Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Subroutines (Customer Post by Tony Parandi)

Today's blog entry comes from Tony Parandi, Assistant Director of Institutional Research at Indiana Wesleyan University: 

One feature of Veera that I’ve found very helpful is the Subroutine node. This node allows you to feed the output of another job directly into the job you’re currently working on. In essence, it allows you to put a job within a job. This is especially helpful if you have a certain data stream that you commonly use, and do not want to rebuild it each time you need it.

An example that I commonly use the Subroutine node for is the recoding of student ethnicity. In 2010, when the Department of Education mandated the new ethnicity categories, we added two additional ethnicity/race fields to our data system (Datatel). Thus, students could have a wide myriad of ethnic category combinations, which means we have to reform these combinations to match the IPEDS definitions. In order to accomplish this I bring in the ethnic data from our warehouse, and use a series of transform nodes to convert the three ethnicity fields into one final ethnic category:

Rather than recreate this stream for every job, I have it saved as a separate job, called “Ethnic Conversion”. As you can see in the picture above, the Output Proxy node is necessary when creating a job for Subroutine purposes as it connects the output data to the Subroutine to the other job you’re building.

Now when I create a new job that needs ethnicity reformatting, I simply bring in a Subroutine node and connect to my data via Student ID in the Merge node.

The output gives me a single ethnic category that matches IPEDS for every student, based on data brought in via the Subroutine.

Although this is a small and simple example of a Subroutine job, the node is a powerful way to connect jobs without having to do copy/pasting or rebuilding. I have found the Subroutine node to be a great time saver, and I encourage everyone to use it whenever possible.

PS: Be sure to check out the rest of our customer tips series here!

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