Incredible connections, contributions: Fond farewell to Pamela Harris after 25 years of dedicated service

Diligent, fiercely loyal, and no-nonsense. Words that her colleagues say clearly describe Pamela Harris, Associate Director of EASI. When Pamela joined the University 25 years ago it was not the behemoth that it has become. During her time here, she has been instrumental in building Enterprise Applications, or EASI, into the department it is today and helping the IT community navigate the broad and blue waters of our current enterprise systems.

We are eternally grateful for her guidance. As she prepares for the next chapter in her life, we have gathered an online photo album of Pamela over the years, we thank her for all her good works, and wish Pamela, her partner and the corgis, Willow and Dylan, many happy adventures.

Swetlana Signarowski
Executive Director, Enterprise Applications & Solutions Integration (EASI)

Headshot of Pamela Harris

Pamela Harris, Associate Director, Enterprise Applications & Solutions Integration (EASI)
Joined U of T: November 10, 1998
Last day at EASI: January 31, 2024
Retirement: February 29, 2024

Describe your background and how you arrived at EASI
I have always worked in the Information Technology field. I started in the banking industry as a business systems analyst, moved to retail systems in a similar role, spent a year working with a large consulting firm, then moved on to the City of Scarborough IT department (pre amalgamation) as a senior analyst/data analyst.  While I was at the City of Scarborough, they hired a new IT Director, some of you may know him – Graham Kemp – who I got to work closely with for about a year. Then the big City amalgamation happened, and Graham left for the University of Toronto to head their Administrative Management Systems department. About 6 months later, I got a call from Graham telling me I might be interested in a data analyst type of position at U of T in his department. I applied, got interviewed by Graham, Cathy Eberts and the head of HR, and ended up getting the job. My first assignment was to work on the “White Paper Planning” project where I was tasked with gathering, cleaning and reporting on the last 5 years of financial and hr data. It was extremely stressful for a number of reasons, but I got to meet and work closely with some wonderful people who became and remained friends and allies throughout my years at U of T.

Why did you decide to stay at EASI and how has it changed over the years?
I can answer that easily – I stayed for 25 years because of the people and because of the vastly different types of projects I got to work on. U of T is a great employer, lots of diversity and very smart, dedicated people but I stayed specifically because EASI itself was and still is a fantastic department to work for. The staff and leadership have always been so supportive of each other. The department has been a positive, safe and fun environment, and I have loved my time here because of that.

Also, because a lot of my earlier career at U of T was focused on data, I got exposed to many different business areas of the University. Having the opportunity to learn from and work with so many different departments and people at U of T really appealed to me and kept me engaged for all these years.

How has EASI changed? Well, it has changed a lot! When I started, the department I worked for was called Administrative Management Systems (AMS) and our focus was primarily on the SAP systems. A restructure to form the CIO Portfolio saw us joining the ROSI SIS team to become EASI. Our IT Director, Graham, eventually retired and Cathy became our Executive Director. We took on NGSIS, enterprise architecture, the O365 and Digital Workplace portfolios, moved our SAP infrastructure to the Cloud and started managing that, and grew to over twice our original size. The change in some of the technology has been so significant. But through it all, EASI’s best asset continues to be its great people and their capacity to rise to the challenge and make things happen.

What were some of the key projects that you were most proud to work on?
Establishing and growing the first Business Intelligence team and infrastructure for U of T, and then years later establishing a new team to support an expansive Analytics and Reporting technology platform for the university.  I really enjoyed, got great exposure and learned a lot from my participation on the U of T Job Evaluation committee, where I advised on the University’s IT positions, their classifications and ratings. And although not a project, I have to mention working closely with Cathy and EASI’s leadership team on strategy, organizational plans, staffing opportunities, etc.

What will you remember most about working at EASI and U of T?
The many great people I’ve had the pleasure to work with; EASI’s leadership team and the close bonds we formed; the super fun EASI holiday parties we organized over the many years; being able to mentor managers and staff; the pride I felt every time I told someone I worked at the University of Toronto.

Over the years, you were involved in the Mentorship Program and other U of T initiatives. Why were these activities important to you?
I was a mentor in U of T’s Rose Patten mentorship program for 8 years, could be even a little bit longer than that. (I’m now old and forgetful!) And I volunteered for a number different committees over the years. Doing this kind of stuff, putting yourself out there, giving back to the U of T, working with and learning from other divisions, just felt right and allowed me to meet so many people, make some incredible connections throughout the University and just feel good about what I was doing at U of T.

What advice would you give to those working in IT at U of T?
Put yourself out there, volunteer where you can, get to know others throughout the University. Learn from your peers in other departments, see what others are doing, etc. There is so much going on and so many opportunities to learn and help yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

What do you plan to do in retirement?
Definitely going to hang out at my cottage as much as possible. Travel a bit and drink red wine in a bunch of different countries, lol. And just take some time to learn more about myself and what I want to tackle for this next phase of my life. Maybe a sommelier course or two? 😉