THANK YOU, I.T. HEROES!
In times when we need our IT team the most, they are always there. In fact, they are there for us and supporting us 24/7. There’s no better way to say thank you than to provide a sneak peek of an article from the Winter 2024 Spirit Magazine issue. Spoiler Alert: It’s all about our amazing IT team! So, thank you to our IT team for always providing superior performance, no matter the time of day.
Check out the sneak-peek below!
The work is not thankless, but it usually goes unnoticed – unless something unexpected happens.
“The joke is that thank-you notes don’t pile up when the phones are working and the emails come through,” said Paul Campbell, senior director of IT who has been with United for 15 years. “When it’s going well, everyone is happy. The minute those things stop is when the support desk phones start ringing.”
The information technology (IT) department makes sure the company’s wide-ranging business needs are met in an effective, efficient and safe manner. That means keeping thousands of team Members connected at dozens of physical locations where in most cases more than a million transactions occur each week.
Much of what this 90-person team does occurs out of sight, but the team’s efforts should never be taken for granted.
“It’s a big department, and it takes a lot of folks to do what we do,” said Reyes Jimenez, United’s CIO who has been with the team for just more than a year. “The work is split between maintenance updates, the day-to-day issues while the other side is more project type work. We cover a lot of ground as an organization, and that adds to the complexity of what we do on a daily basis.”
Start with the size of the operation. United has roughly 100 locations that require IT support. The team has oversight of internal communications systems like phones and email to point-of-sale support at stores to ensuring sensitive data belonging to the organization, its team members and its guests is always secure.
And they are to do this in an ever-changing cyberspace landscape where new threats emerge every day.
“It is a complex and ever-evolving world as most people know when it comes to technology,” said Lee Flores, director of software and server. “You always have to be ahead of the game, and our team has really adopted a mentality of continuous education and continuous learning. It is a very collaborative group, and one of the values we hold is to be resourceful.”
For an example of the varied demands on the team, the IT department is responsible for supporting roughly 25,000 pieces of physical hardware such as laptops, wireless scan guns and printers. They also support 255 applications at a company where the total weekly transaction number routinely is in excess of 1.7 million.
“The work we do is basically 24 hours a day,” Reyes said. “We have our ears to the ground and our boots on the ground doing what we have to do to keep the stores running and our team members doing their jobs.”
Most team Members’ first exposure to the IT team takes place through the support desk, which serves as a first line of defense for problems ranging from a lack of connectivity to getting applications and equipment updated.
“On a day-to-day basis, our team members, stores, guests and partners will all have needs,” said Paul. “There are a lot of things that have to happen as far as a store ordering product and the product getting from the distribution center to the store, and if there is one hiccup along the way, all of that comes to a screeching halt. It is all very delicate and very complex, and that’s the world we live in.”
The IT team comes into that space fully aware of the stakes. The team understands the pats on the back will be few and far between, but that doesn’t mean they are unappreciated by the rest of the organization.
“To realize the true impact of the team members here in IT, you have to take a look at the world we live in and work in today,” Reyes said. “There is very little anyone in this organization does that doesn’t rely on some type of tech or IT service or support. Every piece and department of the organization. We are unique in that regard.”
That is a point of pride for the IT team. Through their efforts across the organization, United is able to achieve its mission as a retail grocer dedicated to service.
“The motivator is the accomplishment and achievement,” said Lee. “We executed according to plan. There may have been little bumps in the road here and there, but at the end of the day we are motivated by getting things done for the organization to use the products we support. Then we can look back and say, ‘We were there for that,’ and we’re so grateful to work on these kinds of projects.”
Reyes said the team reflects the organizational emphasis on service since IT’s “customers” are basically inside the company.
“Everyone on the team gravitates toward service and they have a passion for helping others,” he said. “We hire people with technical backgrounds and knowledge, they also care deeply about helping others. Our customers cover a broad spectrum of people, and everything we do for them is built on a foundation of service.
Paul added that the IT department makes the company’s primary focus possible each day.
“United sells groceries; that’s what we do,” he said. “Without our team and our support, they couldn’t do what they do. Everything has a technical aspect to it, and our team is in a position to help United move forward. And we like that.”