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Creativity in Service

Getting innovative with IT software to help everyone work better and faster.

Brian Dollard
Brian Dollard

Brian Dollard, a senior IT technologist at the institute, works to digitize and automate workflows and forms that support his colleagues' everyday work. That might sound clear-cut, but each project requires him to fully focus not only on the product he's creating, but also ensure he's fully focused on the people the product will support. Like many of our information technology (IT) service desk staff, he builds new products in the software ServiceNow. Here, he shares how he made the jump from human resources (HR) to a senior technologist who remains focused on supporting people.

Tell us about your work in our IT department.

I meet with a variety of colleagues across the institute to discuss how ServiceNow might help them work more efficiently. I like learning what people do and all the detailed processes that make things happen here. I also get to do a lot of creative problem solving. It's a great feeling when you find that perfect solution that saves someone time or frustration. ServiceNow supports the institute in so many ways, from a portal where astronomers can get help about accessing our data archives to an employee shuttle reservation system. We're always adding new processes to the platform, so the work really stays interesting.

Why did you decide to make a career change from HR to IT?

I started my career at an IT service provider startup that needed people who could cover many areas. It was a great way to learn the various needs of an organization as it grows. One of my roles was a human resources benefits coordinator. I initially filled out paperwork, collected signatures, and reminded people to turn something in. I knew that we had technology that could help us reduce some of this monotonous work, and connected with the person who partly managed it and asked for training. I was eventually able to make it my primary role. My initial role in HR really helped me appreciate my coworkers' challenges and still motivates me to find the best solution for them.

What are some of the unique solutions that you have been a part of implementing?

I joined the institute in 2019, and shortly after we were all faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, a challenge that none of us anticipated but we all had to meet. After access to our main building, which houses the James Webb Space Telescope's Mission Operations Center, was limited to highly restricted access, there was suddenly a need for a system to manage who could come in and when. It was complex: We needed to incorporate approvals, unique QR codes, and health surveys all within a process that was accessible to staff and visitors. With some great team collaboration, we were able to build a single, adaptable workflow in ServiceNow to manage building access. It felt good to be a part of the process that helped make Webb's launch and commissioning successful despite the difficult conditions.

Another instance that stands out to me is when I had the opportunity to work with our HR team to help automate our employee departure checklist process. The previous process required our team members to manually notify numerous colleagues and collect signatures on paper. When the pandemic started and we moved to a largely remote office presence, it became more difficult to track down people and manage the process. After discussing my colleagues' requirements, we were able to digitize the process and simplify it for everyone—the employee, manager, and other stakeholders.

What would you say is unique about working at the institute versus a different type of organization? 

Some IT departments get a reputation of being an option of last resort when you have an issue as an employee, even if you are in IT! That's certainly not the case at STScI. When I started here, it actually took me a few months to get comfortable with how nice and timely our service desk staff is in their support. I found that it extends throughout the department. If I need to ask for help, people are always willing to take the time to assist me. I get to work with so many interesting and talented people in our department. It is very refreshing to work for an organization that truly values both collaboration and highlighting each other's successes.

What are you looking forward to at STScI in 2022?

I'm excited to work on rolling out our hybrid work process and office reservation system within ServiceNow. It's always fun learning a new application, especially one that has the potential to be so critical to the future of how we all will work at the institute. And, of course, I'm also very excited to continue to see the progress of the James Webb Space Telescope!

Article updated March 2022.