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Community IT Voices: Jose Antonio Peña-Rosales, Service Desk Manager
Join us for our series featuring interviews with Community IT employees. In this series, we will talk about nonprofit technology career paths, career resources, skills, and certifications. We will also touch on mentoring opportunities as you start out on your career and ways to give back if you are further along.
Today Carolyn talks with Jose Antonio Peña-Rosales, Service Desk Manager, who has been with Community IT for six years.
Jose Antonio manages a close-knit and dynamic team where no day is typical. Jose Antonio is from Venezuela and speaks English and Spanish. He loves making sure that clients have a good, positive experience. He wants you to know that the Help Desk team reads ALL the comments and feedback they get. And that working at Community IT has shown him that “No matter how much I knew about technology, I needed to know about people too. I’m still learning, every day.”
Jose Antonio discusses his career path, what Community IT does to support clients on days when they are under technology stress, and what it was like joining the help desk as an immigrant to the DC area.
Jose Antonio Peña-Rosales joined Community IT Innovators in 2016. As Service Desk Manager, he is responsible for the management and operations of Community IT’s service desk call center.
Prior to coming to Community IT, Jose Antonio worked in telecommunications for an Internet Service Provider for 9 years, focusing in two sectors: project management in technology and retail strategic marketing. He also worked in the Inter-American Development Bank as Resource Planning Assistant for 1 year, coordinating IT provisioning of electronic devices to employees worldwide.
Jose Antonio was born and educated in Venezuela and speaks English and Spanish. Upon coming to this country in 2014, he attended Carlos Rosario School. He has a B.S. in Information Systems, and holds CompTIA A+ and Network+ certifications.
Carolyn Woodard has served many roles at Community IT Innovators, from client to project manager to marketing. With over twenty years of experience in the nonprofit world and marketing, including as a nonprofit technology project manager and Director of IT, Carolyn knows the frustrations and delights of working with technology professionals, accidental techies, executives, and staff to deliver your organization’s mission, keep your IT infrastructure operating, and your website live.
Carolyn is excited to help manage Marketing at Community IT Innovators and is always looking for new ways to tell stories and reach people. She has a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from Johns Hopkins University and received her undergraduate degree in English Literature from Williams College. She thinks the best thing about being with Community IT Innovators is the people.
Carolyn: Welcome to Community IT Voices, my name is Carolyn, and I’m here with Jose Antonio. Jose Antonio, can you tell us your name, your title, and how long you’ve been at Community IT?
Jose Antonio: Sure. Hi Carolyn, how are you? My name is Jose Antonio [Peña-Rosales], I work with Community IT as a Service Desk Manager. That is my role at the company, and I started with Community IT about six years ago.
Basically, I oversee the help desk activities. The help desk’s main goal is to restore services, to help our clients solve problems with technology, fulfill service requests – any service requests they might have, like onboarding, off-boarding, things like that. And of course, making sure that the clients have a good, positive experience. So that’s basically what I do, that is my main responsibility.
Carolyn: What do you do on a typical day? Or, is there a typical day?
Jose Antonio: That’s a good question. There’s no typical day actually, pretty much every day is different. Our clients have many different problems.
I think I can summarize that every day I coordinate the workload for my team. We basically are in constant communication discussing resolution plans for incidents and complex problems, things like that.
I monitor the call center activities based on the call volume or the number of tickets, which may vary during the day or during the week. We try to adjust capacity by either pulling people from other teams, or removing people from a team to assist with other things. Basically, I adjust capacity to achieve our service level agreements with our clients.
Another part of the job of my typical day is working with IT Business Managers which is a figure that we have for planning with the clients and we try to make sure that all the documentation for our clients is current, is updated, is clear, and of course is sufficient to provide support which is our main goal.
I work with my team also a lot on their professional development. All our technical staff stays trained, knowledgeable with technology and they are familiar with the platforms that our clients have and that way they can provide support. I also coordinate dispatches if we need to send someone outside for something that can’t be resolved remotely, then I coordinate that as well.
Carolyn: What is the best part about your job?
Jose Antonio: Well, many things! I think the biggest satisfaction for me is helping my team assist our organizations in achieving their goals. We work with nonprofits and I think their goals, their mission is very important. Our goal is to help them achieve that mission.
When we work with these organizations, and by “organizations,” I mean the people who work for those organizations, they always have feedback for us, either good or not that good. It’s always very useful to hear when they have positive experiences. It’s very rewarding; it’s nice to hear that.
“It’s beautiful to be part of that experience to see how customers get to know our staff, that’s a nice part, I think.”
One thing that amazes me and I think is also a beautiful part of the job, is the relationship that the techs or the engineers establish with the customers or vice versa, I can see how they get to know each other. They become familiar with them; they always mention names in their feedback. Whenever we happen to have someone new, they immediately recognize that, they say hey this person is new, I just met this person. They always say something about it. It’s beautiful to be part of that experience to see how customers get to know our staff, that’s a nice part, I think.
