, and so forth. We tried to tempt him with this, but he was set on coming to see me. My workplace has none of that stuff planned, and in fact I only saw one other parent with a kid there all day. But hey, I was up for it.

Of course, the vast bulk of my job consists pretty much of going to meetings and reading/writing emails. So I knew we’d need to figure out some more activities to put in there. We commuted in the morning — he even agreed to get up earlier than his usual so we could get there on time. I showed him around my office, and he immediately gravitated to some goofy toys I have on my shelves — wind-up robot, sparkly top, bowling pins, and so forth. I’d actually more or less forgotten that stuff was there — I had it to amuse him back in the era when he did come to my office more. Plus, office toys are cool.

I work in CU’s IT division, as the service manager for its web portals — the web sites that students and faculty use to perform various self-service tasks like registration, course activation, bill payment, admissions, and so forth. So I showed him those sites, and talked a little bit about the structure of the university itself: 3 campuses served by an overall “system” office. I drew the whole thing out on our whiteboard, and ended up referring to it several more times throughout the day. He also got to spend some time with my friend and office-mate Tashi, who works as a developer for those portals. Tashi is great with kids, and has always been very kind to Dante in particular, so that was a big plus.

At 10:00, he came to my “standup meeting.” This is a status meeting that happens twice a week, in which everybody literally stands up, the idea being that the collective desire to return to a sitting position will keep the meeting short. Essentially, everybody goes around and says what they’ve done with their last couple of days, what they expect to do in the next couple of days, and cites any barriers they might be facing. In this way we keep in touch with the work of everybody in our group, and sometimes can share insight across tasks. Dante reported his own last 48 hours and next 48 hours, which was excellent. He gave particular attention to the fact that he’s learning “When The Saints Go Marching In” on recorder in his intstrumental music class.

Because speed is at a premium in this meeting, and because I know Dante is always full of questions, I gave him a notepad to write down whatever questions may cross his mind as everyone was talking. As predicted, he had a lot:

2014-04-24 16.39.38

For the record, his questions and the answers:

Why a piñata?
There’s a piñata near where we stand for our meeting. It wears a hat reading “No Bull”, and commemorates a co-worker’s very unfortunate and injurious encounter with a mechanical bull.

What’s UIS?
UIS, or University Information Systems, is the IT organization for the system office which serves all CU campuses. This was another opportunity for me to refer to the whiteboard!

What are darrs?
Dante heard me referring to DARS, which is our inexplicably non-mapping acronym for the Degree Audit and Transfer Articulation System. It’s basically the system that students and advisors use to determine how close somebody is to graduating, and what else they need to do.

Who is the person that is next to me?
List the people here clockwise from you
This I did, but won’t repeat here.

Where’s Tashi?
Tashi and I actually work in different groups, as the developers have a group of their own. Dante was puzzled by his absence at our meeting. Tashi looked at his list and said, “Yeah, those were basically the questions I had on my first day. ‘Where’s Tashi?’ was the hardest one to answer.”

After a bit more email and spreadsheet action, we headed to lunch with the lovely Trrish. That was lots of fun, and featured Dante asking us more interesting questions like, “If you could have any job at CU besides yours, what would it be?”, and “If you could have lunch with any 5 people who aren’t in your family, who would you choose?”

From there, we went to campus and took a walking tour. Because CU is not only my employer but also my alma mater, not to mention the place I met and married my wife, there were plenty of stories to tell. Also, it’s a college campus, so it has lots of fun stuff to look at. Dante’s primary interest was in finding tall buildings where we could ride the elevators. The Gamow tower which houses the physics building was the best for this, but the Engineering Center was pretty good too.

Not only that, the Engineering Center has a section called the Integrated Teaching & Learning Laboratory whose basic purpose is to teach engineering concepts to K-12 kids. Consequently, it has lots of cool sciencey exhibits, including an absolutely fantastic ball machine called the Pythagorean Fantasy. It features a randomizer and lots of different tracks for the balls to travel, as well as some interactivity, such as path-blockers that you can engage with a teammate to make the balls travel down a track where they play blocks, bells, and chimes.

2014-04-24 15.05.20

After that, we walked back to some fountains he wanted to play in, then headed back to the office and home. I thought the day would go slowly, but on the contrary, it flew by! I have no idea whether this trip made him more likely to attend or work at CU, but it did let me show him some of the important pieces of my life that he hasn’t gotten to see. I call that a day well spent.

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