Meet Laura Ortegon-Rico

Earlier this year, the Office of the Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President (Information Services & Technology) received a record-breaking number of nominations for the 2020 IT Awards. We are excited to recognize the individuals who were nominated and the important contributions they make everyday at the University of Alberta.

Laura Ortegon-Rico has worked in the Faculty of ALES for the past 12 years. Originally starting on the help desk, Laura has been working as a video conference specialist for the past seven years. Managing up to 3-6 video conferences a day, which consists of a mix of international conferencing and high stakes exams, Laura performs her job with a calculated finess that showcases her wealth of knowledge and expertise honed over the years.

We spoke with Laura to learn more about her role and what motivates her.

What does a day in the life look like in your position?

I always start with checking my calendar. I’m a heavy calendar user and everything goes in there. Details like if I’ve tested for a videoconference and when I’ve tested, see what errors I’ve encountered. I check to see if I’ve forgotten anything. If I have conferences that day, I check in with the grad students and contact them a half hour prior to their event to see if they need help with anything. I also go into the event meeting to see that everything is set up correctly.

If there aren’t any big events going on that day, I’m working on videos to train people on Microsoft Teams. I look into what’s new with the application suite. I talk to users to see what they need, if there’s anything specific they need to know and create supports for them.

I also assist with help desk support, Zoom licensing/training, and audio/computer issues in between all of my video conferencing duties.

What’s one thing you’re working on now, and why is it important?

I’m working on creating and curating videos to train people on Microsoft Teams so they’re comfortable with it. I want people to use it well and know the details. They review the video materials and let me know what additional questions they have.

What have you worked on since joining the university that you are most proud of?

Video conferencing. I started with PBX and moved to Polycom. We started with one mobile unit and we now have eight rooms dedicated to video conferencing. I advocated so hard for the equipment and the importance of video conferencing for many years and my faculty are very well equipped to handle connecting remotely. We had this structure set up before the pandemic. My users are so knowledgeable about this system.

Why did you pursue a career in IT?

By accident — it was a complete accident that I ended up in IT. But I like helping people, I like making things easier, handling equipment, and fixing things. I like being in service and helping people.

If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something, what would it be?

Networking and coding.

If you could only have three apps on your smartphone, which would you pick?

  1. I use my camera all the time for personal and work use. Having a picture when you’re trying to describe something helps so much.
  2. Messaging app to text coworkers and ask about errors.
  3. Email to stay up-to-date.

What is your motto when it comes to work?

Testing. Testing. Testing. A lot of early testing will save you a headache. Test well ahead of time too, a minimum of a week before.

What random information have you picked up in your role?

If you ever do a video conference with New Zealand in one of their government buildings and you’re using Skype for Business or Zoom so long as you get the connection going before 8am or after 6pm their time it won’t drop the call. Otherwise, between the hours of 8am and 6pm the connection is blocked. It’s such a random piece of information that has served me well.

For videoconferencing with Germany, it used to be that if they didn’t start their video and audio first you wouldn’t be able to see their video. They changed that in the last year and a half though. However, it taught me to keep an eye on people’s connectivity to see which order people should join to optimize the conference.

Anything else you’d like to share?

As IT staff, people don’t realize what we do. When things are going smoothly, people don’t realize there’s a lot of work in the background to ensure everything is running smoothly. I’m happy that a lot of people in my faculty realize what I do, but I feel in these trying times people should look into their own IT and understand that IT is always working hard to make everything run smoothly on your end.

Laura Ortegon-Rico was nominated for an IT Award earlier this year for her skill in responding to technical questions and her support in coordinating and scheduling videoconferences. Laura is a strong advocate for videoconferencing which makes her a well-known and valuable resource in her field.