Ian Vescovi is tall. Really tall. Like 6-foot-10 tall. Everyone in his family is very, very tall — although he’s the tallest. Ian was a standout basketball player in high school and then played at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown. When he walks the halls at NPC, everybody looks up to him.
While Ian’s physical attributes carry a hard-to-miss first impression, that’s just what you see on the surface. Once you dig a little deeper, you’ll get to know a talented, personable and detail-oriented software developer who’s become the go-to guy for maintaining and improving a software system used by dozens of NPC employees to code text documents.
“Our team absolutely relies on him as a resource to understand what our system is doing and how we can make improvements,” says Mike Hileman, document processing department manager. “He’s our go-to. Ian is very good at taking processes from very manual to very automated; he’s made things much more streamlined for our team.”
Becoming the go-to guy, however, didn’t happen overnight. Ian had no work experience as a computer programmer, and only knew what he had learned in his classes at UPJ. But before digging into keystrokes and coding, his first major challenge was simply gaining an understanding of the vernacular used in the document processing department.
“When I started there was a lot of terminology,” Ian recalls. “I think the hardest thing to overcome was understanding what everyone was talking about.”
The next step was getting a better idea of what all of the employees did in the department, so he went through the same training program as 50-plus newly hired document coding technicians. Ian explained that the experience “helped tremendously to fully understand what I would be helping with.”
After completing a few months of training and getting hands-on experience with what a document coding technician actually does at NPC, Ian realized that a lot of what needs to be done on a daily basis can be quite monotonous and stressful.
“You actually have to understand what people struggle with to be able to make it better,” Ian says. “And that’s one thing with programming — you can’t really start a project until you understand the entire scope. Getting that understanding is one of the first obstacles to overcome, and then to help alleviate the stressful and monotonous parts was definitely something I wanted to do.”
Ian wasn’t thrown to the software wolves early on at NPC; he was mentored by one of the company’s younger, yet experienced software developers, Mark Steele. Ian tried to mimic Mark’s approach of understanding the problems people were having, then developing software fixes for those challenges to help people with their day-to-day job.
“That was Mark’s approach,” says Ian, who patterned his methods after Mark. “He was very well-liked and respected by the team; people valued what he did. I wanted people to have the same confidence in me as they did in him.”
The plan was to have Ian eventually take over Mark’s responsibilities for managing the document coding system. This way Mark could transition his focus to other development projects at NPC.
“Coming in, he had a very minimal knowledge of any programming language,” Mark said of Ian’s early days at NPC, “But he was definitely fun to work with because you could tell he took a very scholarly approach to things. He would look at a problem and think ‘What do I know, what can I research?’ He was always looking for new ways, new methods, new techniques.”
After learning the ins and outs of the system from Mark, and how to interact with other members of the document coding team, Ian eventually took over for Mark as the system administrator and lead software developer for the entire departmental workflow.
“He taught me a lot,” Ian says of Mark. “For the first year, at least, he answered any question I had. It was a lot of on-the-job training. I (now) have the biggest hand in maintaining the document processing system.”
In the document processing department, there are countless ongoing improvement projects and time-saving efforts in motion all the time. Department manager Mike Hileman says that Ian is very good at bringing a lot of these ideas to life.
“He has a very good mind for what we currently do, what we could potentially do, and how to execute it,” Mike says. “Ian and Mark Steele are very good at taking a crumb of an idea and saying ‘Yeah, we can do that, but did you think about doing this, this and this?’ They develop ideas in ways that completely change the possibilities for us.”
And since time and quality are essential to the success of the document processing team, Ian is very cognizant of this in his approach to developing software solutions for them.
“Time is such a big thing to those employees, so I’m always looking for ways to automate things programmatically,” Ian says.
Ian is surrounded by a family of math teachers. His dad teaches math at a local high school, his mom at the elementary school in that same school district. Three of his four brothers teach math at high schools in the area. Ian was a math major in college with a computer science minor.
“I was an undecided major in college for three years,” Ian said. “I picked a major because I had to; I was always confused at how people knew what they wanted to do that early in life.”
After graduation, Ian enrolled in graduate school with a focus on statistics. After just a few days, he quickly realized that he “didn’t want to be in school anymore.”
“I wasn’t really sure how to pursue a career; I just figured if I kept going to school long enough, something would happen,” says Ian, who spotted an ad in the local newspaper for a software developer job opportunity at NPC. “It actually worked the other way; I stopped going to school and something happened.”
Actually, neither Ian nor his brother Vincent — who was an electrical engineering major — followed in the family footsteps. Both bucked the teaching pathway and ended up at NPC, sitting right next to each other as members of the company’s software development team. And it works out well for the brothers.
“We’ve always had a good dynamic between the two of us where we sort of just understand each other,” Ian explained. “We have similar personalities, but there are some differences. Vincent is definitely quieter, I’m a little more outgoing; he has a better technical mind than me. We definitely use each other as resources to solve problems.”
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