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Managing

Fawn Hardman supervises IT support at Chesapeake Energy

IT supervisor Fawn Hardman manages a help desk that keeps geologists exploring and drilling folks drilling, because “that’s where our money is made”


'Around here, we say that the level 1 help desk is a mile wide and an inch deep,” smiles Fawn Hardman. “Level 2 is an inch wide and a mile deep.”

The help desk is a resource for employees and business partners, and “here” is Chesapeake Energy Corporation (Oklahoma City, OK). Chesapeake is the second-largest producer of natural gas, the eleventh-largest producer of oil and natural gas liquids, and the most active driller of new wells in the United States. Fawn Hardman is IT supervisor of the level 2 support team.

“Level 1 is the entry point of all calls and e-mails,” she explains. “If that technician can’t resolve the issue, it is passed along to either deskside support, which is primarily hardware, or level 2 support, which is mainly applications.”

Rigs are drilling all the time and support is 24/7. Reasons for calls to the help desk vary. “The most basic example,” cites Hardman, “is someone who can’t get their computer to turn on because something is broken at the hardware level. Or maybe someone creates a spreadsheet to track well data and they can’t get an Excel formula figured out. That’s an applications issue.

“If the call is routed to deskside support, someone actually goes to the person’s desk to assess what’s going on. If it’s an application issue like that Excel example, we will work with Microsoft support to either find out what’s wrong with the formula, or determine that it’s a real bug in Excel that they need to fix in their next patch release.”

Callers are employees representing all sides of the business, from geologists to engineers to geographic information system (GIS) analysts. “They’re the mapmakers,” Hardman explains. Also, Chesapeake’s business partner companies can call for help desk support even though they are not on the network.

Hardman supervises a team of a dozen analysts. Chesapeake tries to promote from within, so many of Hardman’s team members are former level 1 technicians used to taking those first-line calls. “I have analysts dedicated to GIS and land support, accounting, geology and drilling. I also have business analysts,” she says. “We are the liaison between the business side and tech side. Some IT people use ‘IT speak,’ but we can talk to business in their terms and then talk with the hardcore IT people in theirs.”

In 2006, Chesapeake was installing a new asset management system. Hardman was hired as an entry-level contractor to purchase all the organization’s IT equipment. “There were three of us in the department,” she remembers. “We made the deals with Dell, negotiated the pricing, wrote POs, and even helped unload the trucks.”

Hardman then moved into client configuration. “I configured desktop hardware and ran deskside support,” she recalls. “In 2007, I went to application support, moved up the ranks to level 2 and was promoted to supervisor in 2012.”

Born in Tulsa, OK, Hardman spent most of her childhood in Norman, OK. She attended the University of Oklahoma (Norman), where she earned a 1997 BS in education. “I was recruited into the minority engineering program. I had only a vague idea of what engineers did, but I was on a scholarship so I figured I could try it,” Hardman says.

“Halfway through my sophomore year, I decided that I liked the science but not the math,” she admits. “I realized I could still graduate on time if I went over to the education department. I went to science education.

“All of this actually fell in line with what I had been doing over the summers. My first job in school was as a counselor at a space camp called the Oklahoma Aerospace Academy, based out of Oklahoma City University.”

Education turns into IT
After she graduated, the camp hired Hardman full time to develop curriculum. Computers were still relatively new and networks were just being developed. As part of the camp’s space flight simulation, they wanted to create a “mission control” area which required many computers and a network. “I volunteered to set it all up and that’s how I ended up in IT,” says Hardman.

In 1998, she joined Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS, Bethany, OK) as an entry-level network administrator. “They needed someone cheap and I wanted to learn,” she says wryly. “It was a great match. Over three years, CCCS grew to a full-blown Windows network with in-house servers and twelve locations.”

CCCS vendor Myriad Systems (Oklahoma City, OK) hired her in 2001 as their network administrator and sales support person. A year later, she joined Foundation Surgery Affiliates (Oklahoma City), a hospital management company, where she helped build a national network. In 2004, Foundation decided they could outsource the IT function cheaply and let the entire department go. Hardman had made some contacts and was soon working as an independent consultant.

In 2006 she received a call from Chesapeake. “They saw that I handled large budgets and knew about IT equipment, and that’s how I got into purchasing. I interviewed on Thursday and was hired the following Monday. “Everybody in IT supports everybody else,” Hardman emphasizes. “We want to make the customer happy, keep the geologists able to explore, keep the land department able to buy leases, and keep the drilling department drilling, because that’s where our money is made. We’re here to enable the business. We aren’t an IT shop; we’re an exploration and production company!

“I love the environment, the pace and the people,” she enthuses. “I hope to stay in management and move over to a development team. In some instances, we have people calling about the same issues after a certain application is released and I wonder if the developers are aware of that. I see some room for improvement in the development process and feel like that’s a good place to focus.”

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