Tomo T.

Sr. Network Engineer, Unified Communications — ISC Technology Services
Tomo T. portrait photo

ISC service(s) or programs/projects:  Service Manager for PennNet Phone and PennFlex Phone.

Length of time in ISC:  Joined as a work-study in 2001. Full-time staff since 2004.

Previous work experience:  ISC native—from just out of college at Penn.

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

I was assigned to PennNet Phone and then I got neck-deep into it! The team and I created PennNet Phone almost from scratch, using open-source components. We were way ahead of other higher-ed institutions. Penn went to Voice Over IP (VOIP) using networking, and added features that most commercial systems didn’t have yet.

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

As unified communications were becoming more mature, and customer demands changed, we had to evaluate a whole new-generation system compared to trying to stay with PennNet Phone. We had to do a lot of calculations and presentation to Tom Murphy and the University to convince them that PennFlex Phone was the way to go. When COVID hit, it really paid off that we had pushed. We heard a lot of appreciation from customers and ISC, saying thanks for starting early. They were suddenly off campus and we needed an off-campus solution — and we had one to offer.

What do you like best about working with clients?

Whenever someone comes in with a problem, it’s like opening a present — a gift, or puzzle. I have the feeling of, “Oooh, what is it? Can I fix it? What’s the solution?” Whenever there’s a ticket escalated to Tier 3, I personally feel a bit of joy and excitement.

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

For the Unified Communications (UC) team, we had assumptions about how people used telephone and UC. It all changed. A lot of the things we thought people wouldn’t use much suddenly became mainstream! So we changed our strategy. Hardware purchasing and licensing all had to shift. We had to focus on getting as many people as possible on board using the soft client first.

Now with people coming back on campus, it’s coming up with new strategies for how to perform orders, how to deploy the phones, how to get to the buildings — a lot of logistics we have to deal with due to COVID and the return to campus.

What are you passionate about in your free time?

My two-year-old is taking up all my free time right now. Before that, I used to do music. I play the piano, I do photography, my wife and I used to go see Broadway shows and go on trips — all that has been put on hold. Working at home has helped as well.

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

I like having an academic mission that is not profit-driven — education, trying to make the world better. Waking up in the morning, it’s good to know you’re contributing to that. And I like the whole community. I feel connected to different kinds of people. The diversity makes it great to be with all kinds of people. It definitely doesn’t feel like a small cocoon. And within ISC, I like the people, the diversity, and the flexibility the organization has.