Photo from Epic System's campus

USA, 3: Epic and local IT industry excursions

This post is about our first excursion with the international student group to see Epic System’s HQ. During the first days I also walked around the town a bit in search of wall plug adapters, and accidentally made contact with the local IT industry.

Getting my weird EU tech working in the States

I took some tech with me to States – namely a laptop, its dock and a couple of mobile phones. I didn’t want to purchase transformers and charger for all my devices, so I took a couple of converters with me from Finland, and thought I’d buy a few more from the States.

Photo from Epic System's campus
Photo from Epic System’s campus. It’s funny to see guns explicitly forbidden for someone, who’s coming from a country where guns are always pretty much forbidden from being taken anywhere.

In search of converters (from European plug to American) I walked around the town a bit. Surprisingly, even though Whitewater is definitely a town with a lot of international students (because of the university), neither of the larger stores carried any suitable cables or converters that would enable me to use my european laptop charger and dock in here. Walmart had nothing (shame on them – Supercenter, they say?), and local Winchester Hardware had some converters but not for Europeans. Luckily, I found a smaller store when googling for related businesses, and decided to go see what they had to offer.

And boy, what an interesting store that turned out to be! From the outside it looked like a dull, mom-and-pops computer store. Stepping into the store, however, I found myself in a small customer service / store area of an open office with a bunch of IT Administrators / Software Developers prancing about doing their daily business. Their small store turned out to have surprising selection of cables available, and I even found one suitable for my laptop’s dock.

KC Computers

The folks at the store were also surprisingly chatty, and told me about their business. Turned out, that they actually handle large enterprise network and solution deployments and management, also acting (at least occasionally) as support team and taking care of the maintenance. I don’t know if the fella I was talking with was just pulling my leg, but he claimed they had another 60 persons working in the basement (that would be pretty suitable, though). Those guys would be the administrators and developers for their customers all over the state, and probably some neighboring states as well.

The company even was a certified Lenovo partner, so there’s a fair chance they can fix my laptop if/when it breaks down. Because hey, that’s happened before, and our corporate IT folks are pretty far away from me.

I thought it was pretty cool to stumble upon a pretty succesful IT outsourcing company in such a small town! At least of the guys present at the storefront, quite a few were apparently partially affiliated with the university. Either by their study background, or their spouses being employed there. I guess that’d kind of explain the existence of unnecessarily large IT company existing in a smaller village…

Excursion to the HQ of Epic Systems

During the first weekend in USA, we (among a group of international students) visited Epic System’s headquarters in Madison. Epic makes healthcare software, which wouldn’t perhaps be that interesting, but Accenture (evil international IT consulting megacorporation) is actually building an integrated healthcare facility information system using Epic’s software. Information system, in Finland’s case, is called Apotti – Asiakas ja POTilasTIetojärjestelmä (customer and patient information system). The price tag for that is around 600 million euros, or about 400 euros per suspected end-customer of the system. The project is pretty expensive, funded by tax dollars, and fould play has been suspected, so it’s an extremely interesting case. And Epic’s part of it.

Before the tour we got an “Epic factsheet”, which should’ve given everyone on tour a preliminary understanding of the company’s nature. According to the factsheet, Epic has already a pretty commanding position in the patient records market on North America, and they are now pretty aggressively expanding their business abroad. As a sign of this expansion effort, a number of international offices was listed – Finland being one of them. To my understanding, Epic doesn’t have any employees in Finland at the moment, though…

On to the tour, then!

We toured the campus for some hours, which was certainly not enough to see even nearly anything. We were able to take a look at a number of buildings, though. Unfortunately, we didnt’t really get any introduction to Epic’s business model or recruiting practices…

We were escorted by a former employee of Epic, who nowadays works at the university, so we got to hear great many things about the company culture. And boy, was their campus cool! I’m an employee at a software company myself, and I’ve got to admit we have it pretty good. I mean, we have beer in the fridge, beautiful office, quality equipment, flexible hours and office indoor bike(s). Even if we still lack a ball pit (if my manager reads this, you know what to do!), I still enjoy working at our offices.

Photo from Epic System's campus
Photo from Epic System’s campus: One of the (maybe) 4 entrances to the campus. The castle-like structure in the distance is part of the campus.

Epic’s campus was something else, though. Not only was it very large (it houses 10 000 employees), but it’s also… Shiny. And interesting. I’ve posted some of photos in this blog post, but we were kindly asked not to post photos from large parts of the tour, so those stay offline – sorry.

Photo from Epic System's campus
Photo from Epic System’s campus.

Geeky furnishing

The campus had a bunch of distinct buildings with rather distinctive styles. One was very oriental, another was Harry Potterish, third was straight out of Game of Thrones… I can’t say decorations were necessarily made with great taste, but they were pretty cool and geeky.

Photo from Epic System's campus
Photo from Epic System’s campus. There’s a dragon, that apparently is actually robotic. Wasn’t that active when we visited the meeting room, though.

Whoever furnished and decorated the rooms seemed to like dragons. As you can see in the pictures, the Game of Thrones -building had a Medieval-looking dragon in one larger room. Once we got to the Oriental building we discovered multiple, very eastern-style dragons hovering in the meeting room.

Photo from Epic System's campus
Photo from Epic System’s campus. Oriental dragons this time! And a couple of students from our group.

Not just cool rooms, but a lot of services as well

In addition to rooms used in working, training and meetings, there were a lot of additinal services for the employees. Some examples we saw were numerous cheap cafeterias and coffee shops, a number of actual shops, daycare for children and things like that. The food served in the multiple canteens on the campus was apparently partially produced on-campus – as outside the castle’s walls there were a number of farms also belonging to Epic.

During the weekend almost everything was closed, which surprised me a little. I’d thought, that a somewhat capitalistic country, such as the USA, would’ve long since left the agrarian society’s working hour limitations. Apparently I was gravely mistaken.

Photo from Epic System's campus
Photo from Epic System’s campus

All in all, Epic’s campus was pretty huge and impressive – at points almost pompous. The small amount of pompousity also did disturb me a little. After all, their wealth (at least in Finland’s case) comes from tax dollars.

Photo from Epic System's campus
Photo from Epic System’s campus: That’s the inner ward of the campus.

As an interesting side note, Epic’s mostly not actively recruiting non-americans. There’s one exception, though – Software Development professionals working in their R&D. I guess there aren’t enough MUMPS-savvy developers in the USA… I wonder how that works now, that Trump is making recruiting non-americans even more difficult than what it already is.

 

My other posts about American culture exchange:

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Antti K. Koskela

Solutions Architect / Escalations Engineer at Koskila / Norppandalotti Software / Valo Solutions
Antti Koskela is a proud digital native nomadic millenial full stack developer (is that enough funny buzzwords? That's definitely enough funny buzzwords!), who works as a Solutions Architect for Valo Intranet, the product that will make you fall in love with your intranet. Working with the global partner network, he's responsible for the success of Valo deployments happening all around the world. He's been a developer from 2004 (starting with PHP and Java), and he's been bending and twisting SharePoint into different shapes since MOSS. Nowadays he's not only working on SharePoint, but also on .NET projects, Azure, Office 365 and a lot of other stuff. This is his personal professional (e.g. professional, but definitely personal) blog.

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