Tech Time: A Spotlight on the IT Department

The IT offices look exactly how you’d guess they would – couches along the wall, a poster of Bill Murray on the door and a Dungeons and Dragons meme stuck to the back of the air conditioner. When the Marketing team came to conduct interviews and asked to take a few photos, one of the guys quickly pulled up a fake hacker screen before we were able to snap a pic.

Despite their spirited personalities, the IT Department takes the importance of their roles very seriously. Whether it’s helping with staff technology and support, developing and maintaining systems or improving our infrastructure, the team serves as one of the core units of the organization.

“We are here to serve the organization and to help it run better by leveraging technology,” says Technology Services Manager Michael Miller. “We aren’t doing the work of serving families, ensuring the records are filed, the bills are paid or the multitude of other tasks required to run a school, but we can develop tools to make those tasks easier and faster to accomplish and allow those individuals to work on other important tasks.”

As the Director of Technology, Uriel Gonzalez is responsible for the IT Support, Programming and Student Technology Services Departments, and ensures that we have stable, running IT systems for our staff, students and families. Alongside Mike, he works to make sure that the team exceeds their many expectations.

“We ensure that what we say will get done, gets done,” says Uriel. “Mike and I constantly push the envelope on what the IT team can do because they keep meeting our lofty goals.”

Ted and Nick tech-ing away!

Behind Door Number One

IT Specialists Nick Veret (soon to be Technology Support Supervisor!) and Ted Hynson are the current boots-on-the-ground team. As some of the newest additions to the group, Nick and Ted are the go-to guys for questions, issues and assistance with staff technology.

“Problem solving and facing unique challenges has always been my favorite part of doing IT support,” says Ted. “We’re not innately gifted with the knowledge of every new system, program or hardware, so we get to learn and become subject matter experts on things and then communicate them out to staff.”

From day-to-day printer problems to big projects, such as the tech audit, the scope of Nick and Ted’s work is large. Not only do they need to be able to do tech things, like run software, they also need to be able to do physical things, like run new data cables.

“When people saw us in the ceiling tiles [running cable], they seemed surprised,” shares Nick. “We do plenty of work away from the desk. We’re not just glued to the screen.”

Behind Door Number Two

The other level of support comes from the Programmers, who are Yamin Noor, Francois Tcha, Tony Cervo and Matt Mueller. Overseen by Mike, this is the team that does all the back end work so our staff, students and families have the highest quality, most user-friendly systems with which to work.

“Technology is one of those areas where, when we do our job well, most people don’t even realize our impact,” says Mike. “Our job is to build systems that help facilitate the delivery of services to our families, to act as a force multiplier for other departments and to be good stewards of the data we house.”

One of the biggest platforms that the Programmers work with is the LPAD Student Support System. What began as Visions’ attempt to avoid substandard, off-the-shelf education software has become one of the most beneficial and valuable assets of the organization.

Hi, Tony and Uriel!

“We used to have an older version of LPAD SSS, which became this Frankenstein monster that kept growing and growing with no stable functionality,” shares Tony. “So, we started over with a better idea of what we wanted it to be and developed the LPAD system that we know today.”

Of course, the journey doesn’t end there. With such a unique and dynamic tool, there’s a constant need for maintenance and upgrades in order to keep it functioning at its highest level.

“What I generally do on a day-to-day basis is work on new features to add to LPAD,” shares Matt. “I respond to change requests that come in from stakeholders, and I add features and implement the things that people are asking for. This makes LPAD more useful to staff, students and families.”

Working with the nuances of our systems also elicits the need to stay up to date on current technological capabilities, both internally and externally. For example, Visions recently migrated its servers to Amazon Web Services to enhance our user experience.

“I started initial research and development on AWS last summer, and it took us a full year to make the transition,” says Francois. “Now, Amazon is able to manage our hardware for us, which is one less thing for us to oversee.”

“It’s always fun to work with the newest technology,” adds Yamin.

Behind the Screens

Although the IT Department works heavily with technology, their attributes extend far beyond all the coding and computers. The team is funny and dynamic, and they lean on one another for support and success. Most importantly, they work hard so that everyone else’s job is just a little bit easier.

“We are so fortunate to have such a great IT team,” says Uriel. “We solve complex problems, we meet our goals and we put student success as our number one priority.”