By Christine Schaefer
The only good news I can report about the imminent retirement of the Baldrige Program’s longstanding manager of IT security and support—Barb Uglik—is that she can soon look forward to entire weekends without getting any work-related calls for technical assistance.
If you’ve been a Baldrige examiner this decade or last, you’ve no doubt benefited from the expertise and support of Barb—whether you called a help line after hours to troubleshoot computer issues, for example, or simply received your log-in credentials from her to use an online assessment or application site.
Her Work: Now and Then
For almost two decades, Barb has been a steady hand—usually unseen, behind your computer screen—buttressing the Baldrige Award process and all other program work on individual computers and online sites alike. To appreciate the breadth of the workload that Barb has managed in recent years, you would need to know about all the work processes in the Baldrige Program that respond to the following questions from the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence (category 4, at 4.2b). That is:
- Data and Information Quality: How do you verify and ensure the quality of organizational data and information?
- Data and Information Security: How do you ensure the security of sensitive or privileged data and information?
- Data and Information Availability: How do you ensure the availability of organizational data and information?
- Hardware and Software Properties: How do you ensure that hardware and software are reliable, secure, and user-friendly?
- Emergency Availability: In the event of an emergency, how do you ensure that hardware and software systems and data and information continue to be secure and available to effectively serve customers and business needs?
In 1974, Barb started working at the Gaithersburg, Maryland, campus of the federal agency that would later house the Baldrige Program; it was then called the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), now the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
“I started at NBS in the Statistical Engineering Division, working alongside mathematicians, statisticians, and support professionals,” Barb recalled recently in an interview for this blog. “I still remember every person in the group.” She also noted, “I was told that the previous person who held the position joined the convent.” (That is an intriguing revelation for those of us who know Barb to be so conscientious, ethical, and generous in spirit that we suspect she has achieved the same level of holiness without also committing herself to vowed community life.)
Technology Changes during Her Tenure
Asked how technology has changed since her early years at NIST, Barb first described a series of office machines before computers: “I used an IBM Selectric typewriter with an ‘element’ that you would swap depending on the type of font or characters you wanted to use,” she said. “Working with mathematicians, I was swapping elements out frequently since they used many equations when writing reports and preparing documents. Then we moved to a mag card machine where the card would store data. That was a significant improvement because you could edit and save without having to correct originals and carbon sets!”
Barb next recalled the shift to “a dedicated word processor, which was very expensive at that time but was set up in a shared environment.” The next development, she recounted, was “the dual floppy PC, where you would put the operating system floppy in one drive, then load the word-processing floppy, and eventually use another data floppy to store the work that you needed to do on it.”
She added, “The next generations kept making things easier—more portable devices (e.g., encrypted laptops), along with secure thumb drives for security, flexibility, convenience, speed, and portability when employees were working at alternate sites and traveling.”
Over her years with the Baldrige Program, she observed, major developments have occurred in IT security. These include a focus on the protection of “PII/BII” (personally identifiable/business identifiable information) and other sensitive data through encryption and other secure devices, role-based access, and two-factor authentication.
Barb also noted how technology has specifically eased the work of Baldrige examiners as they collaborate on evaluations of organizations that have applied for the Baldrige Award. “Baldrige examiners went from having to print, cut, and manually tape together their reviews of award applicants to being able to synthesize and prepare their work for the Consensus Review Process with the help of software,” Barb said. “I remember when both staff and examiners would stand by a ‘secure’ fax to send information to team members to share their evaluations for the applicant review process. This would happen several times before the final product would be produced,” she recalled.
“We evolved from the manual process to having a secure portal (then called Examinerdepot) for uploading and downloading files securely,” she explained. “Cutting/pasting in a sense continued through the use of word-processing software before we moved to the Baldrige Online Scorebook Solution (BOSS), which has been used by examiners for several years now. This web-based system automatically pulls into one area the independent reviews of individual examiners, enables examiners the flexibility to access the system anytime and anywhere, and, I believe, has saved the examiners a tremendous amount of time over the years.”
Barb summed up the changes she’s seen in technology at work as follows: “The most significant changes include portability, convenience, security, better management tools, scalability, virtualization—changes that have been beneficial to all. As our office technology evolved over the years, while we sometimes struggled to accept change, I found that the changes were advantageous and improved our work processes.”
“Now we’re into the virtual world and the cloud services,” she continued. “Where will we go next? My head spins when I think about all the new technologies that are coming up … smart phones, smart cars, smart devices. I hope using all this ‘smart’ stuff will make ME smarter!”
