Systems Engineering and Operations (SEO) is the operational hub of all IT Services provided by DoIT to campus. Two managers from SEO, Mark Nessel and Beth Wendt, spoke at the third Track & Snack on 6/27/2017.
Mark manages Systems Engineering (SE), which is responsible for research, design and system administration for all of the hardware systems resident in the data center(s). In addition they are the primary design and support technologists for mass storage, backup and disaster recovery infrastructures.
Beth manages Customer Application Services (CAS), which is responsible for application administration and service delivery and customer support for many of the mass applications (portal, mail, etc) as well as direct customer support of many enterprise services and tools (back-up, service scheduling, document management).
You’d think SEO would be looking for people with tech skills above all else. But even with the technical nature of the services their groups provide, both Beth and Mark emphasized their need for the things User Services staff have in abundance: people skills, customer service skills, and communication skills — the so-called soft skills.
The way Mark put it, it doesn’t matter what tech skills you do or don’t have, if hired you would be trained in SE’s standard way of doing things. He credited SE’s highly standardized procedures with making it possible for 9 of his staff to administer 1,700 servers, and said that he could train anyone in the room to be a system administrator.
The soft skills, on the other hand, are more difficult to teach and learn. Generally, you have to have those going in, and Mark said that half of his job interview questions will concern customer service and soft skills. He also said that when hiring he’s more interested in enthusiasm than in tech skills.
As DoIT’s services face campus more and more, CAS needs people who can have that business conversation with departments on campus, Beth said. It’s no longer technologists talking with technologists to get things done — she needs people who can engage with not-necessarily-technical department heads to understand their needs and deliver the service.
Beth said that her group is focusing more on soft skills now. She needs people who are not only technical, but can also talk to customers. Technical people with the soft skills of customer service plus people skills are much less common than purely technical people. She mentioned Sarah Buszka as someone who recently made the jump from User Services to CAS as a Critical Infrastructure Service Lead.
Like those from other groups who presented at the previous Track & Snacks, Beth and Mark indicated their willingness to talk with people one on one about tech careers. So if you’re interested in the work SEO does, a conversation with one or both of them is a great opportunity to develop your career path.
The Track & Snacks were designed to introduce interested User Services staff to leaders from other areas within DoIT, to familiarize current US employees with the missions of other DoIT groups, and to discover the skills and characteristics those groups want in their staff. The presenters could also announce any positions available now or forecast for the near future. The SEO Track & Snack was the last in the series, but Jaclyn Zavoral indicated that there could be more in the future — contact her with suggestions of other DoIT roles or groups for future Track & Snacks.