Lecturer Warren Mansur (MET’09), Technical Manager at New York State Courts, “Passionate” About His Role in BU MET’s Online Education and Course Development
Lecturer, Computer Science
Technical Manager of Business Intelligence, New York State Court System
MS in Computer Science, Boston University (MET’09); BS in Computer Science, Indiana University
What is your area of expertise?
I have three main areas of interest and experience. The first is in developing mission-critical, distributed systems. These systems are used by clients such as stock exchanges, banks, and other financial institutions, and must be robust and excellent in every area. These types of clients cannot afford problems or downtime with their software. Developing such systems requires dedication, a pursuit of excellence, a strong and varied development team, and excellent development processes.
The second is database design and implementation, both for operational and analytical databases. Databases are the repository for most distributed applications and information systems today, and are typically in use for many decades. Designing and implementing these databases with an eye toward excellence and longevity is crucial to the functionality and performance of an information system. In addition, decision-making systems used by managers and executives rely heavily on well-designed analytical databases.
The third is online education. I am passionate about my involvement with teaching and course development at BU, and have facilitated and instructed well over 100 courses at this point. I invest heavily in all aspects of teaching at BU, and have internalized many important principles about how people most effectively learn in an online environment.
Please tell us about your work and/or any current projects or research.
For about half of my career, I helped develop mission-critical, distributed systems for stock exchanges and banks as a server-side software engineer. I worked with many excellent engineers and documentation writers, and developed experience ranging from initial design to implementation, documentation, and customer support.
My current industry work is as the technical manager for the business intelligence team at the New York State court system. Our purpose is to enable court administrators and staff to make solid decisions based upon current and complete information, that is, to effectively utilize data-driven decision making. To this end, we continually develop the court system’s data warehouse, as well as reports, websites, web services, spreadsheets, email communication applications, and anything else needed to support this effort.
Throughout most of my career, I have been involved with online education at Boston University. This has been synergistic in both directions. I often learn important principles and skills in my research for BU and apply it to my industry work. Likewise, I use my industry experience to help give learners a real-world feel for how they will apply what they are learning.
With co-author Robert Schudy, PhD, I published a relational database design patterns paper and made an accompanying presentation at the 9th Annual International Computer Science Education and Computer Science (CSECS) conference. The paper identifies, catalogues, and details relational database design patterns.
In 2016, I received the Roger Deveau Excellence in Teaching Award.
How does the subject you work in apply in practice? What is its application?
Knowing how to develop mission-critical, distributed systems is crucial today because applications are increasingly distributed and essential. More and more, our lives run on information systems. For example, we often bank, work, and purchase through applications, and depend on those applications to operate flawlessly. These kind of development skills can be employed to develop almost any application today.
Most major distributed applications today rely on databases as their long-term data repository, so knowing how to design and implement databases is crucial. With these skills, you can develop and enhance the database for almost any information system, and will be a valuable asset to the development team.
In your professional pursuits, do you consciously stockpile ideas/observations that you can bring to the classroom in order to inform readings and projects, discussions of current issues, or other distinct challenges that require a practitioner’s perspective?
Absolutely. I have found academic and industry experience to be synergistic in both directions. Academic research often highlights optimal methods for developing databases and software, as well as deeply explaining the principles behind them. These skills are very useful in the industry.
I have found experience gained in the industry helps me highlight for students the real-world use of academic learning. As a technical manager, I often conduct research, see the results in action, and observe what works well for those using our business intelligence systems and what could be improved. Because real-world administrators and staff use our business intelligence (BI) systems, we learn what works and what doesn’t from a personal and technical perspective. As just one example, something may be technically sound, but there may be a usability issue that makes it less effective, so we must focus both on functionality and usability. I have learned to identify the sticking points that occur while developing BI systems, that determine whether a system will be just OK or will be excellent. I stockpile this information and bring it into the classroom, especially during live discussions where I can more freely share this experience.
What courses do you teach at MET?
I instruct Database Design and Implementation for Business (MET CS 669) six times a year online. I also teach Business Data Communication and Networks (MET CS 625) online periodically as needed, along with Professor Lou Chitkushev and Maryan Rizinski.
Finally, I instruct Advanced Programming Technique (MET CS 622) online as needed, along with Professor Eric Braude.
Please highlight a particular project within these courses that most interests your students. What “real-life” exercises do you bring to class?
In Database Design and Implementation for Business (MET CS 669), students for their term project design and implement a database in Oracle, SQL Server, or Postrgres. They gain experience with these in-demand, real-world database systems, and see their database in action. Students gain experience with the entire lifecycle of database design, including analysis, data modeling, diagramming, implementation in SQL (Structured Query Language), testing, and querying (obtaining useful information from their database). This project draws on academic principles as well as my real-world, industry experience. Because I develop databases almost daily in my job, I can say with 100% confidence that the project reflects what someone does to design and implement a real-world database.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I have seen firsthand the value of a BU education in the industry, because I personally regularly utilize skills learned at BU. I encourage learners to invest as much as they can in their education at BU, knowing that these skills will help set them apart in their current and future work. This can result in promotions, a higher salary and, most important, the opportunity to obtain a very satisfying job.