When the University created the position of director of IT service delivery operations last fall, it knew it needed someone with solid technical skills, lots of experience and a passion for the job. In Steve Hall, UMass Lowell found all that — and an Emmy winner, too.
Hall's job is to manage the Help Center/Desktop Support, Network Operations and Voice Services groups and to ensure that as the University continues to grow and as technology continues to change, the campus community is supported by reliable, consistent IT services.
Hall and his staff know that for students to learn, faculty to teach, researchers to research and staff to function, the IT infrastructure and its services have to be up and running all the time — much like a utility.
The newly formed Service Delivery Operations group helps the campus community with computers that aren't working (the Help Center) as well as those that need replacing (the computer replenishment program). The group is also responsible for telephone services and data network operations.
"Given the complexity of our IT environment and UMass Lowell's plans for growth, the new position is a strategic hire for us," explains Lori Dembowitz, associate chief information officer. "Steve has a customer-facing role that is a blend of IT operations and timely service delivery. It requires a leader who is both technically proficient and customer-focused. We're so pleased to have Steve Hall in this new role".
It's a big job. The Help Center responded to more than 22,000 requests in 2011. The center also manages a 24/7 call center for students which handled an additional 24,000 requests in 2011. As the campus expands — in both numbers of students and facilities — the demand will grow. Hall hopes to roll out a new web-based, self-help service to speed up the resolution of problems.
The data network is vital to UMass Lowell. The Network Operations group manages the network equipment and cabling used to connect computers to internal services (i.e., email, HR systems, classroom technology) and to the Internet. This includes nearly 350 switches and routers, about 500 miles of cable, over six miles of fiber optic line and 700 wireless access points that provide WiFi access to approximately 95 percent of the campus.
"Students arrive here with certain expectations of what IT services should be," says Hall, who knows that for UMass Lowell to compete for the best students and faculty, its information infrastructure had better be solid.
Can You Hear Me Now?
This may be the computer age, but telephones are still critical. The Voice Services group supports 5,000 phones on campus and the telephone systems which handle 9,000 to 13,000 phone calls made per day. In addition to typical office phones, the Voice Services group supports Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones, emergency phones, alarm lines, and the intercom lines built into parking lot gates.
An an Emmy to Boot!
And about that Emmy? In 1993, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences awarded Avid Technology and all of the company's initial employees (Hall was employee No. 26!) with a technical Emmy award for Outstanding Engineering Development for the Avid Media Composer video editing system, which was the first (and ground-breaking) non-linear video editing system in the world. Prior to the Avid Media Composer, video editing was done by literally cutting and splicing video tape.
"I was the first — and for the longest time, the only — IT employee at Avid and was responsible for desktop support, server/network infrastructure and developing software to support the business operations. Since it was a rapid-pace startup company, I was also involved in everything from shrink-wrapping a customer shipment to doing quality assurance on our video editing software."
Before coming to UMass Lowell, Hall worked for Tyngsborough Public Schools as director of technology and, prior to that, as director of IT for the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District. He also worked for Nortel Networks in a variety of technical and managerial roles. He earned a bachelor's degree in computer science from Westfield State University.
Steve Hall can be contacted at 978-934-2690 or at Steven_Hall@uml.edu.