The two lists

I graduated from the UNCW Cameron Business School in 1998. Until my last year of school – which was 6 or 7 years into my on/off college career – I just didn’t enjoy what I was being taught. I was taking classes that I was supposed to take and was skipping tons of them due to a lack of interest – causing my grades to be terrible. I flunked classes, made some D’s and plenty of C’s. It wasn’t because I had tried and failed – it was because I just wasn’t interested and therefore was not really trying. But in my last year after spending a semester over in the computer science department learning C, VB and the Java programming languages – I started to get really interested. Building things on the computer was interesting to me.

I remember many of the programming projects I had done and a few in particular stand out. One of the first ones was a Visual Basic (VB) programming project where I had to create two lists side by side on an empty screen. The list on the left had to have 10 items in it – like food items on a grocery store shelf. Milk, Eggs, Cheese etc. The list on the right was empty. Between the two lists I had to add two buttons with arrows on them indicating that you could move items from one list to another. That’s it – just move stuff from one list to another and vice versa. And when you moved an item from the left to the right – it was supposed to disappear from the left as well as appear on the right – in alphabetical order. It was an Aha moment for me when I finally got it working and I recall thinking how cool it would be if I could figure out how to populate those lists using data from a database and then maybe that seemingly useless tool could be a useful utility for something. Although just learning how to code that turned out to be pretty useful. And that’s how it began. That simple coding project turned me on to much more over the years and allowed me to finish my degree in Information Systems with flying colors. But of course flying colors for a few semesters doesn’t have too big of an effect on a GPA that was molded with years and years of C’s. Oh well, eventually grades don’t matter anyway right?

From then on I became addicted to learning more about how to create simple screens that allowed me to enter some information and submit that info so it could be stored in a database. And then screens to pull up the information – change it or move it around and then save it back. The details of all that – the database and the screens and the plumbing in between were what I focused on for the next 10 years or so. I just did it over and over for various companies and with each project I learned new techniques from people smarter than me until one day I decided to sit down and create Schedulefly. That was 10 years ago.

Well today I noticed something really interesting and had never really thought about it. Out of all the screens and features that Schedulefly now has – the one thing that is the core of Schedulefly – and the very first screen I wrote when starting to code has two big lists on it. The list on the left contains all of the available employees at a particular restaurant – and the list on the right is the list of people working on a particular day. I looked at it today – and realized – it’s the two lists! To schedule employees, the manager clicks a button to move them from the left list to the right. And of course they can remove them from being scheduled that day by clicking a button to take them off of the right list – making them available on the left again. I wrote that little thing in 2005 and now more than 5,300 restaurants use it to move staff from one list to another. Ha!! Amazing….you never know when something might stick and you might actually apply what you’ve learned. I just realized I did.

So anyway – I thought that was cool and I also wanted to say to the parents out there that actually read this entire thing – that if you have children who aren’t really interested in what they are learning yet – don’t lose hope – something will stick eventually.