Providing mentorship and assistance with technological expertise

Sean Sharp

Editor’s note: Duck of the Week is a section in Around the O Workplace that highlights UO employees and their work, and to help build community by learning more about our coworkers. Each story features an interview with one employee, in his or her own words, with light editing for clarity and length.

This interview was conducted during spring term.

Sean Sharp
Manager of User Support Services

How long have you worked at the UO?

I've worked at the University of Oregon since the fall 2009, so it will be 12 years this September.   

Tell us about your work:

I work as a manager for one of the regional IT support units here at the University of Oregon. The team I’m affiliated with internally goes by the name of Academic North. We’re part of User Support Services and support about 3,000 customers on the north side of campus. This area includes Knight Campus, the College of Design, the School of Journalism and Communication and several College of Arts and Sciences departments. We support faculty and staff with their technology needs.

As manager, I basically try to make sure things are moving forward with our support requests as we receive them. We get those requests through our campus-wide service portal, which is an online way to request help for IT. Some of the other things I do in my job is managing our service desk in Lawrence Hall, where we hire student employees to work at the service desk and provide support for hardware and software licensing, password resetting, and computer setups for our customers. I also manage our large format printing shop here at the university, which is called the Output Room. We have four large format printers to print posters on a variety of papers. The Output Room is essentially run by the students who are managed by me.

What does your typical day look like?

A typical day pre-pandemic would look like coming to campus every day and being in the service desk with our student employees. I help them reply to support requests, answer phones and other nitty gritty things that come with technology work on campus. In terms of what my day looks like in a remote setting, I now work in a hybrid system where I come in on some days and stay home other days. As many people are aware, remote work changed quickly and those early days were spent providing different workshops on how to use Zoom, Microsoft Teams or SharePoint and other software. My days involved helping faculty and GEs become familiar with those tools so they could teach in a remote environment. We have a remote access tool that allows us to work on things on other people’s computers which has also been very helpful.

Being back on campus is a positive thing. I think I get the sense people are glad to be back here and work with others face-to-face. As we look to our return in the fall, it’s going to get busier for us in IT support. When we went into this remote environment, for example, the idea of providing laptops to students was discussed and then created so we have been able to provide Chromebook laptops to any UO students that has needed one. There are still a lot of unknowns, so I guess I’d say we’re planning on both the possibility of some remote and mostly in-person levels at this point. We just have to do our very best to be prepared.

What do you like about working at the UO?

It's the people, hands down. I know that’s a cliché, but it’s really true. The folks in Information Services make this a great place to work as do the faculty and staff of the areas in which I am involved. In addition, I enjoy directly supervising student employees, especially when I get to help them learn IT support and design skills. On our team it’s true that there really isn’t a dumb question as everyone is willing to help each other learn and be successful.

What keeps you motivated?

I am inspired by the role we play in Information Services and User Support Services because our work is really about helping people continue to do their best in education. Since we went remote, it didn’t change the fact that people were still coming here for an education. It also didn’t change the fact that experts in all these different fields were still going to be teaching and doing research. So, we needed to provide the tools and training to those people as best as possible and with a collaborative spirit which I think was done very well.

I guess the other part for me as a supervisor of students has been that I am vocal about supporting our students. As young adults, being social is very important and being in a remote setting has limited that. These circumstances have impacted their mental and emotional health, and so I’ve been open about providing guidance to our students on how to get help they might need provided by the UO. In addition, I’ve done my best to be as flexible as I can be with student needs throughout the year.

What is something people may not know about you?

I play the guitar and have been doing so since I was 12 years old. I still enjoy it, and mostly play a fingerpicking style. I like this mode of creative expression and have recently been working with a friend of mine who’s a writer. I provide some background guitar music while he reads his work, which has been a lot of fun to do so far.

Sean Sharp is a part of Information Services.

Do you know someone who should be Duck of the Week? Nominate a UO employee.