Joe K.

IT System Architect, Penn Private Cloud — ISC Technology Services
Portrait photo of Joe K.

ISC service(s) or programs/projects:  Service manager for Penn Private Cloud; VMWare implementation and management

Length of time in ISC:  Joined ISC and Penn in 2018

Previous work experience:  IT at American University and Georgetown University

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

We had a difficult period just before and during the pandemic — several of our team members left. With the crucial help of JoDe Beitler and Jerry McDonnnell we rebuilt the team. In addition to making good hires, we had to keep the lights on with short staff, and then rebuild the collaborative environment we had before. We needed to make sure that the new people reached the same level of collaboration and camaraderie. I had never been through such a dramatic transition before, but we succeeded — we’re in a really good place now.

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

Recently we decided to postpone a hardware refresh and let a couple of aging, legacy hardware solutions die off. We were anticipating a clean sweep in the next few years as we re-architected with new technologies. We wanted to look at that process holistically and rationally, rather than buying new, legacy devices we knew we wouldn’t keep. Replacing them incrementally would risk never quite having the pipes fit together. So in the short term, we bought a lot of secondhand hardware, expecting it to expire at the same time as co-existing hardware. Not only did that make for a cleaner long-term refresh, but it saved a lot of money for Penn.

What do you like best about working with clients?

I’ve been in university environments for a long time. I love the fact that you get exposure to some of the most interesting people. Clients from different Schools and Centers – maybe they’re technologically inclined, and maybe they’re not, but they all have a wealth of knowledge to offer. I don’t think you can find that sort of thing in many other places.

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

In my mind, the main thing is to find things in common. I try to find things outside of work to relate to. That’s what’s going to help build the relationship. That’s no different whether it’s in person or not. If it’s all business, then you won’t form as deep a relationship. It helps if we all have a more personal stake in what’s going on with each other. I do make a conscious point to have a bit of conversation initially that’s not work-related, say if I’m calling one of my coworkers for a status update. If I’m just calling to see what’s going on with a project, I’ll still make it a point to ask about something else first to try to facilitate a bit of conversation.

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

I love being on campus. Just being around the students and enjoying the gorgeous campus environment, seeing the architecture. You can get stuck in designing technical stuff and problem solving, and really lose perspective. So being on campus, you realize that “Oh yeah – I work for a university, and all these people really appreciate the place and the mission.” I think that’s the value of actually being on campus from time to time. You realize the work you do has a bigger purpose.

What are you passionate about in your free time?

Electric bikes. I’m slowly learning how to work on them. Computer games like the Civilization series, mostly simulations, city builders, things like that. Plus a whole bunch of retro stuff: old-school 8-bit games, Nintendo — I grew up on that stuff. That’s probably how I ended up working with computers. I also love to travel. I have quite a mixed family background, so I have family all over the world. Particularly a lot of family in South America, so I spend a lot of time going down there: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Panama — the northern part of South America.