Erica S.

Benefits Lead, Workday — ISC Application & Information Services
Portrait photo of Erica S.

ISC service(s) or programs/projects:  All Workday, all the time! As the Benefits Lead, I work with the Benefits Office on configuration, open enrollment, and so on. I'm also on the Penn functional team implementing Workday Learning. The leads try to learn a number of business processes so we can cover for each other. Another big area is system intergrations. Benefits alone has over 50 integrations! I have a lot of contact with the ISC developers about those, which is nice.

Length of time in ISC:  Joined Penn in 2004 and ISC in 2019 as part of the Workday program team

Previous work experience:  Prior to 2004 I worked for Hyatt Hotels. I interned at the Atlanta Olympics and threw corporate events where Wynton Marsalis and Bruce Hornsby performed. I moved to the Grand Hyatt in DC, arranging off-campus catered events, and then sales. President Clinton was at one of my events! Hospitality was an exciting career with lots of travel, but it was a whole different world. Seven days a week — not very family-friendly. I joined Penn HR's Benefits Office in August of 2004 as a functional subject-matter expert. When Chris Blickley started up the Workday project, I applied and joined the program in 2017.

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

The Workday implementation. It was a beast! When you approach people with change, where they will no longer own a system, it can be challenging. But we worked through it together, making everybody comfortable and succeeding with a good product — that was great. We listened, but everybody felt free to speak freely. It was OK to disagree. They threw us all into training together, so we bonded quickly. I valued the rigor of meeting the deadlines, the deep discussions, and learning about the academics and payroll in depth. I came to appreciate how many people have a say in decisions in a university.

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

Data conversion was a huge issue in the Workday implementation. People were attached to the old payroll system because they could customize it. But the bigger problem was that the data wasn’t updated, and needed to be cleaned up. Our conversion team worked on cleaning up the data, identifying what needed to go where. Near the end of the project, HR changed some vendors, and one vendor implemented a system of their own! We still had to make sure everything worked. I just learned enough to go into their system and pull data myself so that we could meet our deadlines. In the end, you get to build relationships with every vendor we have.

What do you like best about working with clients?

I learn a little bit about every area of the University. There’s always something new. Every day you’re meeting people who are generating exciting ideas. It’s never dull or boring. You’re constantly learning from people. I also have a great relationship with Benefits. Because I previously worked in that area within HR, I can spot when new things would be helpful to them. I enjoy making their lives easier, which also helps strengthen our relationship.

How has the pandemic changed the way you approach your role?

People are a bit nervous that they won’t get what they need because we’re not just walking over to each other’s offices. But we’ve proven that’s not the case. I love working from home because in what would be morning commuting time, I’m already on my computer. I actually think people are working better as a team because they have to actively reach out to each other. People are a lot more understanding and thoughtful, that’s for sure.

What are you passionate about in your free time?

I love travel, preferably internationally. I’ve been to many countries in Europe with my family and friends. Hopefully we’ll get back this summer. Greece is next on my list. Trying to hit as many destinations as I can. I go to all my kids’ sporting events. And I have to talk about my three-year-old chocolate lab, Bruno, who’s my Velcro. I’m surrounded by all men: my husband, two boys, and a boy dog! I also enjoy reading a good book, going to the beach, and skiing.

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

I’ve performed the Heimlich maneuver on two people! I helped one of them when I was in high school. Years later, I was at a reunion. Someone came up to me and said, ‘I just want to thank you for saving my life.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ I must have blacked it out because it was such a scary time for a teenager. I’m the kind of person at all the first aid trainings who’s likely to run out screaming for the ambulance because I get so nervous. But yeah, I did it. Let me just say: no chicken bones!