IT Core Spotlight: Ben Klaas

Spotlight Date: January 07, 2015

Role: Data Deliveryben-tacotuesday Product: I get to work on many MPC products, but primarily on integrated microdata ones (IPUMS). My role is to work closely with researchers here to help them have the tools they need to process population data and metadata. Favorite Dev Tool: I love dev tools, so I can’t pick just one: The Command Line, Linux, Vim, iPython Notebook, Perl, Terminator, Firebug. Considering how much I listen to music while coding, I might also list Spotify. Fun Fact?: Speaking of music, I’ve been tracking what I listen to. For 12 years. 114,000 songs and counting.

What brought you to your current professional field? What brought you to the MPC?

I started my professional life not as a programmer but as a field biologist. I studied small mammal ecology and enjoyed it very much, but it became apparent during graduate school that the technical aspects of the work were equally exciting. I’ve been working in high tech in a variety of capacities for a long time, always with the hope of being involved in academic projects again, but from the technical side. MPC was a natural fit for me, and I can say unequivocally that I look forward to work every day.

What’s your favorite thing about working at the University of Minnesota?

I worked in the private sector for most of the last 15 years. After that, it’s refreshing being in an environment where the motivations are not based on meeting quarterly fiscal goals. At the U, I’m afforded the opportunity to focus on executing tasks on proper timetables. The work-life balance here is unmatched.

When you’re not wrangling data at the MPC, what other things keep you busy?

I have two lovely daughters Carson and Piper that occupy my time in both quantity and quality. Outside of helping those two girls navigate their childhood, I love spending time with my equally lovely wife Wendy. I enjoy cycling, golf, and bird-watching, and often wonder when someone will invent a triathlon featuring those three activities, because I would totally win that. I will also admit to tinkering with computers outside of work, which I should probably tone down, but you know…they’re just so cool.

How do you get to work?

My daily bicycle commute is about 8 miles one-way, but almost exclusively on dedicated away-from-cars bike trails. The bike trail system in the Twin Cities is without a doubt an urban treasure. I rent a secure, sheltered bike locker here on campus, right by the MPC. It’s a great way to bookend my work day.

What was the last thing you presented on / wrote about?

Glad you asked! I have a post on this very blog, discussing the sublime pleasures of CSV formatted files. I’d call it a page-turner but it’s all on one page.

What new skill(s) are your currently trying to learn?

Python and associated data-processing wizardry.

Dialogue & Discussion