Employee of the Month - Matthew Franzen

July 2016, Information Technology

Matthew Franzen

Serious question: When do you think about your IT colleagues? Answer: When something goes wrong. Don’t worry. It’s totally normal. We all do it. As Matthew Franzen, computing support analyst, says, “If we do a good job no one thinks about us. It is just when something goes wrong that people think about IT.” This typical IT dynamic is exactly why Matt was “amazed that so many people went out of their way” to nominate him for Employee of the Month. He says getting the acknowledgment was a surprise and made him really see how much he is appreciated in the department.

“Matt is an amazing employee,” says Eric Sun. “The reality is that IT is one of those jobs (like sanitation) where *not* noticing things is a sign that things are running smoothly and going well. That being said, bugs do happen, and this is where Matt shines.” Kathryn McDonald agrees, adding that Matt has deserved this award for years. She says, “I think the only reason I haven't nominated him before is that so much of his excellent work is preventive. The fewer times I have to go to Matt, the better. But when I need Matt, he is always there, effectively.”

Specifically, says Doug Owens, “Matt is the master architect of our computing infrastructure, and he has done a spectacular job. He manages all of our IT issues, including servers, security, desktop and mobile devices.  His outstanding attitude, energy and commitment to PCOR have made an enormous difference to all of our faculty and staff.  We couldn't do our work without Matt's great support.”

This – essential infrastructure, indispensable support – is what Matt is known for. Though it may seem like it runs in the background, it’s quite prominent. As Yifan Zhang says, “It's very hard to imagine working without his help.”

Matt to the rescue

For example, does this scenario from Matt’s colleague Nicole Feldman sound familiar? “OMG! My computer crashed, and this submission is due in two hours. If we don't get it in on time, the world will end!" Nicole says she’s seen Matt handle scenarios like this again and again. “Frankly,” she says, “I can't tell you how many times I've run into Matt's office begging for help. No matter who comes to him or what the issue is, Matt always stops what he's doing and does his best to help.” Nancy Lonhart also describes how Matt responds to this kind of emergency. She says, “Matt has the job no one wants because should something go wrong with IT, the whole place shuts down! Yet despite the pressures and the challenges, Matt really loves his job, and it shows.”

However, like other IT professionals, Matt isn’t always putting out fires. Sometimes, the need is much less dramatic. Nonetheless, his colleagues are grateful for his expertise and his kindness. Lena Schoemaker, for example, really appreciates how “Matt never complains or makes me feel bad when I forget my password to my computer and I have to reset it.” And Eric Sun remembers, “Once, when there was difficulty in setting up my access to a special server, Matt devoted an extraordinary amount of time and stayed late to make it happen. He was also kind enough to follow up on the next day.”

Kathryn McDonald notes, “I have never walked into Matt’s office and not received prompt help, a ready smile and a real fix to a problem I have with one of my many technological questions. My research depends heavily on Matt's willingness to keep everything computer- and device- related working smoothly… extremely smoothly.”

“He’s pretty much Superman,” says Jeanette Cowan. “He is my ‘go-to’ guy.” She says Matt has gone over and above to help her in many crisis situations. She says, “It seems when I have a looming financial deadline, that it is also the time that something happens to my computer. Matt is a bull dog in figuring out what needs to be done, and then doing it. He is also quite willing to jump in and help with just about any problem that comes, from finding office furniture appropriate for our offices to pitching in to carry heavy loads when we have events.”

Handy all around

Officially, Matthew’s day-to-day involves tech support for the department’s researchers, who rely on 10 Windows servers and dozens of desktop computers, laptops and digital devices. But if needed, as Cowan mentioned, he also moves furniture, hangs whiteboards or anything else that needs to be done. “No job is too small or too large,” says Matthew, who’s been with the department for almost 13 years.

His colleagues list many examples of how generous – and diligent – Matthew is in taking on all sorts of tasks that make their projects go smoothly. “Matt patiently and tirelessly works to help solve individual computer, network and printer issues,” says Shilpa Jani. “He is responsive 24/7 and is especially prompt with responses when he is aware of a deadline. He also takes it upon himself to make sure the entire work space is functional. I once needed a new desk and ergonomic equipment. Matt started very early (6 a.m.!) so that I could have my workstation ready first thing when I arrived for work.”

Beth Duff-Brown has observed this, as well. She says, “Matthew is not only one heck of a great IT guy who keeps all our communications running smoothly, but he's like having your own personal handyman/carpenter/electrician on staff, as well.” Feldman describes it this way: “If we need someone to put a desk together, we go to Matt. If there is a hole in the roof that is leaking into the electrical closet (yes, this actually happened), Matt deals with it.  If the drum for the water cooler is empty, Matt lifts the five gallon jug to replace it.”

Part of this extraordinary effort, says Nancy Lonhart, is Matt’s understanding of the bottom line. She says, “We are a division that relies solely on research, so our financial margins are thin at best. Matt is always looking for frugal solutions. With his amazing IT contacts he is able to find inexpensive IT equipment and solutions that extend the life of our machines. We have been able to save money across the board while continuing to provide excellent equipment and computer support for our faculty, staff, researchers and visitors.”

And Matt provides this level of support from wherever he is at all hours of the day. Colleague Eran Bendavid says that Matt is “always – always –willing to help, even from home at 4:00 in the morning, in the middle of a migraine attack, rebooting servers, coming up with solutions, doing everything just right. He's fiercely protective of the division and makes sure everything happens smoothly… And all of this on a Harley.”

That’s right, the department’s “IT guy” is also a “biker guy.” He enjoys motorcycle riding, golf, softball and anything else that he can enjoy outdoors with his wife.