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Tomee HowardAs Remedy Services Manager Tomee Howard prepares to retire this week from ITS, she reflects on her 16 years with the department and at UNC-Chapel Hill with gratitude.

“UNC-Chapel Hill has blessed me twice,” said Howard, who retires on Tuesday, December 22. “It blessed me as an undergraduate, out-of-state woman, when I was accepted; then again with a position at the school that has meant so much to me.”

This was the place to stay

Before coming to ITS in 1999, Howard had changed careers and home addresses many times. She had lived on both coasts and abroad, and had never lived anywhere long enough to buy a house.

At ITS, Howard found stability and home. She developed strong relationships with IT colleagues across the campus and built a stimulating professional career. Here Howard put down roots, buying a house 12 years ago in Carrboro.

Even in the ever-evolving IT field, Howard gained stability, as it turned out, in the technology that she was hired in 1999 to help build and launch. Carolina still uses Remedy, the platform on which her group developed the needed support application, 16 years later.

Launched ticket tracking for CCI

“The challenge of this job in 1999 was that we were bringing on the Carolina Computing Initiative, CCI,” Howard said. “In 2000 we wanted to have the first freshmen come in with a CCI computer.” By 2004, all students, faculty and staff were to have a CCI machine.

“We wanted to have a support application that would be used by all of the departments and schools, all of the silos,” she said. People in all of those schools and departments that were buying into the application also had to negotiate on all the details of the application.

When Howard came to ITS, her job “was as much marketing and sales as anything, to try to get all these disparate silos to work together,” she said. “Lots of times they didn’t like each other.”

This core group, she said, “was to design this application, own it and make sure nothing happened to it that wasn’t scalable, and would benefit all of the members.”

Remedy has remained as long as she has

“Remedy was chosen as the tool to support that,” Howard said. “We wrote this application so that everybody would use the same form. And the purpose was, if you were a student and you came into the ITRC and you needed help with something …, your ticket could be transferred from department to department or school to school seamlessly and be tracked, and there would be a record.”

ITS still maintains Remedy records going back to 1999. “Our application is 16 years old. We never thought it would last this long,” Howard said. “We were one of the very few academic communities in the country that had one form for ticket tracking. Then we used that platform to develop 30 to 40 other applications.”

“Who knew,” she said, “that we would be talking about something at 16 years, where everybody has phones, and iPads, and tablets and Droids and iPhones, that people would have five and six devices or three or four devices. Who knew the students would go for Macs instead of PCs.”

Howard derives particular satisfaction from several things that CCI and Remedy accomplished. For one, CCI helped University undergraduate students get the kind of support they needed, Howard said. Most of the faculty, staff and graduate students had support in their silos. But there was really no one place for undergrads.

In addition, Remedy “brought people from the campus IT organizations together to design a system and design an application that worked for all.”

Howard has loved the creative problem-solving aspect of her work. “I really enjoyed problem solving and there were tons of problems to solve and there always have been,” she said.

“I hope in some small measure I’ve been able to contribute something worthwhile or productive or useful or something that made a difference to the campus,” Howard said.

Formed strong relationships

William Mowery, Tomee Howard, David Smith
Remedy team: William Mowery, Tomee Howard and David Smith

Over her years at Carolina, the people here were her favorite part of the job.

“I have always enjoyed being around the students,” she said. “The favorite part for me is that we worked across campus with schools and campus and I got to work with top-notch IT people across the University and that I got to build something, that we got to build something. In my mind, people are the most important. That’s why we’re here anyway.”

She was fortunate to have terrific bosses, managers and colleagues within ITS and other departments and schools, Howard said. “I have been blessed to work with the most wonderful people in the whole world,” she said.

Some people she has worked with all or most of her years at Carolina: One of those people is David Smith, ITS Remedy Development Manager. Smith, as one example of the bonds she formed while at ITS, “is more like family,” Howard said. “I was there when his second child was born.”

Howard “was a natural at collaborating with customers and gathering requirements. She was all about the customer, and still is,” Smith said.

“After years of working with customers, she coined a couple of phrases: ‘Please help us identify the problem you are trying to solve instead of telling us the application changes you need.’ This was a great strategy at gathering requirements and building working relationships with our customers,” Smith said. “Another one that we would occasionally tease her about was what she referred to as ‘Remedy Speak,’ which she used when we would talk about development solutions using technical terms. She would always check in with the customer to ensure clear communication, which led to the team’s success.”

Pulling a Tomee

Smith and others at ITS also appreciate Howard’s ability to laugh at herself. “Anyone who had multiple interactions with Tomee knew that she was always spilling whatever beverage was in her hand or in her proximity—mainly coffee,” Smith said. “She was perfectly comfortable with the fact that she was clumsy with beverages. It became so well known that I have occasionally overhead colleagues on the second floor of ITS Franklin say, ‘Uh oh, I pulled a Tomee’ when spilling a beverage. Tomee would always laugh and smile at the reference.”

“This job,” Howard said, “has enabled me to be exactly who I am. There aren’t many environments that can tolerate some of my idiosyncrasies. It was a blessing to have this job.”

The first plan is a dog

As for the next phase of her life, Howard said she won’t make any commitments for six to 12 months. She does know that she wants to spend retirement traveling within the United States and volunteering with charitable causes related to shelter, food and safety. She also plans to get her first dog—a small dog that can travel with her. “I need a little bitty buddy,” she said.

As Howard says goodbye to ITS, she speaks with contentment: “When I graduated from high school, the thing I wanted most was an interesting life, and I would have to say that’s exactly what I’ve had.”

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