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Career Story: Systems Integration Project Manager At A Small Private University

Systems Integration Project Manager At A Small Private University

Job Title: Systems Integration Project Manager

Type of Company: I work for a small private University in the greater Boston area.

Education: University Twente (The Netherlands): Engineering Degree in Computer Science

Previous Experience: I started out as a COBOL Programmer in the Netherlands, doing consultant work for a big IT consulting company. There I got involved in implementations of an ERP-system called PeopleSoft that does Human Resource / Payroll and Financials functionality. This job brought me to the US 11 years ago. In the US I have worked as a consultant and directly for universities as programmer, project-manager, and manager.

Job Tasks: I am responsible for the support and further development of the Human Resource Management and Student Administration Systems. In order to do this, I manage a staff of five people (including myself).

The support part of my job means that when users have a problem somewhere in the system, they log a ticket in our help-desk system. I review these tickets and assign them to somebody on my team to get them resolved. If my team-members can not resolve the problem, I will help them in doing this. Examples of these issues are user can not log on, they get a system-error, or the data on their screen doesn't look right.

The software that we use for these systems is provided by a vendor. That means that the problem can be a bug caused by the vendor. Also, the vendor comes out with a new release of the software every 3-4 years. My team has to make sure we upgrade safely to the new version. This is a project that takes about a year to complete.

The further development part of my job means that users quite often want these systems to work better for them, or they want the system to do something new. Examples are new reports, a way for students to apply for graduation, etc. I review all these requests and determine how much work they will be. If we decide to take on the work, I assign it to somebody on my team.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is the development part. It is great to design something new that will really help the users do their job in a better way. It also allows me to explore new features and new tools that come with these systems. The worst part of my job is the constant interruption of support. If there is a production issue, that requires immediate attention, I need to drop everything I'm doing and focus on that issue. And then it's hard to get back to what you were doing afterwards.

Job Tips: These systems are database-driven. So knowledge of data-structures and is essential. You need to have good analytical skills to quickly analyze problems and to design new features. To be a good programmer, you need to focus on logical structures so that your programs can be maintained on a on-going basis.

Last but not least, you need to be able to listen and keep an open mind. Users will call with problems or with requests that seem nonsensical. It's your job to make sense of them, not to dismiss them.

Additional Thoughts: Looking back at how I got where I am today, I think having started as a programmer has been the right place. If you can understand how the code and data works underneath the hood, it makes supporting and driving the direction of your system a lot easier.

And therefore, even though I do less programming than I used to (being more of a manager now) I think I am still successful because I still do programming. In order to stay on top of the technology that you're in charge of, it is essential that you keep your hands on it.

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