Editor’s note: Duck of the Week is a new section in Around the O Workplace that highlights UO employees and their work. Each story features an interview with one employee, in his or her own words, with light editing for clarity and length only.
How long have you worked at the UO?
I have spent pretty much my whole career at the UO, about 26 years officially.
Tell us about your work:
My team and I travel to university buildings to work in large cabinets called building entrance terminals or closets. We go into these mechanical rooms and replace fans, power supplies or boards. We do a lot of behind-the-scenes work and like to say that if we’re doing our jobs well then people don’t know that we’re there.
I programmed and set up the emergency phones on campus with the blue lights so when the technicians go out and install them, they have the correct programming to go to the correct emergency location when the button is pressed. We also track the underground infrastructure of the university using ArcGIS to map out where all our phone cables are.
I converted the entire phone system at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology with RJ David, our wiring person. In a couple of days, RJ and I went out (to Charleston) and got the facility on the campus phone system using a gateway that we installed in a closet, which has a lot of complex configuration. RJ and I set up more than 25 phones per day, which are just like the phones on campus that have five-digit dialing. Setting that project up was an endeavor that took about a year for planning and two days for implementation.
My position also requires me to be on call in a seven-week rotation. The on call is probably the hardest part of the job because I might have to get out of bed in the middle of the night to go fix something that breaks.
What does your typical day look like?
When I used to work on campus, my typical day would consist of coming into the office but what I do changes on a day-to-day basis. My duties usually consist of a mix of computer work and talking to customers. I’m usually on a Zoom or Teams call for about 3-5 hours a day now that I'm remote, and the only challenge there is that we’ve lost the opportunity for casual hallway conversation.
When the pandemic hit, we needed a way to pick up campus phone calls for the customer service function remotely. My team helped several departments transition into a cloud-based system called Amazon Connect. This system is a way for customer service functions to happen with students and full-time staff answering the phones from wherever they are. Amazon Connect determines how the calls flow to the customer service agents that pick up the phone and is a web-based system so people can pick up calls from anywhere. I built those contact flows and helped put the system in place with my coworker, Dana Shedd.
What do you like about working at the UO?
I think the best thing about the University of Oregon is the people. I like the philosophy of the university as well as the people I work with, from our management to the customers we serve. We’ve had a bunch of folks who have been very focused on the university’s mission of teaching and learning which is probably the part that I’m the most interested in. We are also a research university so there are additional opportunities for furthering knowledge.
I love the diversity of the university, and it has been a great experience to work with people coming from different backgrounds. When I used to help people directly with virus-infected laptops, I would sit with them for about an hour while we worked through the issue. I would ask a lot of the international students about their home country and try to find out where they lived and what it’s like there. They were usually happy to talk about their home.
What keeps you motivated?
I would say that two things that keep motivated are opportunities for human contact in addition to complex problem solving because both are enjoyable. I have followed a technical path in my career, so what’s interesting to me is that in academia one of the coolest things that can happen is your discovery of an ability that you didn’t realize you had. On many occasions, I have been asked to do something so challenging that I didn’t know in advance that I could do it. I ended up taking it on and it felt so rewarding to get to the other side. I love to see that process for my student employees too.
What is something people may not know about you?
When I was in college, I was an avid rugby player at Gonzaga University in Spokane. I was in a position called the “prop” which consists of locking arms with one of your teammates and doing something called a “scrim” where you drive together. I was one of the bigger players at Gonzaga, and the prop is usually the biggest person on the team. I’m not a huge man but for that school I was the biggest person, so I would drive with the others to drive the ball out to get to my teammates who would run the ball down the field.
Dan Albrich is a part of Information Services.
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