Throughout the month of March, W&M Information Technology will be celebrating Women’s History Month by shining a spotlight on some of the ladies who keep the department and the university connected using the latest technology.
Rachel Pace has been a member of the W&M IT team for almost two decades and works as a Senior Strategic Impact Analyst. Learn more about Rachel and her role in W&M IT!
What year did you start working at W&M?
I started working at W&M in 2003.
What were you doing before that?
I spent eight years working in IT at Christopher Newport University, and before that I was at Tidewater Community College.
Have you always wanted to work in IT?
No, I started out as a dental hygiene major! When I was in college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I took a career test and while I matched with 3-4 different careers, one in IT seemed to be the most interesting. I ended up getting my undergraduate degree in Business Data Processing, and have always worked in IT. I started on the programming side and eventually became an analyst and then moved on to direct the Enterprise Systems team and then the Data team. I like to solve puzzles and programming is like solving puzzles. You know what you have and where you need to get to.
What was your first title? Current title?
I started as a Programming Team Manager. Now I am Senior Strategic Impact Analyst.
What are some of your duties?
I think of myself as a person who enables other people. Most of my job involves data but more from a consultative level. I have a lot of institutional knowledge and knowledge of the data, so I work on a lot of projects just helping others in our community figure out processes and data and how it all fits together and how it can make their work better.
What has been the biggest technological advancement the university has made during your years in IT?
I think our ability to support remote work has been the biggest technology shift. I have always had times when I needed to work from home on weekends or off hours and it was always hard. In the last few years, we have built a great VPN, started using Zoom, and have all the things to make working remotely just like being in the office. It's made a big, positive impact on a lot of people's lives.
Is there a project that stands out in your mind that was particularly interesting or fun to work on? Why?
I have worked on a variety of challenging projects. I guess I would pick the Qlik implementation, with the main reason being that I could see the direct positive impact it has had on people. People now have access to data that was difficult to access in the past. It has made our community's usage of data so much easier. At first, people are apprehensive but once they see how easy it is to work with, they get excited for all they can do with it. It's been very rewarding.
How do you stay current with technology?
I do a lot of reading, especially of daily emails from technology newsletters. I also follow technical blogs, watch videos, and attend conferences and talk to other people in the field.
What do you like to do when you're not working?
I have a dog, Gracie, who I got during the pandemic. She is a rescue, part shih tzu and yorkie, and keeps me busy throwing toys with her. I love spending time with friends and my daughter who is grown up now. I am also very involved with my church and help run their A/V, am chair of the educational committee, support their website and database and lead Bible studies. I also love to write when I have the time.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time working in IT?
I have a lot of fond memories. When we were Enterprise Information Systems, we were a very close knit group, especially when we were working on the Banner implementation. We worked a lot of hours and had a lot of fun times. Bonnie Fleming would coordinate activities. For example, every time someone would go on vacation, we would do a lunch with food from the country they visited and look at photos. We had picnics, games and celebrations for special occasions like Chinese New Year. We spent a lot of time together during that project and there was a great sense of comradery on the team.
What's unique about working in W&M IT?
When I first came here one of things that really impressed me about IT was how well it was respected by administration and people across the institution. That is very unique. I have worked a lot of places where IT was seen as a utilitarian function that people only look to when they need something. Having the administration and the university as a whole want us to advise them and work with them and respect what we have to say about how technology can help is not always there. In general I have felt IT gets the respect it deserves and people are open to working with us and letting us help them think of better ways to do their jobs.