Archive for Spotlight on CSS Staff

Going the distance

April 5, 2017

Whether on a bike or at work, CSS IT’s Eric Avila always goes the distance. So it was no surprise that when Avila found a problem, he followed it all the way to the finish line. 

Eric Avila

Eric Avila

CSS IT maintains an inventory of standard computers and equipment. To save customers time and effort, orders are handled from start to finish including the BearBuy portion. Avila noticed a pattern of inaccurate ticket information from clients and CSS IT zone technicians that caused a lot of lost time in relaying information.

Puzzled by this persistent problem, Avila turned to the data and concluded that the CSS website was the clear choice to get better details to customers and CSS IT’s own technicians. (The IT pages had few visitors because the information wasn’t clearly outlined.)

Avila researched solutions, and began experimenting with ideas for a product catalog. He had four metrics in mind:

  1. Look and feel
  2. Ease of set up
  3. Sustainability and maintenance
  4. Room to grow

For Avila, testing the various options and learning how to use them was “a fun way to gain new skills.” He also had multiple meetings with his team and other key stakeholders to gather feedback that would improve the end result.

In collaboration with the CSS communications team, the IT Equipment Catalog was launched in January, and soon became one of the top ten places customers look for information on the CSS website. According to Kyle Pope, Deputy Director, CSS IT, “Eric did a great job of taking information that was unclear to our customers and translating it into English.”

Although he still has more ideas for expanding the catalog, Avila says, “Just launching it was a success, and helping our  campus customers and teams be better informed by providing the resources and education was crossing the finish line.”

For a behind the scenes look at delivery in action, watch this video!

Taking Care of Business

March 30, 2017

Adam Grimaldi

Adam Grimaldi

What would happen if technology at UC Berkeley’s number one rated business school came screeching to a halt? This was at the forefront of CSS Business Technical Analyst, Adam Grimaldi’s mind when he noticed that Haas School of Business would soon run out of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, the very thing allowing traffic to flow over their internet.

Grimaldi discovered that there were approximately 2500 IP addresses, all of which needed to be checked manually, and these would soon run out, leaving thousands of faculty, staff, and students without internet connection from the school. He proactively reached out to the Haas Technology Solutions team to solve the problem by switching the static addresses to dynamic ones. His solution also brought  Haas’ IP addressing into alignment with the campus standard.  

Working with the Haas Technology Solutions team and IST Telecom, who provided resources and connections to other campus partners, Grimaldi led the project to completion in six weeks without anyone losing internet connection. This beneficial and transformative work reduced time spent on delays caused by this issue from days to hours. According to Grimaldi, “The project resulted in a dramatic improvement in client relationships. It’s less stressful and much faster.” His supervisor, Lois Wareham, agrees, “The planning, collaboration, preparation, and careful execution resulted in a resounding success. This is such a big win for all teams involved.”

To achieve this, Grimaldi collaborated closely with partners from Haas Technology Solutions, Tony Cricelli, Charles Lam, Robert Lozano, Ramon Soto, and Usha Manandhar in addition to the campus hostmistress, Kellsie Adams, from IST Telecom.

Director IT Enterprise & Research Computing and Deputy CIO, Haas School of Business, Barinder Flanagan says, “Haas Technology Solutions has a very strong partnership with the CSS IT zone teams, and the Service Desk team. As a result, we have accomplished technology improvements that are helping us provide excellent customer service to our clients and making work more efficient for staff on all teams.”  

Kellsie Adams, Adam Grimaldi, Tony Cricelli, Ramon Soto

Kellsie Adams, Adam Grimaldi, Tony Cricelli, Ramon Soto

Photo credit – Celia P. Chu

Defying Gravity: Supporting a Franklin Institute Award Recipient

How does it feel to know you supported the research for a 2017 award-winning Physicist?

November 17, 2016

Munira Tarmohamed

Munira Tarmohamed

“So rewarding” says CSS Research Administrator, Munira Tarmohamed. “I was at home, browsing the internet when I learned about the news, it was very exciting!” The news was one of her Principal Investigators, (PIs) Professor Marvin Cohen, is one of eight recipients of the prestigious 2017 Franklin Institute Award. These awards are given in various fields for achievements in science and technology and was originally founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1824.

Professor Cohen, a Physicist here at UC Berkeley, was honored for making atomic-scale calculations of the properties of materials so detailed that new materials and their mechanical, thermal, electrical and optical properties can be predicted in agreement with experiments.

Says Munira, “Hearing this exciting news makes you appreciate what our researchers do on a daily basis; they do so much. Awards like this one really make them stand out from others. To know I supported his work was very rewarding.”

Munira manages one of Professor Cohen’s core grants funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Professor Cohen’s work is mostly theoretical which means that the transactions are not as bulky as those on the experimental side of research. With continuous monitoring, his fund continues to be well managed as required by agency and institutional policies.