Memorable Experiences and People
Given Barb’s strong co-worker relationships and ready laugh, I next asked her to share some of her fondest and funniest memories of her career at NIST. She first shared an amusing memory of office technology in the 1970s. “I remember that if someone were to hang the magnetic card [from the mag card machine] on the wall with a magnet, it would scramble/damage the data!”
Barb said her favorite memories in the Baldrige Program include “those times when we were getting ready for annual examiner training and the award process, pulling together all the materials and setting up training rooms as well as preparing materials for the award ceremony and other events.”
She continued, “It’s so exciting to get into that process each year, knowing that you’ll have an opportunity to see our ‘extended Baldrige family members’ and be able to catch up with them on the past year. It’s fun, and you also realize the impact our program has around the world as you see the passion displayed by attendees at Baldrige training and conferences, such as award recipients, examiners, and those from organizations that are on the journey to performance excellence!”
Barb remembered as “a special and fun time” the period when she helped plan the layout of two floors where the Baldrige staff would work at NIST. “I worked with designers, electricians, networking staff, and furniture contractors,” she said.
Among her funniest memories of work life with the Baldrige Program, she said, are those of yearly “staff holiday parties where [Baldrige director emeritus] Harry would come up with a humorous group activity such as reciting a funny poem as we would all pass a small gift from left to right in a circle; he was always so clever with his ideas.”
Barb also recalled fondly the annual “potluck picnic where we would enjoy so many tasty things and experience fellowship and friendship!” She added, “Having some down time with my Baldrige friends to laugh and enjoy hearing about family and special life events, such as weddings, new babies, vacations, children and their accomplishments—it was all so fun and interesting.”
Barb wished to call out her “many wonderful bosses” throughout her career, stating that they were all very supportive supervisors and committed to excellence. “I was hired at NIST by Dr. Joan Rosenblatt, an amazing and respected statistician who was very supportive of others, with a quiet and calming presence,” she said. In addition to Rosenblatt, she said, “those who really had a positive impact on my life and my career include Burt Colvin, Ellen Ring, Patsy Saunders, Harry Rook, George Uriano, Barry Diamondstone, Harry Hertz, and Bob Fangmeyer.”
Asked what she will miss about work when she retires next month, Barb responded, “I will miss my Baldrige friends the most—this program has the most dedicated, committed, loyal people who believe in and recognize the importance of this program and who appreciate the value and difference this program can make, not just to organizations that know about us and use the Baldrige Excellence Framework, but to the nation and the world.”
Barb continued, “While we all know [former Baldrige Program Director] Harry Hertz was a hard act to follow (and he will continue to be a lifelong friend to me), I want to say how much I appreciate and respect our current director Bob Fangmeyer. He’s done an amazing job in extremely challenging circumstances!”
An Exceptional Job
How has Barb’s work with the Baldrige Program differed from that of peers who manage IT for other NIST programs? For one thing, she has participated in everything! As she explained,
“What has been unique about my role in the Baldrige Program is that I fully participated in all the program activities from the start to the end of our program cycle. This included participating (in various ways) in the examiner selection process; examiner training; the Baldrige Award process in all stages (from setting up and implementing BOSS, to serving as a Consensus Review monitor, to preparing all the laptops for site visits and sometimes going on site visits); and the annual Baldrige Award ceremony and Quest for Excellence® conference. In addition, I had the privilege of being involved in Baldrige judges’ and overseers’ meetings. All of this was exciting, rewarding, and, on occasion, exhausting!”
What does Barb see as the biggest challenges in relation to knowledge and data management for the Baldrige Program’s future work? “I’m not sure I want to tackle that,” she laughed. Then she offered this: “Management of knowledge and data must have the people and the infrastructure to support it.”
For the far-flung “Baldrige community” (i.e., national, state, and local program staff members; Baldrige advisory board members and judges; award recipients and applicants; and other partners, collaborators, customers, and stakeholders), Barb offered the following parting words:
“I am honored to have been associated with such a unique and distinguished group of volunteers! It is exhilarating to see the passion folks have for this program and the difference it makes to organizations—all over the world. I made many friends along the way; learned a lot from them; and appreciate their contributions, patience, ideas, and genuineness. I wish all of them peace, joy, and continued fulfillment of their hopes and dreams.”
No wonder why we will badly miss Barb—and not just when computers may crash!
Note to Baldrige examiners and other stakeholders: Do not worry about the Baldrige Program’s data and IT after Barb’s departure; succession planning has resulted in a highly qualified successor to Barb, Darren Lowe. To wish Barb well in her retirement, please feel free to respond with a comment below.