Carolyn: That’s great. What’s something about your job that we probably don’t know that you’d like people to know?
Jose Antonio: The way we work is, we work with a ticketing system. So you either call the help desk or you submit a ticket via email. Either way you create a ticket, or we create a ticket for you. Once we finish working with a ticket, we’re going to send a survey for you to rate the service we provided for you. And they always provide feedback, either positive, neutral or not positive.
It’s always nice to hear and read all these comments. We read ALL of them. I think I can talk on behalf of the whole company. We do read all our comments; we read all of them. I wish I could personally thank each of them, which is impossible because there are too many, but we take them really seriously, those comments.
Carolyn: Why did you apply to Community IT? What was it about Community IT that seemed like a good place to work?
Jose Antonio: So for me, I didn’t actually apply, they found me. And I’m glad they did.
I wasn’t really familiar with MSPs before. My previous experience was with internet service providers for many years. I happened to be studying to get a certification in IT, that’s because I moved from my home country to this country.
I was studying English and I was studying IT and then the directors of the school said, “Hey I have this MSP company that is looking to expand their help desk team and I think you should apply or go through an interview because they are looking for people from this school and I think you would be a good fit.” I was like, “Okay sure, let’s do that.” So, CIT called me and we had a fun interview.
I hadn’t taken my certification yet, my exam, so they said, “Ok, let’s talk six months later.” So that’s what happened. Six months later I had gotten my certification and I was about to finish my course and they called me and invited me to an interview in person and boom, it happened. I started.
And then I progressively started learning what an actual MSP was. I had my research before coming to the interview, but I’m like, “Oh, we help all these organizations that are all here in DC, pretty much.” Of course, there are some that are not in DC, but a lot of them are in DC. I didn’t know how huge the amount of nonprofits in the DMV area was. So that was a discovery for me.
“…we have at least 4 languages in my team besides English.”
Carolyn: So, I can’t let it go, you said you came here from your home country, do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Jose Antonio: Sure, I came six years ago from Venezuela; I’m from Venezuela originally. Back in Venezuela I worked for an internet service provider. All my years there were projects for websites, or applications for retail stores, and then I was working in marketing for eight years.
So when I came here, I had already taken some classes, when I was twenty in college, English classes as a second language, but I never really used it. But when I came here I thought ok, I have to study English if I want to find a job.
So that’s why I went to that school- to get a job, and to get a certification in IT.
Carolyn: Would you say that CIT was a welcoming place to someone where English is your second language and you are an immigrant to the United States and the DC area?
Jose Antonio: Definitely, yes. I think CIT is very diverse, the staff is very diverse. I was realizing last week with someone who just joined my team, that we have at least 4 languages in my team besides English. I’m like, “Wow, this is such a great opportunity, because if someone needs to talk in these languages we can probably do something about this.”
I think it’s a very safe place to work in that sense.
Carolyn: Especially, I would think, if you’re having a technology problem, something isn’t working, it can be very complicated. For the client, it can be extremely stressful to explain something if English isn’t their first language either. I can see that it would be a great advantage to be able to communicate with somebody who is having a very stressful day in a way that can help the situation.
Jose Antonio: You’re right, it definitely is. We’ve actually had cases where we have clients or organizations who happen to have staff overseas, or just here but they’re new or they don’t know how to explain things. Sometimes they ask, “Hey, do you have someone who speaks this language? Can I talk to that person?”
So I myself have jumped onto calls as a translator, which I never thought I would in this job. But I did, I have.
Carolyn: That sounds like a great skill. My next question is also about skills, it sounds like you took a couple different career steps from websites and marketing to getting certified to supervising the help desk.
So, if you looked back on what you were studying or what would have helped you into a nonprofit IT career when you were in high school or college, can you give us some advice on the sort of things that are helpful to prepare you for that kind of career?
Jose Antonio: You are right. Back in my home country many years ago, I got a bachelor’s degree in system engineering and that took me to work in projects and then I worked in marketing in the same company for many years. I don’t know if I was trying to get a job in nonprofit IT, as I said before, it just happened. I definitely love the place and I love how we focus on helping others to achieve those goals as nonprofits.
Carolyn: My next question is related, I know that IT support may have a lot of stereotypes. Some that are fair, some that are maybe unfair, especially when you work with the service desk or help desk. Are there some personality traits that are good for a person that is going into that kind of career, or maybe some personality types that surprised you would be very successful at being on a help desk?
Jose Antonio: Yes, to be honest, yes. Actually, it requires a lot of empathy. I think it’s important that you like to work with people, that you like to talk to people, that you have the capacity to remain calm. Basically, we’re receiving calls from customers who have problems. Sometimes they are stressed a lot by technology. They feel like they are not achieving their goals or things that they need to do. They can’t deliver to their teams.
