IT Staff Convention Fall 2013


On November 15th, ISC will host the first-ever Fall IT Staff Convention. Building on the popularity and strength of our annual spring convention, we've added a second conference to our calendar this year making the Staff Convention an ongoing twice-yearly event.

This fall's convention will be a bit of a departure from our standard conference format, focused on the theme of "Strategy". As with past conventions, the agenda will be accessible and broadly interesting to IT staff across campus, so this is “strategy” as it applies to us all, with each session focusing on a different area of strategic thinking as it pertains to IT.  We are aiming to inspire by sharing examples of how people are working strategically in IT around campus and providing ideas about how each of us can use strategy in our role at Penn. A cross campus team of your colleagues from several schools and centers is currently working hard to put together a great day of thoughtful programming for everyone.

The convention will be held at Huntsman Hall in the afternoon of Friday, November 15, with a reception with food and drinks to follow for all Penn IT staff. Advance registration is now closed, but come to the Huntsman Hall Forum on the day of the convention for day-of registration.

If you have questions or comments about the IT Staff Convention, please contact Michael McLaughlin, the head organizer, at

We can't wait to see you all on November 15th!

The conference team:

Jerricka Hill, Wharton

Rakeem Jeter, GSE

Ian Kelley, ISC

Michael McLaughlin, ISC

Scott McNulty, Wharton

Chris Mustazza, SAS

Conor Schaefer, SEAS


Registration 12:30 PM to 1:15 PM
Session 1 1:15 PM to 2:15 PM


In this session, Brian Wells, Penn Medicine's Associate VP of Health Technology and Academic Computing, will talk about the strategy and challenges in pivoting Penn Medicine's existing IT structure to fulfill the needs of the Penn Medicine academic community: high performance computing, data warehousing, electronic records, and much more. In particular, he'll discuss anticipating the ever-expanding needs of the academic users and the challenges faced in meeting those needs. We want you to come out of this talk with new perspective on how to approach your own users' needs and challenges.

Speaker: Brian Wells, Penn Medicine

Presentation and discussion

It’s tempting to look for solutions to difficult problems internally, but sometimes the best solution lies in inter-organizational collaboration. Complex situations sometimes require varied knowledge, some of which may be external to the group, so through collaboration, we can leverage our collective strengths to provide smart, nuanced solutions to complex IT needs. 

In this session, we will look at some cases of very successful collaborations from around the University and to talk about what we can learn from them:

  1. Creating a digital repository by SAS & the Library
  2. Group-negotiated contracts and streamlining the deployment of cloud-services, including collaboration with peer universities
  3. Outsourcing student email to Microsoft by the Schools of Dental Medicine, Design, and Education, and ISC

These brief presentations will discuss the context that precipitated the collaborations, how the parties came together to make the projects a success, and how they might refine their collaborative methods the next time they engage. At least half of the session will remain open for discussion around the specifics of these projects, as well as collaborative approaches that others in attendance have employed. 

Moderator: Mike Lazenka, ISC

Session participants: Jeff Fahnoe, Dental; Michael Gibney, Library; Deke Kassabian, ISC; Chris Mustazza, SAS

Huntsman Hall G06 (Dhirubhai Ambani Auditorium)

Panel discussion

How can an IT department develop an effective information security plan? How does one decide what security-related projects should be addressed, and which should not? Technical measures, training and awareness, staff recruitment, reporting and metrics-these can all factor in to a security strategy, but where are one's efforts best focused? And are there other groups at Penn that can assist? Join our panel as they discuss how they organize their security strategies, and what they take into account when designing an overarching information security plan.

Moderator: Christine Brisson, SAS

Panelists: Helen Anderson, SEAS; Bob DeSilets, PSOM; Justin Klein Keane, SAS; Melissa Muth, ISC

Snack Break 2:15 PM to 2:30 PM
Session 2 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM
Huntsman Hall G50

"Lightning talk"  presentations

As the University strives to deliver more real-time solutions to business problems, developers play a crucial role in facilitating collaboration and access to resources. By making use of existing code-sharing efforts around the University, you too can improve the security, reliability, and turnaround time of your development projects. This set of short presentations will cover best practices for code sharing and reuse, and recommend several options for enhancing your projects with Penn-maintained libraries developed around campus. Come meet your fellow programmers and developers and start strategizing how to make Penn a better place to code!

Participants: Tim Allen, Wharton; Jim Choate, ISC; John Kiser, Library; Conor Schaefer, SEAS; Mark Sherretta, Wharton; Reuben Wetherbee, SAS; Dan Widyono, SEAS

Huntsman Hall G06 (Dhirubhai Ambani Auditorium)

Panel discussion

It's sometimes hard to see on the day to day, but an incredibly important portion of our work comes from high-level IT planning process: seeing trends, making technology evaluations, choices, and budgetary decisions, forecasting, etc. This panel will look at how some of our IT leadership here at Penn strategize and do this planning and discuss it in a way that illuminates the process for the whole audience. You'll take away a sense of how an IT organization, large or small, can stay ahead of the process rather than just play catchup, and ideas about how they can implement that no matter what their position. 

Panelists: Donna Milici, Nursing; Tom Murphy, ISC

Huntsman Hall G60

Panel discussion

One of the defining traits of humans is the depth of our ability to communicate both verbally and in writing. We communicate a lot, every date. Often, however, we communcate without really considering how we're doing it: who the audience is, what message we're trying to send, the urgency of the situation, and even the medium we're communicating in. Further, how we communicate, even with the same people, changes as we change position and level in our jobs. This session will focus on the strategy of communication: how we can be better at our jobs in communicating with other people, whether technical or not, and how that communication changes as we do.

Moderator: Pete Palladino, ISC

Panelists: Dan Alig, Wharton; Michael Herzog, GSE; Magida Phillips, ISC

Keynote 3:45 PM to 5:00 PM
Huntsman Hall G06 (Dhurubhai Ambani Auditorium)

A Talk by Professor Michael Kearns

I will overview a series of human-subject experiments conducted at Penn exploring strategic and game-theoretic behavior in social networks. Along the way, I will discuss the undergraduate course "Networked Life" out of which these experiments arose, which emphasizes the intricate entanglement of technology and incentives in the modern world; and I will describe the goals and content of Penn's Networked and Social Systems Engineering program, and the recently launched Warren Center for Network and Data Sciences.

About Professor Kearns:

Professor Michael Kearns is the National Center Chair of the Department of Computer and Information Science in Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In his own words:

My research interests include topics in machine learning, algorithmic game theory, social networks, computational finance, and artificial intelligence. I often examine problems in these areas using methods and models from theoretical computer science and related disciplines. While the majority of my work is mathematical in nature, I have also participated in a variety of empirical and experimental projects, including applications of machine learning to finance, spoken dialogue systems, and other areas. Most recently, I have been conducting human-subject experiments on strategic and economic interaction in social networks.

Professor Kearns is also Founding Director of the Penn program in Networked and Social Systems Engineering, and more recently, Founding Director of the Warren Center for Network and Data Sciences, launching this fall. 

Join us for a keynote talk with Professor Michael Kearns! 

Reception 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM