HUIT Service Desk and Field Team

February 9, 2021

image of HUIT service desk and field team members: Chris, Jose, and Lillian

Image from left to right: Lillian Castro, Chris Nadeau, and Jose Neto.

The HUIT Service Desk and Field Team, a source of front-line technical support for the University, has been busier than ever since last March’s transition to remote work and learning. In addition to supporting this massive effort, they simultaneously took on the important role of connecting callers world-wide to Harvard-based COVID information and resources via the COVID Connector Hotline.

Lillian Castro, Walk-In Support Center Manager, Chris Nadeau, Assistant Director for HUIT Service Desk, and Jose Neto, Supervisor, IT Partner Support, talk about supporting the University during this uniquely challenging time.


What do you do and what is your team's biggest contribution?

Chris Nadeau: My team provides IT support for all faculty, staff, and students in CADM, FAS, multiple graduate schools, and other departments/programs. We also answer the Harvard University general number and recently started the COVID Connector line. Our goal is to make technology easier and reduce downtime and frustration related to IT. 

Lillian Castro: I am a manager at the Walk-In Support Center. We are located at the Science Center building and are a part of the Field Support Team. Our team procures, provisions and supports all devices for faculty, staff, and students. We manage 3,000 refreshed machines a year and support approximately 10,000 endpoints. For the last year, we have focused on enabling remote teaching and learning and transitioning Harvard staff to a complete work from home environment. We have also had over 4,000 assets that have shipped across the United States.

Jose Neto: As one of the supervisors for the Harvard University IT Service Desk, I help manage a team of technicians who are the “first line of defense” when it comes to IT issues and questions in our community. We deliver support and guidance to our community via phone, email, and chat. 


What don’t people know about you and what your team does?

Chris: Many people don’t understand the depth and variety of the calls we receive. Everyone knows we help when their computer doesn’t work, but we do much more than that—the COVID Connector Hotline is an example of this. We have this line set up to deal directly with concerns surrounding COVID. The University has done an amazing job at creating resources in many different areas, from testing to compliance, and safety, and we want to ensure callers get the information they need to alleviate stress around COVID-related concerns. 

Lillian: We touch every HUIT managed asset and help students with personally owned devices. We interact with and help build the user experience for numerous departments across the University. 

Jose: Our team has been working 100% remote since mid-March. In this time, we have been able to keep up with the increased demand for IT support during the University initiative to move to remote work. We were one of the teams that helped distribute over 2,000 iPads, laptops, WiFi hot-spots, and other technology equipment to our students and TA/TF’s before the start of the Fall 2020 semester. 

What is the most challenging thing about your work?

Jose: As with any IT job, keeping up with system changes and dealing with the occasional system outage will always be a point of focus, especially in a remote environment. Harvard has an enormous community that relies on our technology to be able to work effectively and securely. Keeping our systems in working order requires constant changing and updating, which in-turn requires consistent communication within our team and with our users. Being the first line of defense, we’re the first to hear about issues whether individual or University-wide. It is up to our team to identify these issues and resolve them in a timely manner. 

Chris: At the Service Desk, our number one challenge is that we don’t see the people we’re helping. We are connecting via phone, email, and our new chat support feature. Therefore, my team has refined the skill of asking smart questions to determine the root of the issue and best course of action. We also have tools that allow us to remotely connect to a customer’s computer. I remember when I started at the Service Desk and received a call for a computer that wouldn’t turn on for more than a minute. I asked one of our amazing field technicians to investigate. That technician later told me the caller only had a monitor on their desk, as the desktop was taken the night before because of an issue! With the move to remote, this has been a challenge as we may not have the physical presence we once did. However, we still find creative ways to get our colleagues working again.

Lillian: Pre-COVID, the breadth of the work across Field Support was diverse and spread across two cities and countless locations and buildings. In the COVID-19 world, the needs of the customer are changing daily. We must be agile, flexible, and nimble to be able to face all the new programs and projects that have resulted from these unique logistical challenges.


What are the professional backgrounds of your team members?

Chris: My team members have very diverse backgrounds mainly focusing on IT-related fields. I started at HUIT (FAS IT at the time) as an intern about 11 years ago. Since then, I have moved from a full-time tech into management.

Lillian: With Field Support team of 60 plus members, we are made up of diverse professional backgrounds. The majority of the staff have IT certifications, degrees, and work experience. The experience levels range from recent college graduates to seasoned IT veterans with 10 plus years of experience.

Jose: I agree – our backgrounds are diverse. I worked as a technician at an Apple retail store for over 5 years and then worked at a small mom-and-pop Apple authorized service provider. It was interesting going from a 100% in-person IT support career to 100% virtual, but the fundamentals of problem-solving and customer support remain the same. Helping others understand and fix their technology has always been a lifelong passion of mine.


What does success/your best day look like?

Jose: A successful day is when we’re able to reach out to all users who contact us via phone, email, and chat and when we’re able to update users who have existing support requests with us. We have team goals to answer at least 90% of phone calls and to be able to resolve 60% of those calls upon the first contact. A successful day also involves great communication within our team using tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom. Since March and being 100% remote, I am happy to say that we have been able to meet and sometimes exceed our goals of service delivery. I’m extraordinarily lucky to be able to work with a team of knowledgeable, flexible, and friendly people. 

Lillian: The best day for us is providing quality resolutions to our customers and getting the satisfaction of seeing their smile and hearing the contentment in their voices—these are the rewards! 

Chris: We have many ways of interpreting success, from an analytic view to a more intuitive one. We have metrics on most aspects of our roles, from how many calls we miss to how many support requests we’re resolving directly at the Desk. I love how the analysis of these numbers highlights our successes, while shedding light on any opportunities for growth. Speaking with colleagues from the University and hearing stories of times we were able to help, reduce their stress, or increase their productivity is my favorite realm of success. Our mission is to make it easier for all members of Harvard to teach, research, and learn through the effective use of technology, and when my team can play a part in that, it’s a win.