This summer, the Operational Excellence website is featuring a series of staff spotlights: stories about staff members who’ve taken on new leadership roles since the implementation of OE2C and are helping bring more innovation and efficiency to campus operations.
Anyone at SMU who’s gotten assistance from the help desk, had a new computer installed, received upgraded classroom equipment or undertaken Canvas or Sitecore training can thank OIT and one group in particular: the Customer Service department, led by Rachel Mulry.
The department’s teams, totaling 39 members, include the help desk; embedded support (the desktop support team that assists with in-person requests that can’t be resolved by the help desk); audio/video event support (for equipment in classrooms, meeting rooms and events); client systems (hardware/software installation and maintenance); and training and communications.
“I have personnel across all three SMU campuses – Dallas, Plano and Taos,” says Mulry. “I also have the privilege of working with an incredible leadership team that is helping guide OIT to become a trusted strategic partner on campus.”
The services provided by Mulry’s teams touch every area of campus. The help desk handles 2,000 to 3,000 technology-related requests and issues every month. Client systems is responsible for hardware and software installation, repair and support for more than 7,000 devices campus-wide. And the training group offers thousands of courses in person, via webinar, or online through Lynda.com.
Mulry, who joined SMU’s IT department in 1999, was named director of Customer Service as a result of the OE2C Shared Services changes in 2015. It wasn’t a role she foresaw as an SMU undergraduate 20 years ago, though.
“I actually graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Music degree in music education,” she says. “I had the honor of studying piano under now-Dean Sam Holland – an incredible teacher! After graduation, I spent two years as a middle school choir director. The summer after my first year of teaching, I worked at SMU as a temp assisting with computer installations. The following summer, I worked again as a temp preparing campus computers for Y2K and begged to stay! I started full time at the help desk and have served in many roles with OIT since then.”
By 2015, she was assistant director in Customer Service, responsible for the help desk, desktop support and cellular support teams. “Then, following Shared Services, I assumed responsibility for the entire Customer Service department, which grew in number due to the reorganization of staff,” she says. “Although I still spend time in similar tasks (such as customer service issues, project management, process development, etc.), those tasks have become much more complex. Leading such a large team and navigating the rapid changes of both the organization and technology is a responsibility I do not take lightly! I have grown a tremendous amount personally through the experience and look forward to continued growth and development.”
Mulry sees a number of advantages with the unified resources now available under the new Shared Services structure. “I think one of the advantages is a deeper understanding of the differences between each school and their unique needs,” she says. “We can now more clearly understand the challenges they are facing, and we’re better able to coordinate efforts to meet their needs. Eliminating some of the differences in the technology landscape (such as unique accounts and passwords) has reduced confusion while allowing us to deliver services in a more streamlined way. We are able to communicate more effectively and provide a more consistent support experience in many areas, such as computer installations, software implementation, classroom technology, etc.”
Of course, the reorganization also brought challenges. Probably the biggest one, Mulry says, was resistance to change. “Each person has a different attitude and appetite for change. That’s true both internally in IT as well as across campus,” she says. “No matter how good an initiative might be, it takes a lot of time and energy to ensure that you’ve addressed the concerns, clarified the path, communicated the ‘why,’ and obtained the buy-in before you begin. There’s been tremendous pressure to make significant changes in so many areas quickly, and balancing the work while tending to the emotional/personal aspects of change management has been challenging!”
Mulry and her teams have persevered through the changes and are regularly praised in campus surveys for the quality they deliver. “I am so proud of all of my teams. We have come a long way in two years!” she says. “The training team has expanded their services to reach more students by partnering with the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center and career center. The help desk has continued to provide incredible support while taking on more and more responsibilities for service requests. The embedded support team has really pulled together to respond to technology issues while learning many new technologies that were unique to each area. The client systems team has revamped innumerable processes, allowing us to rapidly deploy computers and software while reducing costs.”
One particular point of pride, she adds, is the department’s work to improve classroom technology. “We collaborated with the faculty, the Academic Service directors and leadership to decide what those improvements should be. The technology in classrooms can have such a tremendous impact on teaching and learning. Ensuring that the equipment is functional, that help arrives quickly, and that faculty can quickly learn and easily use the system, requires a tremendous amount of work from multiple teams.
“Our team members are amazing people who care deeply about serving the campus community and do so with such positive energy and passion. I am incredibly blessed.”
Mulry says her leadership role brings satisfaction every day. “I love serving people and helping develop my teams to better support everyone at SMU,” she says. “I am a total geek about processes. I love diving in and revamping processes to make them better – better for the customers and more efficient for my teams. I love that the work I do, although behind the scenes, has a direct, positive impact on student learning and the overall college experience. I love being challenged and technology never fails to deliver another challenge!”
As for the future, Mulry says, “I’m a firm believer in continual improvement. I have a number of goals for the next year targeting the account permissions process, the online help desk portal, proactive classroom support, training, and a few exciting initiatives that I can’t share quite yet! Our commitment to SMU is to continue to develop and enhance the service we provide to campus each and every day.”