University of Miami

Sunny location, camaraderie and career support. What's not to like?

When Sheryl Borg made the leap from human resources to the IT department at the University of Miami, she knew she had landed in a good place.

For me, it stood out as a very positive environment where people had opportunities to learn on an ongoing basis, says Borg, who started as a business system analyst last September after spending 21 years in human resources.

Borgs not the only one praising the universitys IT shop. The University of Miami, a perennial on Computerworlds Best Places to Work list, ranked second for the fourth year in a row.

University of Miami IT employees

University of Miami IT employees Neither luck nor chance has anything to do with such success. Vice President and CIO M. Lewis Temares and his managers strive to maintain an organization that builds individual careers and great teams through career development, mentoring and social interaction. The end result is a workplace where people want to be.

Sustaining a great work environment is a challenge of blending expected, familiar, predictable workplace characteristics, like a culture of fairness, loyalty, benefits and professional development opportunities, with creative, fresh ideas, projects, approaches, programs, etc., says Associate Vice President Tim Ramsay.

Part of the appeal of the university is its camaraderie, says Jackie Zucker, director of applications development. Workers enjoy company-sponsored social events and informal get-togethers. Employees have been known to lend one another their cars and celebrate birthdays in the office. And they recently sent care packages to a co-workers Army Reserve unit that was activated to serve at Fort Stewart in Georgia.

Even Temares, who has served as the dean of the College of Engineering for the past 13 years, gets in on the social action. He holds quarterly IT department breakfasts to introduce new workers, socialize, talk about happenings in the department and at the university, and acknowledge his staffs accomplishments.

Staffers say social benefits arent the only selling points at their workplace. Managers at all levels support professional growth, too, they say.

People have the opportunity to move around and explore and try and learn new things, says Mike Zucker, director of applications development (and Jackie Zuckers husband).

The IT group also has a leadership institute for middle management and an executive exchange program, and managers mentor new employees. For example, programmers go through three months of training during which they learn about how theyll work in the organization. Were looking for the long-run benefit of having them fit into the culture, Temares says.

Meanwhile, the interview process is designed to look for people who are strong team players, and Temares says he fosters promotions from within. He also promotes departmental growth, bringing in new technologies so employees can test them and consider how they could be used to further the universitys goals something that helps workers stay up to date.

While these practices taken individually wouldnt establish the school as an outstanding IT shop, taken together they sustain the dynamic workplace that has earned the university its top rankings year after year, Temares says.

Why It's A Top Pick

Ranked No. 1 for diversity; 51% of IT managers are minorities

Ranked No. 6 for retention

Ranked No. 8 for training

Ranked No. 9 for career development

Heikki Topi, chairman of the computer information systems department at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., says hes aware of the good reputation enjoyed by the University of Miamis IT department. He also says that maintaining such environments takes commitment from management and top executives.

It genuinely requires that the highest level of management, from the CIO down, follow these principles in their everyday work, he says. You cant do it for two weeks and say, Now Ive done it. You have to keep doing it.

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Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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