A Macalester alumnus guided Adam Oien ’10 to a computer science class, an internship—and then to a job at his company.
“You never know where your opportunities will come from,” says Adam Oien ’10. He should know. As a Macalester sophomore, Oien accompanied his brother, Christopher Oien ’04, and former Mac roommate Richard Matson-Daley ’04 to a Timberwolves basketball game, where they began casually discussing majors and classes.
“I draw all the time on experiences I had outside the science building, such as my Economics of Poverty class.”
Matson-Daley advised the younger Oien, a computer science major, to take the college’s database class and then apply for an internship at his company, Minneapolis-based TheDataBank. “It was a 400-level class, but I took it anyway, and I interned with them the next summer,” says Oien. Now he’s working as a systems analyst for TheDatabank, which was this year recognized as a top B Corporation (B Corps are certified as sustainable businesses) in the Best for the World 2012 Annual Report and selected by Minnesota Business Magazine as one of the 100 best companies to work for in Minnesota.
TheDataBank specializes in software solutions, such as database management, for nonprofit organizations like the League of Conservation Voters, Gray Panthers, and Healthy Schools Campaign. “Nonprofits come to us either because they haven’t got the staff or the expertise to do these kind of tech things themselves,” says Oien. Indeed some of TheDataBank’s clients are all-volunteer organizations and thus particularly in need of tech support.
Because of the nature of their clients, Oien has found his liberal arts background especially helpful. “Liberal arts is definitely the way to go,” he says. “I draw all the time on experiences I had outside the science building, such as my Economics of Poverty class. That has been regularly applicable to my work with these nonprofits.”
Macalester students’ preparation from a technical standpoint is top-notch too, says Matson-Daley, the company’s database manager. “Tech skills change fast,” he says, “but getting an education at Mac helped me understand the principles behind computer languages and thus better able to understand the big picture and learn on the fly.”
Their graduates’ combination of technical skills and familiarity with nonprofit world issues is why TheDataBank will keep sending job postings to Macalester, says Matson-Daley. And once there, staffers tend to stay, Oien adds. “Everyone here could make more money somewhere else, but the great work environment—telecommuting, transit allowances, and so on—plus the fact that we’re doing good for the community, keep us here.”