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Like all ITS Service Desk staffers, Tech Support Analyst Javier Cedeno is working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike any of his fellow staffers, he is working internationally.

Cedeno is stuck in Tome, Chile, by border shut-downs. Since March, he’s been providing phone support to UNC-Chapel Hill.

Cedeno arrived in Chile ready for a month-long vacation on March 10, but his respite was short-lived. Only a week prior to his arrival, Chile confirmed its first case of COVID-19 and shortly thereafter, enacted security measures that made it impossible for him to leave.

“I was on a camping trip somewhere in the south of Chile with my brother when he got called back to work — he is an urgent care doctor here,” Cedeno said. We had been camping for about a week by that time when they told him he had to go back due to the pandemic.”

Unexpected turns

Cedeno tried to return to Santiago, more than 300 miles from Tome. But he was unable to do so as the country enacted various measures against the spread of the virus, including shutting down transportation routes.

“I was originally supposed to be in Santiago for most of my stay,” Cedeno said, “but they closed ground transport and I had no way to go back. So, I stayed with my brother in Tome and have been here the whole time.”

“Luckily, my accrued time off was able to cover my vacation,” he said. “I was able to work remotely while here without major complications.”

Because the Service Desk’s automated call distribution software is cloud-based, Cedeno can take University tech support calls from anywhere in the world. After clearing any concerns with ITS Security and testing call quality, Cedeno was cleared for work.

“With Javier working on another continent, I feel we are truly an international service desk,” said Christina Artis, a Service Desk manager.

“We have always received calls from all over the world,” she said. “Now we can say we can take calls from all over the world. It is really comforting to know that our work is not confined to a place. We can work anywhere to provide excellent customer service and technical support.”

No interruptions to work

Cedeno encountered no challenges resuming work. “I did have my laptop,” he said, “and we got an internet plan once we got back to the city.”

While there are no interruptions to his support work, Cedeno at one point did have to contend with the stress of quarantine and possible infection.

“One person in the house I am staying tested positive for COVID-19, which forced us to stay in full quarantine for 14 days,” he said.

Return unknown

For now, Cedeno works his usual schedule and provides tech support to the University from a continent away.

“It is stressful not knowing when I will go back,” he said. “But at the same time, I am relieved I haven’t been able to go back since I have older people in my household in the U.S. and would not want to put them at risk with me traveling and being exposed to the virus.”

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