Municipalities Building In-House IT Support

By Karen Stinneford

In 2015, during a time when many organizations were outsourcing their information technology services, the city of Minneapolis brought theirs back in house.

The municipality wanted more flexibility and control, said Gina Filigenzi, IT director for the city.

“But most importantly, we wanted to form positive relationships and be a valued partner to the other municipal departments we serve,” she said.

Although Minneapolis has 16 distinctively different service operations — ranging from community safety to public works to public health to housing and development — leaders envisioned offering an in-house IT team that leveraged enterprise solutions, promoted self-service, and supported and enabled all departments to effectively serve the city’s residents, businesses and visitors.

“Anything we can do to improve self-service and peel off employees frees them up to do more meaningful work on behalf of the city and its residents,” Filigenzi said.

About 4,000 employees work for the city of Minneapolis; 400,000 people reside within the city limits.


First things first: Staffing up the help desk

The city’s IT department needed to create a robust help desk and desktop support staffed by entry-level technologists who could become the faces of IT, helping city employees navigate IT changes and answer questions.

For this, IT department officials looked to CompTIA Tech Career Academy for qualified job candidates. The academy had just established a presence in the Twin Cities and was running its IT-Ready Technical Support program to get adults ready for help desk jobs within eight weeks of training and CompTIA A+ certification.

“We literally had to start from the ground up, so we hired about 25 people to fulfill our service support,” Filigenzi said. “We got great graduates from the program. Years later, some have thrived and advanced here within the city, and others have moved to outside organizations for the next upward steps in their careers.”

Initially the city hired three IT-Ready graduates who had just graduated in June 2015. Later on, the city hired two additional IT-Ready alumni who had gone on to other IT jobs in Minneapolis initially, however, one of those alumni had gained enough job experience that he was brought in as a manager for the city’s help desk. In the photo at the top of this story are the faces of the IT-Ready alumni who worked for the city and in some cases are still working for the city’s IT department.

Filigenzi says that not only were CompTIA Tech graduates technically qualified for help-desk roles, but they demonstrated soft professional skills.

“They had all the qualities we look for — such as resourcefulness, good judgment, and a desire to learn and grow and be successful,” she said. “One consistency among the graduates has been their eagerness to serve and please customers, and I love that.”

The service-minded orientation proved particularly useful in March 2020, when the city moved to remote offerings because of the pandemic.

“We had to transform our workforce virtually overnight to work remotely from home, and our service desk was just amazing,” Filigenzi said. “People have been singing their praises because they are helpful and patient and understanding, and they made it possible for most of our employees to shelter in place and continue to do the people’s business.”

As a seasoned IT professional, Filigenzi said she believes an IT employee with robust people skills is every bit as valuable as the technical skills they possess.

“Customer service, eagerness to help, resourcefulness — all of that outweighs technical chops,” she said. “The technical stuff can be learned.”


Improving municipal IT services while also increasing diversity

Filigenzi was among four city officials honored with an internal award for increasing the diversity of the IT Department’s employees — increasing the percentage of employees of color from 12 percent in 2015 to 27 percent in 2016, a statistic that outpaced national averages in the field.

“This team’s effort helps the city change the face of our workforce to better reflect the community we serve and make progress toward our goal of One Minneapolis,” Bill Champa, HR manager, said during the presentation of the award.

Filigenzi said she would encourage other municipalities and companies interested in diversifying their IT departments to look to CompTIA Tech Career Academy.

“It’s a fantastic program that can help support race and equity initiatives within your organization while also accessing a pool of extremely talented, eager and ready-to-work individuals,” she said. “It’s a win-win.”

For employers nationwide looking to hire new IT pros for their help desks, learn more how you can get involved with CompTIA Tech on our Hire Alumni web page.


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