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My Career at Jawonio

Updated on September 26, 2017
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Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Jack has worked at IBM for over 28 years.


Jawonio is a non profit organization located in Rockland County NY. The word Jawonio is an indian name meaning "independence." It was founded in 1947 as a summer camp for disabled youths. Over time, it grew to be the largest employer in Rockland County with over 800 employees. My career with Jawonio started in 2007.

- Jun. 2016

Jawonio Mission Statement

Jawonio Document Imaging Services

After leaving IBM Research and doing some volunteer work at a local Archives, I decided to go back and try a different career. I always wanted to do some work to help our community in some way. In 2007, an opportunity came when I saw a job posting from Jawonio. I never heard of Jawonio or what it does. The ad was looking for a DOCUMENT IMAGING SPECIALIST. Having worked on so many imaging projects, I felt this was a good fit for me to transition to something different. One that focus more on the workers who are disadvantaged. The ad mentioned working with people with some disabilities. I was confident that I could learn what was necessary to help this organization move into the digital age.

At the interview, I learned that they have been doing microfilm services for many years and that their latest customer wanted to move to a digital imaging media. The department is a small part of the Jawonio family of services where they provide daycare for adults and children and some medical services in addition to some employment services for the disabled. The Imaging Services department has a group of employees who have some minor disabilities but for the most part are capable of doing simple repetitive tasks with great precision.

The new part, of which I was hired, was to provide a scanning service using state of the art digital scanners and deliver digital image files onto optical CD media. Prior to my arrival, they had hired a consulting firm which recommended a set of equipment, both hardware and software systems, to accomplish the task. These systems were in place when I first started. The good thing is that they already have a customer who have signed up. This customer was already doing microfilming of their records and now wish to go digital.

A Clash of Cultures

Coming from a Corporate environment, I was used to certain protocols in a business environment. That includes person to person interactions and common business practices. Jawonio was no way like the Corporate environment of IBM. Being a non-profit, and having to deal with State and government entities, there is much more in terms of procedures and documentation and rules and regulations. At the same time, the limited funding resources in general, tends to restrict what is needed in terms of equipment and supplies.

To be honest, I was prepared for some changes of culture but not fully prepared for all the nuances that all these procedures entail. Individual initiatives were frowned upon.

Early in my career there, our office was situated next to a group that provide some daily activities for disabled youths. They would do art projects such as water painting to pass the day. I saw this was a great idea to promote self esteem for the kids. I got to be friendly with one of the staff who is a very talented artist himself and help these kids with their projects. On my own time, I offered to capture some of the finished artworks and create a website on Squidoo to help promote their works. It seems innocent enough but when the supervisor found out about this, to my surprise, they wanted the website taken down immediately for violation of privacy. It seems some of the paintings have the first name of the artist shown on the lower corner of the painting. I was called into the Compliance Officer's office and asked to explain the whole affair. I was "written up" for violating HIPAA privacy guidelines and given a warning notice. It seems an over reach of that regulation to me and I made my opinion known. It is an example how a good regulation to protect a person's medical records can be stretched to cover an extreme interpretation of privacy. A photo of a painting with a first name posted on a web site may be taken as a violation of that person's family privacy. Even when that family have no complaint of this and even commended my effort.

A Success Story

One of the success I'm most proud of at Jawonio is the career path of one of our employees. The work at Jawonio Document Imaging is mainly an entry job. They usually pay minimum wage as set by the State. The tasks includes prepping documents (prepper), scan documents (scanner), Quality Assurance(QA), and data entry(indexer). The scan operator is paid a slightly higher wage since it does require more skill.

We had one scan operator who is young and very handy with his hands. He loves cars and especially Audi cars. He is also very good with computers. He is always eager to learn. We chose him to be our scanner operator. He was detailed and did an excellent job. After a year or so, he applied for a mechanics job with an Audi Dealer. I wrote him an excellent reference. He got the job and is very happy. I saw him a few time after that and he is grateful for the work and opportunity at Jawonio. He was one of our success stories.

A Tale of Two DAM (detail)

As I said in my introduction, I came from the world of digital imaging for museums and libraries. Office document imaging, though sharing many of the same technologies, is focused more on speed of processing over image quality. As part of my work at Jawonio, I got to learn and use two DAM (Digital Assets Management) products. These are production software systems that are being used by many organizations worldwide. These systems provide the users with capture, search and retrieval tools, and access protection and rights management. They are databases that hold the documents we scanned and allow access via the web or their client interface. When done correctly, they can save physical storage and provide instant access to volumes of files and allow search capability that is more sophisticated. The most important attribute is they are a protection against loss from disasters such as fire and floods.

Having used both systems extensively, I want to relate some of the problems I encountered. I don't want to cause any conflict, therefore will only refer to these programs as DAM-A and DAM-B. My point in telling the stories is to highlight the general issues of usability. I can talk about these products because I had no hand in selecting them for our department. DAM-A was there when I started and DAM-B was recommended to us from a Business partner that came on board a few years after I joined.

DAM-A is a standalone system that allow for scanning documents into a workspace and indexed on the fly. The final output after quality verification is exported into a set of optical CDs. It has search capabilities and allow the user to browse the scanned documents in TIF format and pages can be exported out of the system for attachment to emails. The system is self contained and secure. There were several disadvantages that makes the system harder to use. This was evident especially after we have populated the system with 10's of thousand pages. Due to the size limitation of the CDs, after a while, the system needed to create multiply CDs to accommodate the increase size. This makes the usability difficult and slow. When a document is located on another CD, the user would have to eject one CD and insert another CD for the system to continue.

Another issue which turns out to be much more work than anticipated is the migration to a new version of the software that was a major revision. This migration process required 2 specialist from the company that supported this product and it took an entire day to complete. This is too much to expect any users to undergo.

Finally, the system suffers from certain "bugs" that the developers could not fix easily. This happens during the time consuming process of creating the final CDs for delivery to customer. As the system got bigger with more and more data added, each iteration would require longer processing time. When an error occurs, the process would have to be re-run and cause another day of delay. This is just unacceptable in a production environment. Luckily for us, our customer decided to bring their digitizing process in-house and discontinued the out sourcing work.

The harsh lesson learned is that system software on this scale needed to be extendable. When we were given the demo system, everything worked well. It is only after some long term usage that the problems showed up. By then, it was too late to make changes.

After this experience, our supervisor decided to search for a business partner that have done these type of engagements and have been successful at it. After a few trials, we came across this company that is located up State. They are an award winning company that has the experience and the know how. As it turned out, they also employ some people with disabilities to work in their document prep process. They are a very good fit and can help us move forward.

The DAM-B product that they recommended is a much more robust system.

B&H Production Scanner (Trials and Tribulations) detail

One of the key equipment for our department is a high priced production document scanner. The B&H Model 8140, at the time, was the top of the line scanner recommended by the consulting firm. It was used by many other facilities that does production scanning as a service. It is capable of running at high speed and can produce millions of pages over its life cycle.

Unfortunately for us, the one we got was a newer model that included some "modifications" unbeknownst to us. It worked fine in the beginning. However, after several hundred thousand scans, it started to make a squealing noise. These noises will come and go and over time became worse. Finally, after numerous service calls, and complaints, we were offered a complete replacement of the rollers assembly.


I worked at Jawonio for seven years. I learned quite a bit there and found the work extremely satisfying. I got to learn how business perform in a non profit environment. I also value the many people I met there. The staff are truly amazing and they are motivated by the desire to help people rather than just profits. They are unsung heroes in our society. I will always be proud of my association with Jawonio.

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© 2016 Jack Lee


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