For Stephen Comings, coming to study at UB’s North Campus in the 1980s was like moving to an exciting new city, but with enough trees and grass to nourish his small-town roots. Steve is a service team manager for CIT’s Enterprise Infrastructure Services (EIS), the department responsible for providing and maintaining all the back end servers and workstations that support us here. It’s a role that combines Steve’s love for people with his technical training, knowledge and experience.
As an alumnus of UB’s Electrical Engineering department, Steve began his career right out of school, working for the local sales office of a "superminicomputer" manufacturer. He was married that same year. Four years later he moved on to Sun Microsystems and bought a home in Tonawanda. Sun assigned Steve to support the UNIX engineering workstations and servers used by UB at the time, and he became known to UB people for his technical skills and his friendly personality. When the opportunity to work at UB presented itself, it was a welcome one. Steve recollects, “I was tired of working in small sales offices and travelling all the time. I was looking for an opportunity to work for a larger employer. My wife and I are both UB graduates, and a chance for me to return to UB was very attractive.”
At first, working on the fledgling UNIX system administration team at UB was a more independent endeavor. “Everyone had their own methods,” Steve recalls. As his talent for organization was recognized, Steve was given the task of documenting best practices for the group, using the new “Web” to share the results. He set up documentation areas and templates for other system administrators and promoted a more team-based approach. “Now we have the wiki and all these wonderful tools to help us work together,” he says.
Working in teams brought a new dimension to this very technical job. To succeed, Steve and his teammates were provided with “soft skills” training that wasn’t the norm before. “Soft skills such as interpersonal communications, creative problem solving, meeting facilitation, and project management have helped me become a better team worker. I appreciate how UB recognized those skills as important for technical people."
“I still feel like UB is new to me,” says Steve, as he thinks about advancement and job growth. Currently enrolled in the professional MBA program, Steve is an active life-long learner. “UB offers tremendous benefits to employees, making advanced education affordable.”
When asked what pleases him most about his role at UB, Steve offers, “I love being able to take action and help my customers and fellow employees. I try to leave things better than how I found them. Recently someone said, 'You really make things happen around here, don't you?' That's the sort of comment that gets to the heart of why I'm here."