The IT Heroes of 2020
System administrators have been confronted with unforeseen challenges this year, as COVID-19 wreaked havoc in enterprise IT departments across every industry. Almost overnight, organizations had to pivot to enable remote working, and their brave and dedicated sysadmins were instrumental in making that happen. At Lansweeper, we make it a point to celebrate these IT heroes who exhibit agility and ingenuity, especially in times of crisis, to keep their organizations operational.
To that end, we held a contest on SysAdmin Day -- the last Friday in July -- in which 70 IT heroes competed for the top honor. Among the six finalists, the winner was the IT team at DTN, a Minnesota-based company that specializes in subscription-based services for the analysis and delivery of real-time weather, agricultural, energy and commodity market information.
The reward was a grand prize of $3,000, which included a one-year subscription to Pluralsight, the leading technology skills platform, and a $2,500 donation to an approved charity of their choice.
Why Did The IT Heroes Win?
DTN's IT team supports everything that touches the company's 700 employees in 18 offices across the globe. "We are the global Help Desk," said Adam Gibson, Service Desk Team Lead at DTN. Gibson's team uses Lansweeper to keep track of nearly 1,500 IT assets, perform company-wide software roll-outs and create reports for management.
In 2020, the team took on several large-scale projects, including rolling out a new VPN package and deploying Office 365 across the organization. Additionally, they undertook a sweeping Windows 7 upgrade project, using Lansweeper to identify outdated machines. "We were in the middle of updating them when the pandemic hit in early March," said Gibson.
What happened next required speed and agility. Gibson's team was informed that they had one week to prepare for all employees to work from home. The team had to switch gears and rapidly devise a plan to enable secure remote working. Its swift response to the pandemic was impressive.
Using Lansweeper, the team identified employees who had laptops, then contacted them to ensure remote working was possible. Next, they took an inventory of unused laptops that could be deployed to employees who didn't have one. They spent a week setting up laptops, training employees how to use them and creating training documentation. By March 20, 98% of DTN's employees were working from home.
"Half of our employees had desktops and were not technical, so working from home was never seriously considered prior to the pandemic," said Gibson. "In fact, according to a survey we conducted in February, managers believed only 30% of the jobs could be done remotely." But with Gibson's team handling the transition, it worked.
A lean, mean IT machine
According to Gibson, his team was supporting more customers and programs with no increase in staff, teaching non-technical employees how to connect to home networks, reboot routers and troubleshoot IT issues remotely. They also continued going into the office despite the health risk to help employees with hardware needs.
It was a challenging time, but they persevered. "A lesser team would have been broken by this, but my team kept going and worked smarter," he said. "We learned new things and found tools to help us grow."
"Looking back, I am proud of my team for what they have accomplished this year. With so many obstacles we held our heads high and showed perseverance. No one complained and we all worked long hours to make the impossible happen. We also continued going into the office to help our employees with hardware needs. Even in a pandemic, we are here for our employees."Adam Gibson, Service Desk Team Lead at DTN.
Donation to Help Feed Families Impacted by the Pandemic
Gibson's team chose Foodbank for the Heartland, a member of Feeding America, as the recipient of Lansweeper's $2,500 donation. Founded in 1981 and headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, Foodbank for the Heartland is the largest food bank in Nebraska and Iowa, serving 93 counties by distributing food to 600 food pantries, schools, emergency shelters and other nonprofit partners.
"There are a number of people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and are struggling to feed their families," Gibson said. "That's why we chose this organization."
Once the threat of COVID subsides, DTN will move to a new building -- a plan that's been in the works but was interrupted by the pandemic. "The idea was to create a more open, collaborative space," said Gibson. Although CDC guidelines will surely impact the building's interior design, Gibson's team will be heavily involved, setting up devices and workstations and using Lansweeper to make it all happen -- and they're ready to tackle the challenge.
"We knew 2020 was going to be a long year, and it seems like every week we are thrown a new challenge," said Gibson. "But through it all, my team has shown me that we are well prepared to handle anything we're given."