Women in Tech: Featuring Sheila Barber, Milwaukee School of Engineering

We are absolutely in awe of Shelia Barber, the Campus Card Administrator at Milwaukee School of Engineering. She is responsible for CS Gold®, CS AccessTM, MICROS® 9700, Ad Astra Room Scheduler, and the Student Life module of the Jenzabar® database. Her role includes programming the systems, doing reports, accounts reconciling, access control, and "making sure all is going well." In between all of that, she has kindly spared some time to talk to us about women in technology, about how she got started, and her advice for other admins.

On her journey to the world of tech

"Before starting at MSOE, while going to school for Accounting, I found out they were going to start a computer programming degree and the first 26 applicants would get accepted. I was one of those and learned programming on an IBM System/34. I never even thought of doing this type of work when growing up…and never had a computer until after I got my programming degree.

I started at MSOE in the Finance Office Accounts Payable area. From there I became Bursar in the Student Accounts office where the remote workstation of a Series 4 (the old Griffin days!) was used. Each quarter I would get together with the IT department head, connect a special cable to the workstation to import information into the system for the next quarter. When we moved to a new building, we upgraded to the Protégé. At that point I was doing the meal imports each quarter. This was my first work with the card technology.

Our campus card program started in 1995 when the housing director wanted to expand card usage on campus and start a One Card Campus. He said he would do it if I'd come to the Housing Department and oversee the development. The next summer we were updating the campus. That's when I knew I was hooked. I was right in on the installation of equipment and the programming of the system."

On the future of auxiliary enterprise technology

"The future can be as big as your creative mind will take it. Cards, fobs, wrist bracelets, mobile ID—what's next? Will we even see the students for ID pictures? A student can send a picture, with confirming documentation, through a web site; her account can be set up with all that is needed; money can be added through a web site; and mobile ID can be used. All without the staff ever seeing the student."

Advice for the next generation of system admins

"Communicate. Let people know what your department is doing and what it can do for them now and in the future. Make sure everything is going well with your database, and update it when needed. Make sure the servers are in top condition. If at all possible, have an offsite location with a redundant server."

Advice for other women in technology

"Don't be shy. Show others in the department and field that you know how to do the job. The knowledge you obtain through the years just keeps coming. After 30 years at MSOE, I'm still learning and am helping others to learn the system."