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Behind the Scenes with the IT Department—Team Focus

If there is one department that should get major kudos for helping the rest of Manson make it through the chaos that has ensued in 2020, it would be the IT department. Although helping Manson employees with their IT needs has always been a part of the job description, the group of 13 techs have fielded numerous new challenges throughout the year, not least of which was enabling us to continue doing our jobs while battling through the changes brought on with the COVID-19 pandemic.

For some positions, the nature of work will always be hands on and in person, but going to work means a whole different thing these days for many workers. Thanks to IT Director Joe Hussin and his team, it now means that many Manson employees can work from pretty much anywhere. But in Joe’s mind, the transition is all just part of a day’s job.

“Although Manson has not always been into the idea of telecommuting, over the years we have put platforms in place so that we could one day make the transition easily,” Joe explains. “When suddenly everyone needed to be able to work from home, it was really just a matter of enabling the systems we had already put in place.”

According to Danny Coleman, senior network engineer, looking ahead at the industry and identifying future needs to make sure we can be ready for them is essentially the name of the game in their department. “Often times those changes are driven from end users or departments, and sometimes it is us looking at how technology is changing,” Danny says. “Either might require changes to the platforms we use, so we like to build our systems in a way that we’re able to eventually incorporate those changes.”

Something the department often talks about is that there are a lot of very intelligent people throughout Manson who need the right tools to do a great job. “Our goal in IT is to enable them to do what they do as easily, transparently, and securely as possible,” he says.

As needs evolve, the department is set up in a way that systems can be modified to suit Manson’s changing environment. Paul Massee, database administrator, is responsible for building several of the systems used throughout Manson, including the purchasing system, Manson Learning System, and others.

“Some [of the tools I’ve built] have outlived their usefulness and are now defunct, others are still in use, and some, like the Learning System, have evolved from a simple safety training database to more trainings across the entire Company,” Paul says. Often out-of-the-box solutions, while popular and usable, don’t always cover all the needs of the end-users. Paul sees his role as filling the gaps of the tools and applications that Manson employees may be missing. He is also part of a major push to streamline and integrate systems across the Company.

Nik Xaylavong, systems administrator, says that with so many of the systems relying on each other to work, there are many intricacies to continually maintain. “If one thing goes wrong, then all of those systems won’t talk to each other and people won’t be able to get the job done.”

A running theme, no matter who you speak to in the IT Department, is that they see other Manson employees as their customers. “We all work for the same company, but we strive to let staff know that the other employees in the company are our customers,” says Bob St. Joseph, senior IT help desk technician. “We want to have our customers – the end users – able to do their job as easily as possible, with as few interruptions as possible, using the technology that Manson provides them.”

Bob, along with Esther Chung, and Jonathan Knight, IT help desk supervisor and coordinator respectively, consider themselves the front line of the IT department, fielding help desk tickets and monitoring problems and requests. “We’re basically the first point of contact, and here for more of the everyday issues that people come up with,” he explains.

A big part of that is also ensuring safety, security, and compliance. “A lot of times, people don’t always understand why there are restrictions, but safety and security are paramount,” he explains.

There are government requirements that must be met, which requires continually updating security measures and monitoring the software in use on Manson’s servers. Businesses are a lot different than individuals when it comes to software licensing, and Esther—who is primarily responsible for monitoring software licensing, tracking, compliance, and auditing—helps tech users navigate the software system to find the right license. “If someone has a single-user license on their computer and then we get audited, we could end up getting fined ten times what it would have cost to just purchase the correct license in the first place.”

In the end, when everything is running smoothly, you don’t really hear much from IT. And, in a sense that’s good, but in order to keep work functioning, IT is a critical part of what everyone at Manson does, Nik says. “Like a carpenter needs a hammer and measuring tape, our engineers need software,” he says.

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