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James Taft, manager of systems and operations for Information Technology Services, helps keeps Wesleyan's accounts and servers running smoothly.
 
Posted 02.01.06

Head of Operations is Head of Several Servers, Accounts

Q: When did you come to Wesleyan?

A: I started at Wesleyan in September 2003 as the manager of systems and operations.

Q: Briefly summarize Wesleyan’s systems and operations. Are you, in a sense, the data center for the university?

A: The systems and operations group maintains our user account directories and the technological infrastructure located inside our Data Center. Almost all of the central servers for the university, including Web servers, e-mail servers, database servers, file servers, application servers and backup systems, are located in the Data Center and are under our care. When you check your e-mail, visit the Wesleyan Web site, or log into Dragon, Condor or Woodstock, you are connecting to a machine in the Data Center.

Q: Being under the Technology Support Services umbrella, what accounts and servers do you support and oversee?

A: We maintain the accounts that members of the Wesleyan community use to log into their workstations, e-mail, e-Portfolio, and the many other electronic services provided by Wesleyan. We work very closely with the other members of Technology Support Services, especially Dave Warner and Ken Taillon who maintain the network infrastructure.

Q: How do you control the door locks on campus?

A: We don’t directly control the locks on doors, but the server that runs the key card access system is located in the Data Center and is under our care. The folks in the WesCard office connect to this server remotely to program the locks on campus and can make any changes or additions to access levels from their offices.

Q: As a manager, who are the key members of your staff?

A: Jen Platt and Jerry Maguda are our operations specialists. Doug Baker is our Windows administrator, and Hong Zhu and Matt Elson are our UNIX administrators.

Q: Is your work more behind-the-scenes or do you interact with users often?

A: The operations side of our group, which consists of Jerry Maguda and Jen Platt, frequently interact with users to answer questions about accounts, accessing central services, and using our Print Operations services. The folks on the systems side, including Doug Baker, Hong Zhu and Matt Elson, have less direct contact with users, though we do interact with departments that have servers hosted in the data center, as well as professors needing academic UNIX support. For the most part, though, our direct clients are the other wings of ITS: User Services, Academic Computing Services and Administrative Systems.

Q: What are typical concerns people would contact you for?

A: The systems group’s main task is to keep Wesleyan’s technological infrastructure running smoothly.

On the operations side, we create user accounts for our various services and respond to users when they need help with these accounts. Our print operations service tends to the printing needs of the university, including the phone directory and the Board of Trustees booklets. If people are interested in how Printing Operations can help them, we ask them to call us or e-mail us at printing@wesleyan.edu.

Q: Who sees the results of your work?

A: Much of our work is invisible to our users. We spend a lot of time making our systems more robust so that problems do not affect end users. We are constantly improving the speed and capacity of our infrastructure so that it can keep up with the rapid growth of technology usage on campus. In instances where there are service outages, such as system-wide e-mail problems, we are typically the group that responds.

Q: Where did you go to college and what did you major in? How did you get into a high-tech field?

A: I graduated from Haverford College with a degree in English. I have always had an inclination towards technology, but did not have formal training before joining a tiny IT department at Deutsch Advertising in New York City. I was fortunate to work at Deutsch during a time of exponential growth for the agency and their technological enterprise.

Q: What is your relationship with John Driscoll, alumni director and his wife, Gina Driscoll, associate director of stewardship?

A: I am married to John and Gina’s daughter, Laura, and we have a 13-month-old girl, Clara. John and Gina’s primary responsibility is teaching Clara the Wesleyan fight song, but I understand they do other work for University Relations as well.

Q: What are your hobbies and interests?

A: My main hobbies are skiing, photography, running and tennis.
 
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor