In our new ABC Q&A series, we bring you brief interviews with some of the minds driving innovation at the Almond Board of California. We speak to a wide variety of folks who work here at the Almond Board, exploring topics from research to conservation to favorite almond recipes.
Today, we talk to James Fillmore, who sits at the intersection of almond growing technology.
James is an Applications Specialist in the Almond Board’s Corporate Technology Department. While he’s fairly new to ABC, James has already sat in several locations around the office, joined the employee appreciation committee, and wowed his coworkers with his homemade treats.
Tell us about your day-to-day role at the Almond Board.
I do the majority of the IT work here. I maintain all our servers and computers, I handle support tickets. I’m working on a SharePoint redesign. I recently upgraded our finance software and we’re in the middle of domain consolidation, so there’s a lot of server work going on.
What do you like about working here?
I like the complexity of the network and the size of the staff. We’re a fairly small organization as far as the IT world is concerned, but the complexity of the network is beyond what you’d expect, because of the scope of work that we do. We consult with thousands of people all over the world. I was drawn to the challenge of that and the opportunities. Something I love about the Almond Board is they also provide me with all the tools I need to do my job well, like server software and computer hardware.
It’s an excellent work environment, too. At a company this size, you’re able to get to know almost everybody. I’ve been very impressed by the culture. There are activities every month for different holidays and lunches for employee appreciation. For instance, we recently did an Easter egg hunt. On my second day here, there was a celebration for all the employee birthdays that month, with wine and six types of Brie. I’m a total food nerd, so my day instantly got way better. I think that’s when I first fell in love with working for the Almond Board.
What accomplishment at the Almond Board are you most proud of?
I’m very proud of the project I’m working on now. We’re consolidating the five domains we use to three, which will be a big leap forward. Our goal with the domain consolidation is to have a single username and password for all of the services that we can provide at the Almond Board. This will make it so all of our users will have to use just their email address to access almost all of the technology-related functions at the Almond Board. I’ve been working on this project since the day I started and it’ll be really exciting to have it done.
Tell us about one of your favorite days on the job.
Once a year, we do a Star Day, an Employee Appreciation Day where we go out for a lovely lunch and spend the afternoon socializing and recognizing the contributions of the staff. We went out to one of the almond growers’ farms—the Naraghi family hosted us. I was in charge of the desserts. My wife and I experimented with a few recipes and everyone loved them. We made some Mexican wedding cookies, with almonds, of course. It was a really hot day and that made the cookies even better — when you put them in your mouth, there’s a pop of flavor. I’m on the employee appreciation committee, so I helped set up the event, and everyone had a wonderful time.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your field?
Read, read, read, read, read, read. Practice. Read some more. I’ve been doing this since I was eight, checking out library books and connecting to bulletin board systems and reading everything on them. I love knowing how things work. We got our first computer when I was eight, and I took it apart that day. My mom wasn’t too pleased until I put it all back together and everything still worked. From that day forward, I was working on computers.
We know you love to cook. Any favorite almond recipes?
Definitely those wedding cookies I made. I also make homemade Almond Joy candy bars, with toasted coconut and almond dipped in high-quality extra dark chocolate. My wife and I made up the recipe ourselves, and they’re a big hit at the office.