Ali A.

Senior IT Support Specialist, HireIT — ISC Client Services
Portrait photo of Ali A.

ISC service(s) or programs/projects:  Policy updates to enhance security for centrally managed MacOS devices

Length of time in ISC:  Joined ISC and Penn in 2021

Previous work experience:  IT Support Specialist at Community College of Philadelphia providing campus-wide assistance; Desktop Support & System Administrator at SCN Solutions Inc., managing project deployments, system and network security, backups, and other IT issues.

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

Three months after I arrived, I served as project lead for a bulk deployment of more than 40 new computers for Environmental Health & Radiation Safety staff. They were switching from desktops to laptops. This was early in the pandemic and I was working remotely. We had to assemble a variety of skills on the team: contractors to do physical delivery and setup, networking folks, and so on. As the machines were physically enabled, I would remote in and help configure them for the onsite users (who were essential staff) and troubleshoot any problems with them. Through exceptional teamwork and effective communication, we executed the plan on time, achieving our goals and delivering the project for the clients successfully despite the challenges of pandemic restrictions.

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

A number of people on campus use the supported FortiClient virtual private network. At one point, we had numerous reports from users that when they brought their laptops to campus after working at home, they lost their Internet access. It kept happening each time someone changed locations. It turned out that FortiClient was ignoring the ISC configuration settings for DNS and defaulted to a static setting, so each time the machine moved, it lost connectivity. We performed diagnostics and analysis to identify the root cause of the issue. Because we shared this information with the vendor, they were able to correct and solve this problem.

What do you like best about working with clients?

Working at Penn has been an incredible journey. Each small act of kindness and support has the potential to yield significant outcomes. Whether it’s assisting clients with their work orders, handling incidents, or engaging in collaborative efforts, I’ve consistently witnessed the rewards of effective teamwork and the sheer joy of contributing to Penn's mission. Throughout this experience, I’ve grown both personally and professionally, learning valuable lessons and forging lasting relationships. Being part of this vibrant community and helping clients achieve their goals is truly fulfilling, and I take immense pride in the positive impact we create each day.

How do you stay connected with colleagues in our hybrid work environment?

I work both onsite and remotely. But I’m in constant communication with my HireIT colleagues via Slack. The whole team is active on a variety of channels. Some are issue-based, some are project- or team-based, and some are social. Communication is the key to bridging the virtual and in-person experiences. In HireIT we meet all together onsite every Thursday. Some of those meetings will include fun activities, to maintain personal engagement. Divided into smaller groups, we’ll compete to solve a hypothetical problem or puzzle to exercise different tools – that sort of thing.

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

Our campus fosters collaboration and teamwork among faculty and staff, setting a positive example to encourage students to work together and learn from one another. Additionally, being on campus provides me with opportunities to interact with colleagues and enjoy the serene ambiance of the Penn Museum Pond. Sometimes I’ll just go spend ten minutes watching the koi there.

What are you passionate about in your free time?

I’m truly passionate about spending quality moments with my family and friends. They are at the core of what motivates and inspires me. Being able to share experiences, laughter, and support with loved ones brings me immense joy and fulfillment.  I enjoy engaging in various activities together with them, as it strengthens our bond and creates lasting memories. I cherish every moment we spend together. I also have a small pond with butterfly goldfish that I enjoy.

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

I enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and immersing myself in the beauty of nature, especially waterfalls. These things not only bring me joy but also help me stay active and connected to the natural world. Engaging in these activities not only promotes physical well-being but also nourishes my mind and spirit.