A lot of serious business gets done at OUC’s IT Operations Center, but Theresa Aleguas and her crew seem to have a lot of fun doing it.
Located in OUC’s Pershing complex, the IT Ops Center handles everything from batch processing customer billing and payroll to turning meters on and off to monitoring cyber security and other mission critical functions, all done with automation while watchful eyes scan rows of computer screens in a darkened command room. It’s a 24/7/365 operation staffed by nine team members who, Aleguas, Manager of the IT Ops Center, describes as “pretty geeky.”
This group is our own homegrown version of “The Big Bang Theory,” what with their rules for not blowing things up and using their powers only for good, as well as their love for science fiction, Avengers superheroes, Star Trek and puzzles, processes and problem solving. But a tightly wound prima donna like Sheldon Cooper wouldn’t fit in with this outfit. Since joining the team in 2014, Aleguas has reorganized the center into a highly structured, detail-focused operation relying on a teamwork formula that gives each staff member the opportunity to be in charge. But while they take their jobs seriously, the working environment Aleguas has created is relaxed and playful.
“We try to do things the most efficiently and we try to do things with the highest quality,” Aleguas says, “and we also try to have fun.”
Take, for example, the automated sounds she and her team have programmed to warn of impending doom or threat, or announce completion of a process:
Flowing water signals there’s a water leak in a room full of data servers; a siren blares while a voice warns “Intruder alert! Intruder alert! Intruder alert!” when a computer virus attempt is detected; the lyrics “money, money, money . . . money,” sung by The O’Jays, announces payroll has been processed; and a loud Homer Simpson groan alerts of a power loss to a critical asset.
Nothing is spared from the group’s geekiness. Computer servers are named for the Starfleet ships USS Enterprise, Voyager and Discovery, and Aleguas and her team plan to Photoshop their faces onto Avengers characters to make a new staff photo.
“We’re all here when other people are off,” says Aleguas, explaining her rationale for inspiring a lighthearted working atmosphere. “I want to have a place that I want to work and I feel comfortable with. I start with that as my intent for the team. I want everyone here who enjoys working here. I want them engaged and continually learning. I’m about my team. We all own 24/7.”
That they do, working rotating shifts of 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3 to 11 p.m., and 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., with 12-hour weekend stints in the dimly lit command center where more than a dozen monitors display data, messages and surveillance video.
Greg Rodeghier, Interim Managing Director of IT Operations, credits Aleguas for shaping up the unit. “She inherited an operations department with few documented procedures and a team of computer operators that were somewhat un-engaged,” he says. “All of this has changed and she has a powerful team of operations specialists, engaged employees, well-documented procedures, and Theresa has developed strong relationships with all of her customers the department serves.”
Her immediate boss, IT Director Hedi Ago, points to “equitable” staff scheduling as one of many notable accomplishments of Aleguas’ reign over the IT Ops Center. “Last year, the team automated the staff shift scheduling to ensure parity on their work schedule,” says Ago. “Scheduling shift workers in a 24/7 operation is a daunting task and typically triggers staff contention, but the result was a transformation into a yearly visible schedule that is equitable across the shift staff. This has tremendous impact not only on her staff morale but also in their life-work balance, which is a hard balance to achieve among shift workers.”
Says Aleguas: “When you build the team you also have to build up the people in the team.”
Considering she entered college on a music scholarship and aspired to become first chair clarinet of the New York Philharmonic, Aleguas seems like an unlikely leader in a tech role. But she changed majors, graduating from UCF with a degree in anthropology, and was hired by Westinghouse Electric in Orlando as a data entry clerk despite having zero interest in the job. Still, she was good at it and improved her IT skills by taking computer and software classes and, later, earning an MBA at Rollins College while working in the telecom industry. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I was really good at IT, and I like to organize and make things structured,” she says.
And fun to do.