Chief Information Officer
Chief Information Officer, JEANNE CASARES
JEANNE CASARES, Chief Information Officer, RIT. Jeanne joined RIT in September 2008 as the CIO where she manages the Information Technology Services division at the university. Prior to joining RIT, Jeanne worked for Paychex Corporation for nearly 15 years. As a Director at Paychex, Jeanne lead Web Technologies, Eterprise Support, Implementation Services, and Change Managment activites.
Prior to joining Paychex, Jeanne began her professional career at Syracuse University where she worked in Student Services as well as starting and managing a successful small business. Jeanne was born and raised in New Jersey where she attended The College of New Jersey receiving a BA in History and M.ED in Higher Education.
The following group of ITS staff is but a small selection of a very large and diverse population of IT individuals. And individuals they are indeed. Their respective pathways to one of the most challenging industries took both straight and circuitous routes.
Several are "home grown" talents - former students at RIT, who went on to co-op experiences within the division to full time employment after graduation. Others came from local businesses and are new to the higher education community. Others came to RIT after working at several different colleges across the country before landing in Rochester.
Despite their different backgrounds, they had a lot in common about viewing IT as an ever-changing industry, and that a successful IT professional is one that is flexible and open to continually renewing their respective skills.
The Infrastructure 'Artists' and their Original Designs
Matt Campbell, Systems Programmer, was hired in ITS in 1997 while still a student at RIT He continued class part time, graduating in 2003 with a B.S. in Computer Science. He was a student employee in the Division, always had an interest in computers, exposed to technology early on by his father, a computer programmer.
Matt is responsible for the account and computer registration systems at RIT. Managing these infrastructure tools is often done behind the scenes. "If it is done right," he said, "people don't even know I'm here!"
Matt has made a name for himself at RIT and within ITS developing many original applications related to the RIT computer account management process. "RIT is a heterogeneous mix of constituents, with varying computer needs and requirements. It is important to be able to integrate many of the technologies needed, and off the shelf products don't always meet the campus' business and educational requirements," he said. Currently, Matt is developing a conversion tool to transition all RIT academic, financial and human resource databases from using social security numbers as unique identifiers to a more generic University ID, part of a major campus system initiative taking place in 2006.
Originally from Vermont, Matt has made Rochester home for the last several years, "It grows on you!" He and his family are close to the city, but removed enough from urban sprawl."
The ability to take basic IT processes and develop unique applications is a 'must have' in the IT field today. "IT is becoming less of a specialty field," he said. "Half the things I learned freshman year are not appropriate now. High school kids already know what used to be part of a degree. You have to come into the field knowing you have to adapt to change, and you must be willing to learn new things in your field.
Andrew Elble, Infrastructure Engineer, Communication Technology Lead began at RIT in February 2002. He has been in the IT field more than 10 years, all in the higher education arena. Prior to coming to RIT, he was a senior network engineer at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois and at the University of Buffalo (NY).
He began his steps in IT proctoring computer labs in college, graduating with a degree in Electrical Engineering. "The term information technology didn't really exist at the time, but building networks intrigued me."
As an infrastructure engineer Andy is involved in what he calls the "technology vision" - breaking barriers around separate systems. Instead of seeing individual systems such as Windows or Linux, he asks, "How do we make this all work as a whole? What is the big picture?"
Some of the current projects he is involved in utilize next generation Internet applications such as Internet 2/Dark Fiber, IPv6, and deployment of the National Lambda Rail at RIT. (LINKS to all s/b added here) As RIT grows in its research computing applications and the demand for more web applications, engineers such as Andy are instrumental in building an infrastructure that is both robust and scalable.
RIT is an "ambitious place and the ability to work with emerging technologies, is second only to seeing these technologies being used in the campus environment. Businesses do have R & D departments," he said, "but they are more structured environments. In an academic environment more people get to use the newest technology."
Elble is also a transplanted Rochesterian, enjoying living with his family in one of the city's suburban areas. "You can actually own 9-acres of land here without being a millionaire!"
Another "home grown" talent on the ITS staff is 5-year employee Christine Montopoli, Communications Specialist II. Her responsibilities are maintaining the networking and telecommunications infrastructures, once separate technology entities, now converging and changing. At RIT, this network crosses multiple colleges, administration buildings and residential housing complexes.
When Christine first started as a transfer student, coming to RIT via the community college system, there was no wireless on the campus. "Now we're moving into voice over IP phones and technology." When Christine began as a co-op student, the emphasis was on networking technology. In the last year, the ITS Networking and Telecommunications Services teams merged, a reflection of the changing landscape of the IT industry.
"The field is continually growing and changing. You have to have flexibility in the sense that you are able to change with the technology and continually learn," she said. "In coursework here, you can pick your concentration. You take core courses to get the feel of the IT business, then you can pick a concentration - what interests you the most. But when you are in the workforce, you grow and learn so much more. You must be able to pick up new skills quickly in this business."
Originally from the Southern Tier town of Corning, NY, Christine remained in Rochester and at RIT after graduation. "There were more job opportunities here," she said. While in her position, she said it's the people and relaxed environment that have kept her here for the last several years.
The Weavers of the Web
The ITS Web Services Team is a 7-member team consisting of varied experiences within the IT field from a recent graduate and newly hired former co-op student-employee, to long time IT professionals with more than 15 years in the field. The interview below was a whirlwind of comments and input from the whole team.
