Computing Science

Senior IT Specialist at IBM

submitted 2009

1997 was a good year for James Derdall. He led the Vikings men’s curling team to gold, won the Male Athlete of the Year award, graduated from Augustana with a BSc in computing science, and landed a junior position on the help desk at IBM in Calgary.

Eleven years and four promotions later, he is a senior IT specialist at IBM supporting customers’ Active Directory, Exchange, VMware, and Citrix environments. “My job is all about learning new things,” James explains. In addition to architectural design and implementation of IT infrastructures, he is responsible for project management and training co-workers to provide operational support. “I love the variety in my job. Something different comes at me every day. I troubleshoot a problem one day and then design a new system the next. It keeps things fresh.”

His current project involves migrating and amalgamating more than a dozen Active Directory forests containing over a hundred thousand users into one large forest. James says, “I am excited about the project because it is one of the largest forest migrations in Canada. Work on this scale comes along once in a lifetime. I’m looking forward to the challenges and the learning experiences involved in it.”

Thinking back to his program at Augustana, James says, “Most of all I remember the people—professors, classmates, and teammates. That’s what made Augustana stand apart from other universities. I had some great professors who I felt were watching out for me. I was always amazed by how much they cared about the students.” He adds, “It was great to have a degree program that allowed me to experience things beyond computing science, such as outdoor pursuits, swimming, music, and religion.” He also credits his university courses with helping him discover ways to learn more efficiently, an essential skill in his current career.

Augustana made an impact on a personal level, too. James made many good friends on the Camrose campus, and he still keeps in touch with many of them today. He also met his future wife, Robyn McDonald (’97), a fellow computing science major, there. They were married in 1998 in Robyn’s hometown of Edson and now live in southwest Calgary, where they are raising their two young daughters, Sarah and Amy.

Many Augustana alumni end up working in the booming city of Calgary. James notes, “When I meet new people in the city who graduated from Augustana, I am amazed by how many of them have attained huge success—both professionally and personally.” Clearly James is one of those people. “Attending Augustana was an amazing time in my life and I will always look back on it fondly,” he concludes. “It was a wonderful place to learn and to grow as a person.”