Aleks P.

Senior IT Manager, Enterprise Applications — ISC Applications & Information Services
Portrait photo of Aleks P.

ISC service(s) or programs/projects:  BEN development team; special projects, e.g., Service Level Agreement (SLA) gathering project

Length of time in ISC:  Joined ISC and Penn in 2015

Penn service outside ISC:  2021 vaccination clinic volunteer

Previous work experience:   12 years at Corporation Services Co. (Wilmington, DE) supporting Oracle Enterprise Business Suite modules for clients. Earlier, from the late 90s, I was a contractor in New York City doing Oracle development and support. At that time my wife worked for Corporation Services Co. – their IT dept. was on the 87th floor of the second World Trade Center tower on 9/11. Fortunately she and everybody in that unit survived, but there was a dry period for contracting for a while, so I got a full-time job at Corporation Services. Later the company decided to relocate the IT department to the Delaware headquarters, and that’s how we ended up as city people in Philly. We commuted for the longest time, and then my wife got a job in the city and later I joined Penn.

Tell us about a challenge at Penn that made you proud to be part of ISC.

The upgrade of Oracle Business Suite for BEN Financials to the latest vendor-supported version — that should cover our needs for something like the next ten years. Typically, organizations would go to outside consulting groups to do projects of that scale and complexity. It makes me proud to work with such capable colleagues, from the database administrators, custom development, integration, testing, and other teams. We were able to do it all with just internal resources, and that’s something you rarely, rarely see done successfully in higher education.

What’s an interesting technical or business problem you’ve faced with ISC?

The BEN Financials products that I help support are integrated with software as a service (SaaS) products from other vendors. We have to coordinate our software life-cycle management for BEN Financials with the quarterly upgrade cycles for multiple SaaS vendors, which are impossible to predict, and can sometimes change on very short notice. When we do a large-scale upgrade project that might span several months, we have to keep our ecosystem in sync during that whole time. We work really closely with different groups in ISC to anticipate and resolve any potential issues and maintain system availability. I’m proud of how we’re able to orchestrate such complex tasks and deliver results together.

What do you like best about working with clients?

I like the fact that Penn is a friendly and open environment. Compared to my corporate experience, people work together longer in their roles. That helps a lot in getting the best out of everybody. Having experience not just knowing the processes and systems we have, but also knowing what resources we can use to best maintain and improve things. Not just technical and functional expertise, but understanding how the institution works so you can get things done. That’s something you don’t see a lot in the corporate world because people tend to move more. It’s something I admire and it’s a nice positive change for me.

What lasting effects did the pandemic have on your role and your work?

Like everyone else, our team uses virtual media more. We realized it takes extra effort to keep our personal connections going and to maintain “team spirit”. Now, new etiquette for group video meetings and chat is being formed as we go along — when to speak in a meeting of 30 people, when to use chat, and so on. One thing we’ve tried since the pandemic is to introduce ten-minute “share sessions” in the first part of meetings, to stand in for typical water-cooler talk. We pick a theme each time, like cooking, or good places to walk outside. It helps energize people, but it’s also a challenge for folks who are camera-shy. I think we’re still learning.

What do you appreciate most about the time you spend on campus?

I like the whole urban vibe of the campus, interacting with people. It’s a wonderful setting — a really nice combination of old buildings with history, greenery, parks, and new architecture. After doing college visits with my daughter a couple of years ago, I really started appreciating our campus even more. Especially the energy of the young people. And I like going with a colleague to a food truck in nice weather in University City.

What are you passionate about in your free time?

I really enjoy living in the city. Walks, running, going to restaurants, going to theater. Actually, my wife and I both like being handy around the house. She has great skill as a painter. We bought the house in the second part of the pandemic as our daughter was leaving home. We’re still kind of busy with it, but we actually enjoy that kind of work. Right now my project is to winterize and do more upgrades on the deck — things like that.

What would you like people at Penn to know about you?

I definitely like to employ a sense of humor, both in my work and in my private life. One fun fact is that my sport as a young person in the former Yugoslavia was water polo. My daughter is now in her second year in Penn Engineering, and a teaching assistant for a first-year programming course.