More so than the corporate environment, working on a web services team in a higher educational setting allows these IT practitioners the chance to see the results of their work and the applications they have built almost immediately. Their customers are as close as the next college building where in the corporate world, often customers are across the county. "We see an immediate response from people," said Jeremy Trumble, manager of the Web Services group, responsible for maintaining RIT's web environment as well as coordinating 'all things web' - e-commerce applications, portal technology and architecture and building individual department web sites, to name a few areas of expertise.
The Web Services Team was instrumental in introducing portal technology and applications at RIT. The intent of portal, said Shawn Whiteside, is to move processes together in a central source for students. Some of the processes include registration, student financial services and coursework support. The portal is one of the most used student applications on campus for news, services and communication.
The team is in the midst of upgrading the current RIT web environment from architecture to integrating a new content management system. They have the skills to both design web pages and build the infrastructure that supports the many pages that represent an organization like RIT. The upgrade is a vast project mixing technology know how with design creativity.
"I would say that my experience at ITS is very similar to my experience in the corporate world with the exception that I think we get exposure to newer and a wider range of technologies faster than maybe in a corporate environment. The professors and students at RIT always seem to be at the forefront of the latest ideas and buzz of what is going on in technology on campus," said Mark Maimone.
Mark, a graduate of RIT's Computer Science program, worked a co-op position while in his undergraduate years, and was hired by the company as a software developer. He worked at several companies around Rochester before being hired at RIT in 2002.
"From a technology perspective, RIT and ITS are great places to work because they embrace Open Source technology," said Lisa Hupf a recently hired employee. She came to the Web Team after working as a consultant on both industry and government contracts for about 14 years before accepting her job at RIT. The use of Open Source technology is a difference she found going from the corporate world to academia.
Local and international competition, the expectation that work will be done in teams rather than individually and the integration of technology into varied businesses makes the IT field very competitive. "Developers are often asked to be liaisons for on and off-shore business teams," said Lisa. "It is important to be flexible and have a well-rounded set of IT skills from technical expertise to project management.
"You are more valuable to a team if you can perform multiple functions. For example, if you are working in industry, there is a tremendous increase in foreign competition. IT workers are often asked to take on new roles. Developers find themselves working as the liaisons between a client and another international development team that does not use English as the primary language. Project coordination across international teams and excellent communication skills are essential, even at the developer level. Take advantage of opportunities that will allow you to sharpen your written and verbal communication skills," she added.
The team agreed, stating that the ability to problem-solve a technical problem is important but explaining the solution to a customer is equally important; those in the field must have the communication skills to translate technology information effectively to be successful today.
Like Lisa, Mike Perico traveled through the corporate world before landing at RIT after several years at Nortel Networks and Xerox Corporation. "It's great to learn the newest computer languages or the latest tools in school, but that will only take you so far," he said. "This industry can change on a dime, and what is hot today, might be 'old school' in 18 months. If you have the ability to learn and pick up new skills, languages and tools very easily, you will do well."
Scott Andrews is a recent graduate of RIT and was hired in 2005. He worked within ITS as a co-op student for several quarters. The field has shifted even in the few years since Scott began his initial search for IT schools, he said. Programs and content material have changed, he said, in just a short of a time period.
There are those who "are purely about the technology," said Ryan Boyd, also an RIT graduate of the Computer Science program. They are interested in the newest technology and purchase the latest gadgets. However, they cannot make the connection to how the product might fit into the current workplace, "how it might help people. They have more of a concern for the technology than the application to solve a business problem," he added.
"It is not possible to learn everything in college you will need to know during your career because the field is changing so quickly," Shawn said. "This is a good thing because it affords you the opportunity to change directions within your career and avoid the trap of having out-dated skills."
The web team agreed that the area is rich in technology talent and opportunities. "Rochester is a technology hot spot," said Mike. "Technology companies should realize that we have lots of tech talent here in Rochester, mostly because of schools such as RIT."
The Customer and Technology Mix of Desktop Support
One of the more challenging positions in ITS is the role of desktop technology support. Several ITS staff, including 5-year employee, Denise Lake, are assigned to individual colleges acting as the technology representative, advisor, support person and jack-of-all-trades.
"Desktop support is more than upgrading systems and installing applications," Denise said. In the College of Science, where she is assigned, she supports nearly 220 faculty and staff and more than 400 computers in offices, classrooms and laboratories.
One of the more important applications for the desktop support staff person is not only the technical expertise needed on multiple systems, but the ability to communicate effectively across many constituents, "to communicate WHY you need to do things," Denise said. People's expectations of desktop support include working with a knowledgeable IT person, someone who understands both hardware and software and how to give technical advice "offering a better way to do things with technology," she added.
The new breed of IT professional must also have patience and determination, she said. "Things go wrong, you have to have enough determination to want to deal with it and fix it. There's sometimes trial and error," Denise said. "In the College of Science, they deal with different equipment and where they need to store and access large data files. They want to know how technology can work for them."
"Why I came to RIT, I saw this as a good opportunity to work for a college and take classes while working. And this is an environment where people like to learn - that's wonderful, especially in a challenging job market," she said. Denise is a Rochesterian at heart, with family here and she is soon to be married. One of the philosophies that has served her well in her career is her willingness to look at changes as experience. "No matter what job responsibilities you have, especially in IT, look at it as experience. Life changes all the time. Learn what you can. No matter what, that experience is always good!".