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A Discussion with Stacy Gianoulis On Higher Education and the Doors It Can Open

Stacy Gianoulis was born and raised in Boston, MA. He went to Boston College and majored in philosophy. At the time, Gianoulis considered working towards a PhD, but he had always wanted to be an entrepreneur and own a business, just like his grandfather. After owning a small business, he became a certified Nobel NetWare […]

Stacy Gianoulis
Stacy Gianoulis

Stacy Gianoulis was born and raised in Boston, MA. He went to Boston College and majored in philosophy. At the time, Gianoulis considered working towards a PhD, but he had always wanted to be an entrepreneur and own a business, just like his grandfather. After owning a small business, he became a certified Nobel NetWare Administrator, known as a CNE, and then a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. From there, he began his career in IT in system administration and server administration.

For the past 17 years, Gianoulis has been working for Boston University. He began as a Manager of Technical Services for three years, then became the Manager of University Computers. Next, he moved on to Project Director for the IT Help Center for a year and then moved up to Director for the next four years. In 2014, he became executive director of the IT Help Center, and three years later, he accepted his current role as Assistant Vice President of Client Services and Support.

1.What is your current position, and what does your typical day consist of?

I’m the Assistant Vice President for Client Services & Support here in Information Services & Technology at Boston University. I lead multiple teams including the Service Desk, Client Technology Services, Learning & Event Technology Services, Collaboration Services, Client Technology Engineering, and The Service Management Office.  

My day typically focuses on the strategic and tactical initiatives for my team. I attend several meetings with staff, project teams, and colleagues, mostly focused on how to move initiatives forward, give guidance and direction, and change course when needed.

2.How do you remain productive?

The first thing I try to do is avoid multitasking. I keep interruptions and notifications at a minimum. That can be extremely challenging in client support as we need to be responsive to our clients and customers. I think staying focused is a challenge in life in general with social media and the various channels for people to make contact. So what I try to do is to get my biggest, most urgent tasks out of the way first. Sometimes it’s the least desirable task. I also schedule “work breaks” so that I can actually get things done; otherwise, all of my time would be filled up with meeting requests.

3.What are your areas of expertise?

Building and developing high-performing client services and support teams, organizational change management, and IT service management.

4.How do you motivate the 100 employees you oversee?

I believe the single most important job that managers have is hiring. If you hire the right people for the role, they will be self-motivated. Beyond that, I think it’s acknowledging accomplishments, positive communication, and having team goals that everyone understands and can work together on builds both teamwork and trust while motivating employees.

5.How do you provide the best service for your clients?

I think in distributed environments like Higher Ed, client relationship management is important. Building and maintaining a communication channel with the key stakeholders and client reps is key. Beyond that, I think providing good or even great service is similar in every industry. You need to know your product or service. You need to actively listen, offer expertise, but make sure staff are listening as much as they talk. Be friendly, smile. There have been a lot of studies that even when a client or a customer can’t see you, say on a phone call or through a ticket, that smiling does help an analyst provide better customer service. Show respect. Be responsive. Lastly, I think you have to train your staff and continually prove. We can always do better.

6.What is your favorite aspect of your industry?

If by industry you mean Higher Ed, I think the favorite aspect of most people who work in Higher Ed, particularly in large research universities, is the diversity of the community and the fact that one day you can be supporting a researcher who, for example, might be working on a cure for cancer. Then the next day, it’s supporting students who are destined to do great things.

If you mean the IT industry, I think managing change and finding creative solutions to problems is my favorite aspect. It’s no surprise that IT is always changing, but it’s often difficult for people to keep up with that change. So finding that balance between falling behind and moving too fast is a challenge, and it’s very satisfying when you can find it.

7. In your 20 plus years of experience, what has been the biggest change in Client Services & Support?

I think I relate that back to the last question. I believe that managing people through organizational change has been the biggest challenge, not only to get through the change but to embrace it. You can force people to go through change but I think it’s much more effective if you explain why the change is important, how it impacts their work lives, how it’s important for the strategic goals of the institution, and build trust so they can embrace that change.

8. How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Well, I’m not sure I do, but I do exercise regularly and eat healthy, which I think helps.

9. What is one piece of advice you have heard and never forgotten?

One of my first managers told me to keep a digest with any technical problem that comes to your attention and record your initial solution. When you go back and review that digest, and I did, you’ll find that a large percentage of the time your initial solution to the problem was incorrect. So it’s important that techs in general, and younger techs in particular, do not assume anything when supporting a customer. You should actively listen to the customer and ask questions to help diagnose the problem because your first answer will often be incorrect.

10. Outside of your career, what defines you as a person?

Family is important to me, both my immediate and extended family. I also love to travel. I like to learn new things. I still have an entrepreneurial mindset, and I try to bring that into my work. Maybe someday I’ll get back into owning a business, but in the meantime, I really like to learn new things, both related and unrelated to my career. I think it keeps our minds and our bodies healthy and strong.

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