AS A LOCAL AREA NETWORK SUPPORT SPECIALIST, YOU DO WHAT SORTS OF THINGS?
I actually do two jobs. One is working for the IT group here in the building. I also handle the technical support for the curriculum, so that would be anywhere from recording lectures and editing video to workstation support, building servers, maintaining the network.
IS IT A LOT TO KEEP TRACK OF?
Yeah, it is – we’re somewhat short-staffed at the moment, and because of my background I sort of fell into the other role, so it’s kind of an amalgam of both those.
WHAT’S YOUR BACKGROUND?
It’s in electronics, and it’s not in computers. My first job was at the UI working for the Office of Instructional Resources (now the Center for Teaching Excellence). I worked there from ’89 to ’93 and came back in ’96 and started working here doing kind of the same thing in curriculum support.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO DO LOCAL AREA NETWORKING?
We’re a small IT group of five, and we support the college faculty and staff members, physicians, residents and researchers.
I could see a student from their first year of medical school all the way through if they choose to stay here during residency. I’m also in charge of recording and archiving all the commencement proceedings, and when the students gets their diplomas, they get a DVD from us, so I have to make those up.
My job is not one big job but tons of really, really small jobs that take up a lot of time.
We also serve two other sister sites — for the clinical side — that would be Provena and Carle, so our residents in the hospital setting get workstation support. If someone has a problem, I’m usually the one that gets in a car and goes over and takes care of it, so I’m sort of a gopher.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO?
Our examinations here are interesting because they don’t involve paper; they’re all done electronically. We have over 100 students, so at any given time we have to deploy close to 80 laptops in our auditorium. Our students go in there and take exams.
DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY.
I usually show up at 7 a.m. I prepare the student lab, the auditorium and any of these other small classrooms for any classes that would be taught – it all depends on the first-year schedule. Fifty percent of my job actually comes from watching the schedule and making sure the instructors have what they need – anything from a microscope to a laptop and anywhere in between.
WHAT’S SOMETHING PEOPLE MIGHT FIND INTERESTING OR SURPRISING ABOUT YOUR DEPARTMENT?
I would think that most people – when they think of an IT office or group – they’d think of a bunch of geeks sitting around in front of computers not talking to anybody, and being kind of secluded, and that is not what we are. We’re actually very hands-on and we interface directly with faculty and staff members, so I know everybody by name.
SO YOU’RE “PEOPLE” PERSON?
I really like working on the phone with folks – I think that is extremely challenging – especially if I’m moving from one area to another and I get a phone call on my cell and I have to diagnose problems while I’m in an elevator or a stairwell and I have no computer in front of me. I have to go through all the different permutations of trouble-shooting just by memory. I think that’s one of the most challenging things I do. For me that’s kind of enjoyable.
I did not go to school to learn computer science, so what I think I kind of bring to the group is I try to go the opposite route. I try to treat the human who operates the computer first instead of immediately going to the problem with the computer – because computers are absolutely useless without the human to work them.
WHAT’S SOMETHING COOL ABOUT WORKING AT THE UI FROM YOUR VANTAGE POINT?
I think it’s cool to be a part of something big. In my opinion having even a small part in the training and nurturing of future surgeons and doctors — I think that’s something important. I can say I work for the College of Medicine — and we train doctors — that’s what we do.
WHAT IS THE BEST AND THE WORST THINGS ABOUT YOUR JOB?
Being part of something big is the best. The worst thing is I spend a lot of time keeping up with the rest of my compatriots in the office. They’re a lot smarter than I am; they’re all computer science people. I have to climb a little harder and worker a little harder at my job because of the lack of formal training.
You have to work every single day to keep up with what is going on with IT. It’s evolving every single day — at least for me. They’re pretty cool about letting me ask tons of questions — and I’m always asking questions.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO AFTER WORK?
I’m kind of the anti-geek. I’m not one of these guys who goes home and thinks about his flat panel TV. I like music and cooking and stuff like that. …I leave the computers at work and go home and work on my house and walk my dogs and stuff like that.
I cook for the whole family (just about) every night. I’m one of those domesticated guys – by choice. I’m one of those people who likes to get in and get it done. I don’t have a whole lot of time for gourmet cooking.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO COOK?
Anything that goes on a grill.
MICHAEL HALLIHAN FAST FACTS:
Important people in his life: Michael is married to Suzanne Hallihan, a chief clerk in the College of Veterinary Medicine. They have a teenage son and daughter and live in Urbana.
Other jobs he’s had: “I have been a waiter, I’ve been a cook, I’ve worked for a security systems company that worked with AT&T. I worked for Kerasotes Theaters. I was an actual projectionist – back when they hired people who’d actually repair them and run (projectors).
Education: Graduate of Riverton Community High School, Riverton, Ill.
Interests: Hallihan is a longtime studio musician who plays bass and keyboards. He played in several bands years ago. He met his wife in 1988 at a show in which he was performing. “I’ve played jazz, funk, R&B, rock, metal, punk … back in the long-haired days when guys looked like girls and girls looked like girls.”
A favorite place in C-U: Merry Ann’s Diner: “That’s our kind of place – anything that serves proletarian fare, we’re there. We’re meat and potatoes people.”
Favorite book: “1984,” by George Orwell or anything by Kurt Vonnegut