By Stefanie Pietkiewicz, Project Manager, Community Partnership Programs, Office of Information Technology, UCLA
Breaking down the silos
With more than 1000 technologists sprinkled across hundreds of departments, UCLA desperately needed a campuswide program to unify its widely dispersed IT staff.
BruinTech was created to fill that void. Sponsored by the Office of Information Technology, BruinTech is a community of technologists who work together to share their knowledge, encourage professional development, and foster digital citizenship among faculty, staff and students.
“BruinTech has given me a network of people at UCLA that I know are dealing with similar issues and have come up with some great solutions,” said Howard Kim, deputy CIO and director, Mobile and Web Solutions at the Anderson School of Management.
Kim is the past president of BruinTech’s executive board, which is composed of two full-time staff members who ensure the continuity of the program, as well as fourteen volunteers who are elected by their peers to serve for a one-year term. Board members meet each month to discuss upcoming events and initiatives.
The program dates back to 1985, when the decision was made to decentralize computing resources across the campus. Following this decision, several programs were created to enable collaboration between campus IT staff, including the Computing Support Coordinator (CSC) program and the Help Desk Consortium (HDC).
In 2013 BruinTech absorbed CSC and HDC, and membership expanded to include all campus technologists, as well as tech enthusiasts. Today, more than 600 people are on the BruinTech email list, and the program continues to expand and evolve.
Empowering the non-technical community
BruinTech supports a number of volunteer programs that impact many members of the campus community. One of its most popular programs, First Fridays, aims to bring the emeriti and retiree population into the digital age by helping them feel comfortable with technology. At First Fridays, volunteers assist retired faculty and staff with electronic devices and applications.
“The UCLA IT personnel have significant expertise and are very professional, patient, and generous with their time and knowledge,” said one retired faculty member.
BruinTech also hosts quarterly Tech Speed Dating events in partnership with departments and campuswide groups like Staff Assembly, to enhance IT literacy and innovation among faculty and staff. During these events, in ten-minute intervals, attendees learn about productivity and collaboration tools, such as Box, Google Drive, and Trello.
In addition to its volunteer programs, BruinTech holds a number of events specifically for IT staff. Monthly brown bags cover a wide range of topics from data management to web development stacks.
BruinTech also organizes two large events in the fall and spring that attract hundreds of people. In 2013 and 2015, BruinTech hosted an unConference, a unique event that does not have a predetermined agenda. Instead, participants have the opportunity to decide on the focus and discussions of the conference, allowing common interests, issues, ideas, and solutions to emerge.
“I stay well informed on the continuously changing landscape of information technology through BruinTech events, monthly Brown Bags, and newsletters,” said Roozbeh Kavian, a senior systems engineer in Student Affairs.
With technology now playing such a critical role in everyone’s daily lives, BruinTech is growing rapidly, attracting both IT and non IT staff to its events and programs.
“It has been great to see BruinTech emerge and grow over the years on campus as a space for Bruin technologists to come together, learn and share,” said Gabriel Ruiz, the CTO of Anderson and current BruinTech president.
He continued, “BruinTech provides a fun way to interact with other IT and increasingly non IT folks on campus to see what others are working on, bounce ideas, get help or answers to IT issues. It is a great resource for IT staff and for the campus as a whole.”
2013 BruinTech unConference brought together more than 100 technologists