Donna Gallaher's Story

"We're transitioning into the NPC of the future."

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…Building things

“I want somebody sitting here, say 20 years from now, talking to somebody else about how much they were involved in the growth of NPC.”

“Change is the only constant in life.” You’ve probably heard that line before. It dates back to Greek philosophy. Even though this phrase was uttered thousands of years ago, it still applies to the life that we live today. Just ask Donna Gallaher, who’s worked as a computer programmer/software developer at NPC for more than two decades.

“My days have changed,” Donna says. “Being here 22 years, your job evolves. We were much smaller then. I was pretty much the sole developer for a long time. Every aspect of the company, I had my hand in.”

“Right off the bat”

Donna first came to NPC to help the company with a new contract. A government agency needed to convert its database into “the SGML/XML arena,” as Donna explained.

“I was brought on to write code to translate text-based files into SGML files, and then drive a system to manage that. It wasn’t just a conversion, but then you develop a workflow on top of that,” Donna notes. NPC “needed help” and “needed the expertise.”

“She had that knowledge and background of knowing those types of things that we just weren’t familiar with,” recalls Project Manager Mark Kensinger. “With Donna coming in, she knew what she had to do, she knew the task at hand. She took it hands-on and knew what she had to do.”

“She didn’t take long to understand the government data. There’s understanding it and then knowing how to convert what they had into SGML. She got that right off the bat.”

“Having that type of capability in a person is truly a benefit to have within a company like ours,” Mark says. “We’re selling solutions. We’re able to get things in, get an understanding of them, and turn a solution really quickly because of her expertise and knowledge.”

A one-stop shop, doing it in-house

This first project at NPC allowed Donna to build other initiatives for the company. Workflow for the Document Processing department. Inventory databases. Fulfillment management. Pre-shipping. High-stakes testing. Automatic printing systems. An online ordering website. Donna has played a role in building just about every system and program at NPC, often without a clear-cut path of how to do so.

“There was always customization to it, and we took our customization in-house,” Donna adds. “Even something that we did buy off the shelf, we wrote code to integrate it because it didn’t fit our systems completely.”

“There hasn’t been a job that we’ve had to turn away. We bring in any file. We do it in-house. We always made it a plan to say that we were the one-stop shop here. Any major system that is running today, I had a hand in it.”

“A lot of systems within NPC that are still currently being used were developed and programmed pretty much by Donna, or with her layout or somebody else doing programming with her design,” Mark says.

NPC atmosphere, environment

It didn’t take long for Donna to realize that working at NPC would be very beneficial for her career. She describes a previous employer as a “Beltway Bandit” that didn’t treat people — either employees or customers — the right way. Thankfully, NPC does business differently.

“You’re not going to find a better company to work for,” Donna points out, “because your opinion matters. You’re not a number; you’re a person. Your opinion on the way the company matters — the way it operates — is heard. The environment allows you to be able to voice your opinion and it actually gets heard.”

“The atmosphere at NPC fits my needs so much better. It is a less-stressful environment for me to deal with.” It is an atmosphere and environment that is felt throughout the Gallaher household.

“It’s now a family affair, if you look at it that way,” Donna says with a laugh. Her husband, Chip, joined NPC about two years after Donna was hired, and Chip now serves as the company’s Chief Information Officer. Their daughter, Casey, is a software developer at NPC.

“Still building”

With change being inevitable, Donna’s role at NPC continues to evolve. Yet her job continues to hinge on one constant: serving as a builder.

“I’m still involved in building,” Donna admits. “It’s hard to get out of that. I can be involved in laying out the processes, laying out the requirements, focusing on process improvement.”

A concept endorsed by another woman with the same last name.

“I’m currently working on a Tableau project,” Casey explains. “I’m analyzing our operational and sales data and displaying the information in a graphical dashboard environment.”

Casey praises her mother for helping her “on the data side, finding information in the NPC databases. She has also provided resources and opportunities to learn more about the Tableau programming environment.”

And just as Casey is getting guidance from her mother, Donna is also learning from her daughter as well.

“Anybody can be the student. Anybody can be the teacher,” Donna says. “That’s what we want to promote here. Any different day, anybody can be the teacher and the student in this environment.”

Changing of the Guard

For more than two decades, Donna has been a builder at NPC. And she’s still building — even as NPC transitions into what Donna calls a company “of the future, to grow our internal processes.”

“My role’s shifting to mentoring other people on how the processes work — how development works — and not just development with code, development of product,” Donna acknowledges. She has a team of five software developers who “take over the development, based on requirements.”

“It’s kind of shifted from where I wrote code all the time in my little corner. Now, I might not sit down at my computer and do anything. I talk to people. I’m more of a mentor. I’m passing on my experience for the next generation to take over and continue with the growth of the company.”

“You have to be there to mentor and grow the younger people. That’s my role now. They’re the ones who are going to be here 20 years from now. I want somebody sitting here, 20 years from now, talking to somebody else to say how much they were involved in the growth of NPC.”

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