Jim Winkle's retirement letter
[I'm not one to generally pat myself on the back, but I do it here since I was going for emeritus status... which I received! Along with a very nice note from the Chancellor!]
Dear Kevin (cc to HR and former managers),
As you know, I have decided to retire. I want to reflect on my 28 year career at UW-Madison, 1990-1995 at the Physical Sciences Lab (PSL) and 1995-2018 at the Division of Information Technology (DoIT).
I really enjoyed the first 18 years while running the computing service that we offered to researchers on campus, primarily for users of the GCG Wisconsin Package for Sequence Analysis. This computing service was transferred -- along with me -- to DoIT in 1995. I ran it from 1990 until 2008 when we shut it down after almost 30 years in service. It peaked at 1000 users and served several hundred different groups on campus. I transitioned the service and users from the OpenVMS operating system to Unix in 1998 when the web interface became available for Unix. I enjoyed doing everything related to this service... purchasing hardware (I touched all fourteen computers over the life of the service -- including some room-sized ones), helping users, writing or providing documentation, operating system and application work, marketing, and designing/implementing new rates (which greatly extended the life of this service; I was originally told it had at most three years left in it). A survey in 2005 ranked the support I gave to users as 4.8/5.
I came to DoIT on the heels of the 1994 reorganization which created the division by merging three departments. There were many strong feelings regarding the reorg, especially around the rigid organizational structure. Since I was new to DoIT, I was neutral and decided to participate in the "Fresh Look" team to identify issues through a survey and detailed analysis. That became my thickest paper file over my whole career as we sliced and diced the results in many ways. We identified a number of important issues, and the survey was reused for years to come. The organization has come a long way since then and slowly improved as DoIT leaders tuned the organizational structure. "Fresh Look" was a cohesive team with a great grad student leader (in human factors engineering), and I'm very proud of our accomplishments.
I taught Perl programming and Unix workshops to UW-Madison folks through our Professional and Technical Education group for about four years. They couldn't find anyone else to teach these, so I volunteered. While this was initially challenging for the introvert in me, I grew to like it a lot, especially after seeking feedback from the PTE manager. After that, I regularly received rankings of 5/5.
I also enjoyed producing Loggle (campus NetID required) -- our home-grown search engine for log files -- and watching it grow in popularity over the last dozen years. Likewise, I enjoyed implementing improvements to Nagios (campus NetID required) -- our system for monitoring computers in the data center the last five years -- from its OOTB configuration. Hundreds of employees have used these tools and I've gotten some great positive feedback.
Finally, I was honored to have many of my suggestions included in the Systems Engineering and Operations "guiding principles", which was a part of the mission/vision work that we did a couple of years ago.
I'm extremely grateful to have had these opportunities to serve DoIT and the University. I'm also grateful to you, Kevin -- and all of my former managers -- for the freedom and trust in me to move things in the direction that customers were going. It's a good feeling to provide solutions that make IT at UW-Madison produce results and hum along smoothly.