Passion, Persistence, and Pioneering as the Director of College Software CATLab Roots: Joel Banez
Though his humility prevents him from taking the credit he deserves, Joel Banez’s work as the Director of College Software is an integral part of the innovation of Westmont as it navigates a 21st-century world. After more than a decade of experience working with Westmont’s digital infrastructure, Joel’s consistent passion for improving the college’s user experience results in crucial institutional innovation. With his mind always looking to the exciting possibilities of the future, Joel’s impact on Westmont is sure to grow as the college expands into a new decade.
After a childhood spent in the Philippines, Joel and his family immigrated to the United States when he was seventeen years old. With English already a second language in his mother country, Joel was well prepared for life in California, and soon set off to pursue a degree in Computer Science at Cal State Fullerton. Entering the software development world at its infancy in 1979, Joel recalls that “nobody was a programmer, the position just didn't exist yet… it was more of an art than a science.” To Joel, however, the lack of understanding of what a software developer could do allowed him and many other young programmers to carve out the foundational standards of software development. To this day, Joel encourages young adults to jump into fields that have not been fully established, because a greater diversity of people in the field will produce more broad reaching applications.
Throughout his career before Westmont, Joel used his talent as a software developer at a variety of companies, in all manners of fields from manufacturing to non-profit organizations to even digital typesetting for translations of the New American Standard Bibles. Though the industries Joel worked in might have varied greatly in the broad functions of the companies, the specific technical needs for innovation in software development remained consistent across the board. In the late 2000’s, Joel learned of the need for software designers at higher education institutions. When Westmont posted an opening, Joel took the job and dove headfirst into the world of managing and directing the software development of our college.
Although Joel was not expecting much crossover from his previous years spent designing softwares for a business centric company, he was surprised to find that much of Westmont’s internal infrastructure shared many of the same patterns and design philosophies of non-educational forms. More than anything, however, Joel found a newfound “passion and fulfillment” that came with creating integral systems for members of the Westmont community. Foundational pieces of the modern Westmont digital infrastructure, such as “WebAdvisor, all the software applications that we built for the iPhone,” and “other arcane stuff that you guys probably don't see that only staff use” were all headed up by Joel.
Simply put, in a 21st century world that demands software excellence, Westmont would not function without Joel’s work.
Joel is a huge supporter of the work that the CATLab is doing, recognizing that “because [Westmont] does not have full time people in software development, so the CATLab highlights student developers who are really instrumental, because now the college can deliver good experience for students, by the students themselves.”
Near Joel’s desk, an old Apple II computer sits, well maintained, despite its age, and other retro Apple relics also line the free spaces of his “admittedly cramped” office. “They’re great reminders of how far technology has come,” Joel says with a smile. A few moments later he adds, “it also reminds me of how much more we can achieve.”
Stay connected with the CATLab this summer as we continue this series and further seek to cultivate our community.