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We Need Geeks

24 August 2007
Written by

I work here in the PVS Information Technology department. I've come to enjoy my job in many ways. Working in the IT department allows you to work with great technologies, great people, for a great mission, and in a great place. No time in my life have I had a job with so many great aspects. And hopefully by telling you about what it's like to work here, you may consider coming out yourself.

The lead up to the 2008 elections is going to be a very busy time and I'm already starting to see it. We have a constant flow of fires that need to be put out alongside some very large projects that are just now starting to materialize. Due to this, we really need more people in the IT department.

First off, let me tell you about what you could be working with. We in the IT department are dedicated geeks. We like working with great tech and thrive on it. So in that aspect, we love to use Free and Open Source software whenever we can. Everything from Wordpress as you can see here, to FreeBSD on most of our servers. We tend to use whatever tech fits the situation or problem the best. We don't get stuck in enterprise software agreements or the general politics we see in large IT shops these days. And when there is no software out there to do what we need, we develop it in-house. That alone would be a top selling point for most true geeks out there.

We support about 100 workstations; 75 in Montana and 25 remotely in our office in Arizona. Workstations are a mix of Microsoft Windows and Ubuntu Linux. We have 9 servers which are mostly FreeBSD with one Gentoo Linux development server. 2 OpenBSD machines protect our network and perform various routing and filtering tasks.

For our website, we run load balanced lighttpd Web servers with PostgreSQL as our DB backend.

Me, my colleagues, and our predecessors have developed custom software to provide front-end functionality for our website. In addition, we've developed a custom backend administration program for the various departments to enter their data to be distributed by our front-end. And recently, we've been working on the VoteSmart API which will allow all sorts of great things to be done with our data.

For these, we've chosen either Java or PHP to work with. We used what suited the task at hand. Once again, decisions were made with what best fit the situation, with rarely any other aspect affecting our decision.

So that's our technology, but that is by far the only drawing factor, for me, anyway. You get to work with some very interesting people that you would probably never meet in any other way. The folks here come from all over the country(and occasionally from outside the country) just to help out and learn from us. While most of them are political science majors which tend to destroy in any political arguments you get into(outside of work, of course), there are people from other background that come in. All for the same reason, to help reach PVS' goal of informing the voter.

The goal is yet another benefit of working here. This is one of the few types of employment where you can actually say you're actively trying to help your country. And get this, you get paid to do it.

Then of course there's Montana. Odds are, it's very much different then where you are from. This is the land of temperature mood swings, forest fires knocking out ISP's fiber lines, and vast forests that you could walk for days in without finding civilization. It's fairly rough country but it's very easy to get used to. And in my 7 months here, I still have yet to get used to the views out here. The commute to work, while long, is amazing.

And when could you ever say you've landed an IT job 27 miles from the nearest town?

So, if this sounds interesting to you, please send your cover letter, resume and three references to the address below, or e-mail them (as ODT, PDF, DOC, or RTF attachments) to jobs@vote-smart.org.

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