Examples of how their partnership works

Professor Cohen reaches out to Munira for different matters related to his grant and they have a strong working relationship. He calls on her for advice and support in understanding the various financial transactions involved. In turn, Munira tries to enlighten him with the campus systems such as PI Portfolio and BearBuy. Munira provides ongoing support to Professor Cohen with increased support when preparing the documentation for their NSF proposal and later, managing all the purchasing and payroll expenses that are needed to support the research work. Recently, she helped Professor Cohen understand and clear concerns about some  charges that were incorrectly posted and they took steps to correct them. Professor Cohen  routinely consults with Munira about other grants and often calls on her expertise, knowing she is a trusted advisor.

CSS RAs provide outstanding service to researchers all across campus. This is just one “award-winning story” of CSS supporting the Berkeley mission of teaching, research, and public service.

You can read more about the 2017 Franklin Institute Award here and specifically, Professor Cohen’s award here. Most notable past recipients include Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, Stephen Hawking, Jacques Cousteau, and Bill Gates. Professor Cohen is continuing his work in nanoscience and nanotechnology and Munira continues to support those research efforts.

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Making the stars align

March 21, 2016

Chelsea Miller

Chelsea Miller

Chelsea Miller arrived to work on her first day at the university to find a somewhat bizarre, old contract waiting on her desk. The contract had been thoroughly reviewed by the Sponsored Projects Office (SPO), but was ultimately returned due to the type of contract. SPO advised processing it through the Office of Business Contracts and Brand Protection (BCBP).

Faced with a situation that would stump seasoned employees, Miller had to figure out how to navigate the BCBP Module and act as the liaison between the Contracting Officers here at Berkeley and those at the agency for a contract that differed greatly from what most CSS RAs see on a regular basis. Further, she needed to understand how to get the funding to her Principal Investigator (PI), Astronomy Professor James Graham. There was nothing cooler for Miller, a huge Star Trek fan with an undergraduate degree in Physics, who sees astronomers as explorers with incredible curiosity who are doing some of the most important research humans can do.

Professor Graham along with Professor Paul Kalas, whose research led to discovery of the first directly imaged extrasolar planet seen orbiting another star (Fomalhaut b), are the leads on the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) project. Located at the Gemini South telescope in Chile, the GPI project is a three year science program that will survey 600 stars for the presence of young giant planets.

Miller had to become an explorer and use her own incredible curiosity in order to navigate the campus rules and regulations. She was then able to successfully work with the Office of Business Contracts and Brand Protection (BCBP) to get the contract signed after months of negotiation. Miller’s secret to success was to build trust and relationships with the faculty she serves. According to Miller, “It’s not always about being concerned with knowing the right answer, but being committed to finding it.”

For Professor Graham, Miller’s out of this world dedication and positive attitude are invaluable. Graham said, “It is a pleasure to work with Chelsea. . .  She’s always responsive and willingly takes on new responsibilities.

Growing up, Miller envisioned being the person wearing a vest with a slide rule in Mission Control at NASA. “At first,” Miller says, “I wanted to be an astronaut. But then I saw the movie Apollo 13 and thought, maybe I want to be on the ground.” She landed her dream job facilitating research in Astronomy and helping real people make discoveries. For Miller, the stars have aligned.

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Feeding the Bears

Yahaira Maldonado

Yahaira Maldonado

February 24, 2016

When Cal Dining was struggling to fill open positions, CSS Recruiter, Yahaira Maldonado stepped up to orchestrate an unconventional job fair on October 13, 2015. Faced with a pool of potential applicants who have limited computer access, Maldonado arranged to have kiosks so that the applicants could apply onsite and hiring managers could interview them immediately.

According to Maldonado, “Serving my client group is all about building relationships that allow me to understand their operation and business needs. They understand I am here to assist them and fully support my creative thinking to solve their unique situations. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive team than Cal Dining!”

In addition to orchestrating the job fair, she led a guerilla marketing campaign that targeted surrounding cities in the East Bay. Focusing on low-cost, unconventional marketing and outreach strategies, she was able to target areas with fast food restaurants. Her efforts resulted in over 50 new hires for Cal Dining.

Michael Laux, Associate Director, Dining Administration says, “Broadening and deepening our pool of applicants is key to hiring quality staff to serve our guests.” Thanks to Maldonado’s efforts the job fair was a big success for Cal Dining and will now be an annual recurring activity.

Her resourcefulness, paired with imaginative thinking, helped ensure that Cal Dining continues to feed the Bears!

Maldonado also wanted to acknowledge the rest of her team, “The job fair couldn’t happened without the support of: Tara Hertstein, Evan Garfield, Andi Horton, Lillian Glickman, Marc Ovalle, Gabe Suarez, James Kao, Terri Leong, Emily Gayton, Alex Gomez, Roy Cockrell and Ellen Loyd, all CSS employees. They participated fully during the event, making it a truly special day that proved when we work together we achieve great things.”


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