Their work is not IT, they use IT as a tool, so they feel frustrated or stressed.
You must have the capacity to be a good listener, understand, what we call active listening. Be able to diffuse stress somehow. And then, you know, help people.
If you like to help people, I think it’s a really good fit for this job. And of course, if you like technology too.
Carolyn: My next question is, what is one thing you thought you knew about this job when you were coming into it, that you were totally wrong about? Something that really surprised you?
Jose Antonio: Actually that question, there’s a very funny story there. The real reason why I decided to go back to IT after marketing was because, of course, I needed to work in something I feel comfortable with. So I thought, ok that’s something I’m going to do. But also I was studying English and I felt like, oh my gosh, I’m not proficient in English, so I don’t know if I’m going to be able to work in marketing any more.
So I decided to go back to my roots in IT. I thought working with computers would be easier because I was not going to be in a position where I had to talk to people. And, guess what! My first job was in the call center answering phone calls. So I had to talk to people every day, all day long. That was a huge lesson to me. No matter how much I knew about technology, I needed to know about people too. I’m still learning, every day. That was the biggest thing I was mistaken about.
“I think one of the things … that helped me the most, number one: find a mentor.”
Carolyn: What would you say to someone who’s working in nonprofit technology who maybe isn’t as fulfilled in their job as you seem to be, or maybe isn’t getting the support or the training they need? Where do you turn for encouragement and what resources would you advise people to turn to if they want to strengthen their career and get support?
Jose Antonio: This is a very complex question. If someone is not feeling well or complete or fulfilled in their job, I think we need to dig a little more about why are you feeling that way? What exactly are the areas you are not comfortable with? Maybe you need to grow into certain areas in your field or your career or change careers, I don’t know. I think it is kind of difficult to answer that because every situation is different.
I think one of the things that could help them most, that helped me as well, number one: find a mentor. Find someone who has more experience than you who is willing to give you advice. Try to ask as many questions as you have. Maybe you don’t need one mentor, maybe you could have more than one mentor. Interview people who do what you think you might like doing.
Find people who have jobs that you feel, maybe this is the path I want to pursue. Talk to them.
Everything, a lot of things are about people. If you can talk to people, I’m sure people will be willing to talk to you to help you figure out what you want. I myself have found a situation where people have called me and said, “Hey can you help me out? I think I want to do this.” And I’m like oh, this is nice. I think if you approach someone with a question like that, I think they’re going to feel good about it. It’s good that I can help someone. Let me see if my experience says something to you, something useful.
Carolyn: Are there any specific certifications or any job experiences that really can help your career in IT support?
Jose Antonio: Definitely, there are many certifications that you can take. This field is very broad and there are many, many areas of knowledge. If someone wants to pursue an IT certification, first of all find out your level of experience. If you have any certification already, what would be the next step?
There is an association, called Computing Technology Industry Association, it is also known as CompTIA. It’s an American nonprofit and they issue professional certifications for information technology. They have a roadmap of IT certifications. They include in this roadmap not only theirs but also Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, PMI. I would suggest if someone wants to pursue a career in IT, they go to this site, to the roadmap and see where they are, and where they want to go. So that’s a good place to start.
Carolyn: That’s great advice. I know you just said that it’s a very broad career. And I think with what CIT does in serving only nonprofits, some people might have questions about their IT support career. Should they go into a job like CIT that focuses on nonprofits when there are many other areas where you could work in IT?
Did you have any doubts about joining CIT or working with nonprofit technology in general? And now that you’ve been at CIT for six years, do you have any advice to your earlier self of “go ahead and take the job?”
Jose Antonio: I never had doubts, but I never knew the potential. As I said before, there are so many nonprofits in DC, in the DMV area, and not only here but across the country. There’s a lot of marketplace to work, related to nonprofits. So, no doubt you can definitely make a career in this area.
Carolyn: When people ask you what does CIT do, like if you meet somebody at a party, what do you say? How do you explain it?
Jose Antonio: I think I say that we provide services for nonprofit organizations and we help them achieve their goals. That’s what we do every day.
Carolyn: I love it. Thank you so much for this interview today, Jose Antonio. It was wonderful talking to you.
Jose Antonio: Well thank you very much Carolyn for having me.
We hope you enjoyed this Community IT Voices interview with Jose Antonio Peña-Rosales. Community IT is the right place for you if you find fulfillment in helping others succeed and love mastering new technologies.
Our employees stay and grow with us, and over half of our staff have been with us for over a decade. Community IT is an employee-owned company with a positive, sustainable workplace that promotes professional development and a healthy work/life balance. We have been 100% employee-owned since 2012. Check out careers with us here.