By Nancy Parrish, Staff Writer
In 1973, Susan Koogle commuted from Washington County to a small data processing company in Arlington, Va. When gas prices spiked from 25 to 54 cents a gallon, she began to look for a job closer to home. That’s when she came to work at NCI at Frederick, and in December 2013, she marked her 40th year with the facility.
Today Koogle is a computer operator IV for Data Management Services, Inc. (DMS), which manages the Computer and Statistical Services contract for NCI. Her responsibilities include data entry, data processing, and computer operations, as well supporting Section 508 accessibility tasks, IT security and PIV cards, and administrative activities.
But back in 1973, Litton Bionetics was the sole contractor for the facility, and Koogle worked for its Computer Branch, the only group that had access to the computers. In those days, all the data processing was performed on mainframe computers, Koogle said, and she keyed data for the punch cards that generated reports for personnel, payroll, accounts payable, and purchasing. She was also responsible for printing the checks for payroll and accounts payable. “Remember, back then, everything was on paper or tape,” she said.
The only hitch was that the computers were not on site. “We had to take our punch cards to the Army’s computer center, Building 1422, so they could run them on their computers,” Koogle said. “And then we’d go over to pick up the reports.” If the Army’s computers went down for any reason, she said, she’d have to take boxes of punch cards to Bethesda to run the jobs on the NIH computers.
When NCI redistributed its work to multiple contractors, Koogle’s employer changed, first to Information Management Services, or IMS, and in the mid-1980s to DMS. The change in employers had no effect on her job or responsibilities. “We just kept working,” she said.
Over the years, Koogle has seen the facility grow from fewer than 100 employees to more than 2,000. Her responsibilities changed, she said, when computers became desktops and laptops, and everyone could generate much of their own data. But her ability to quickly adapt to new environments has been one of her greatest strengths, according to Jim Racheff, president of DMS. “She has been able to seamlessly pivot and adapt as technologies evolve and organizational focuses change, proving herself to be an invaluable member of the DMS family,” Racheff said. “Susan is a fantastic employee and co-worker, dedicated not only to the mission of DMS, but to serving the greater mission of the NCI at Frederick.”
The accomplishment she is most proud of is the antibiotics database that she and Karen McNitt built together. McNitt, who is now manager, Scientific Programming and Microcomputer Applications at DMS, coordinated the data collection, and Koogle keyed the data on more than 5,000 antibiotics, using teletype transmittals and handwritten notations on long sheets of paper. The project took about two years to complete, Koogle said. Today, the database is published by CRC Press, as the Dictionary of Antibiotics and Related Substances, and continues to be used worldwide.
Koogle says what she likes most about her job is “meeting people and helping them.” In reflecting on her years here, she says what stands out in her mind are “all the friends over the years that have retired…and the people that are still here.” And interacting with people is what has kept her coming back for more than 40 years.