A Day in the Life: Carol Williams

May 23, 2013
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Carol Williams may not be the most visible face on campus, but her voice is the lifeline for many departments here at WPI. As Marketing Systems Administrator, she manages 44,000 web pages throughout the university, and is the one who helps dig many department heads, staffers, and faculty out of their cyber hole when they need it most. Curious about her role in our academic cyberspace, we caught up with her recently to find out what her Day is like.

What did you do before you came to WPI – what led you to working in the CMS/web field?  

Before I joined WPI I was with the US Coast Guard Academy as systems administrator for their CMS and SharePoint System for three years. Talk about a difference in culture! Before the Coast Guard, I was at Compaq Computers/Hewlett-Packard for six years as a web developer, and Tuthill Corporation before that as a marketing coordinator/webmaster for 11 years … I’ve been in the web industry since it first started with Mozilla and plain black and white text screens.  That’s how old I am.

How long have you been at WPI?  

5 years

As Marketing Systems Administrator, how many pages/departments do you help manage?  

I manage 44,000 web pages throughout the university. Hundreds of sites, whether they are in the CMS or HTML sites. And I train and support 340 CMS users.

What’s the largest crisis you’ve had to handle in your position?  

My first panic point was three weeks into the start of my job, when I blew away the WPI home page and had no knowledge yet of the backup systems. Talk about stress—and wondering if I was going to be let go. Thankfully, the people here were understanding and I’ve never made that mistake again. My biggest challenge was two summers ago, doing a major systems upgrade from version 7 to 10 without any issues at all.

What’s the most common request you get in your position?  

Requests to build a website or page, or update existing sites. I get hundreds of emails each day with requests from across 

If there was one thing you could teach folks to do independently before they called you, it would be… 

to check the CMS Portal at http://www.wpi.edu/cms.  There’s a lot of helpful information about troubleshooting – links to new tutorials on how to do the work themselves.

You have a Zen-like way of helping stressed out faculty/staff who call you. To what do you attribute your ability to help calm and focus your callers? 

Well, first I remind myself to treat others as I would like to be treated. Second, everyone has a different learning curve. Some of us can grasp things instantly and others take 4-6 times. It doesn’t make them any less competent, it’s just how they process things in their minds. If two people need to get to Boston and one takes the Pike and the other decides to take the back roads, they still get there!

If there was one thing about the WPI website you could change, it would be…?  

Oh, loaded question! I would love to split the content on our sites to have an external website that is geared toward marketing our great school, and the rest of the content that would be posted to internal audience—an intranet.  Since the day I started here I saw the great need for it. When an employee first turns on their computer, it should automatically load an intranet where students/employees/faculty can find internal content easily. Currently we don’t have one and our departments tend to post internal content on the external website.

You often have many students working for you during the academic year. What’s it like working with WPI students?  

I’m sure everyone here at WPI says that is the most rewarding part of their jobs. I love teaching our students not only how to become web page developers, but show them how to be good customer service representatives. That skill set is important throughout any job in their lives.  It teaches them patience and how to treat others respectfully.  Our students here are brilliant and they catch on to the web part easily enough, but to learn the art of patience and good customer service takes a little time and is more valued in life experiences. For every one of my students, I’ve written such great letters of recommendations and every single one of them has received great job opportunities. When those employers call me, I go to great lengths to stress not only the students’ skill sets, but also the great customer service and leadership skills they’ve learned here. Then those employers go back to the students and say, “Wow, that was the best recommendation I’ve ever gotten. Your supervisor really feels you have been an important asset to her department.” I’ve developed close relationships with those students as if they were my own children, and they constantly stay in touch.

You’re a mom, right? Tell me a little about your kids?  

I have one biological daughter, Dawnn-Marie, 19, who currently attends Worcester State University. (She is the spitting image of me).  I adopted two girls. Iris, 23, is now married and lives in Phoenix with her husband, who is a local minister. Jessica, 20, lives in Killingly, Conn.

What do you do outside of work to relax?  

Huge Sports Fan – Go Patriots! Go Red Sox! And of course, I’m a huge NASCAR fan – thanks to my earlier days of drag racing in Epping, N.H. Tony Stewart is my driver, who I like to follow. My favorite thing to do right now is to put the top down on “Sally,” my sweet little red mustang, and cruise around.

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