The man behind the e-mails: Rob Guissanie

By Tracy Lum

Senior Editor

When it comes to technology on campus, no name is more recognizable than that of Rob Guissanie. In times of critical systems outages, phishing scams or other technological issues, his name fills your inboxes, warning of impending changes or even danger.

As the Senior Technology Support Specialist of Library & Information Technology (L&IT), Guissanie focuses on boiling complex technological issues into simple advisory messages for the campus at large. Though Guissanie does not have a hand in all the projects he tells the campus about, the e-mails come only from him to establish credibility and trust. While informative, Guissanie’s e-mails also convey a subtle humor that will elicit a chuckle from any reader.

For instance,  this Valentine’s Day, Guissanie sent a message to the general campus about an imminent critical systems outage. “The Library and IT Enterprise System Team will be ‘showing a lot of love’ to some critical University systems later this week that will impact your relationship with them for a short time,” he wrote.

“I wondered how often people were reading the e-mails,” Guissanie said in his office in the labyrinthine Computer Center. “I wanted to liven it up a little to see if anyone was truly reading it.”

At first, some of his coworkers thought that his methods were unprofessional, but most have adjusted to his style since then.

“Rob’s e-mails have a consistent humor and a consistent tone,” said Mary Ann Burkland, Assistant Director of Technology Support at L&IT. With the consistency, “the campus then can know that it is not spam or a phishing attempt,” she said.

Guissanie says his humorous messages make it more interesting for everybody, including himself, but that the most important thing is to communicate critical information to the campus. For the most part, his strategy has worked.

Sara Grubb ’11 always reads Guissanie’s e-mails and even lets them accumulate in her inbox because she likes them too much to delete them right away. “I love his e-mails because I think they’re hilarious,” she said. “Because I know he’s funny, I always read his e-mails instead of just skipping over them like I do other official but largely unimportant-looking e-mails,” she said.

Guissanie has now been at the University for nearly 10 years. After graduating from Penn State in 1990 with a general business degree with a focus on computers and information systems, he served in the navy. He then worked in technology at Penn State for almost eight years before an opportunity opened up at the University.

For Guissanie, technology is both a blessing and a curse. “While it allows us to do so many things we could never do before, it raises the bar higher than it’s ever been before,” he said. In some ways it’s like an arms race, he said; people expect more and more of technology.

“People are reaching for that technological solution that’s going to be the solution to everything but never is,” Guissanie said. “A lot of it just comes down to process and applying what technology you need for the process … It’s the tool, not the solution,” he said.

A volunteer assistant coach for the women’s track and cross country teams, Guissanie believes the best part of the University is its community feel. “You can really get involved in anything you want to,” he said.

Even in the somewhat isolated Computer Center, he experiences this sense of community, largely because of his coworkers.

“When I communicate things, it’s not me; it’s really the people that work around me that create the great things happening on campus,” Guissanie said. “They’re just very talented and probably the most intelligent people I’ve ever worked with,” he said.

Guissanie says he has no reason to leave anytime soon, so we can expect more witty e-mails from him as soon as the next critical systems outage or technological issue hits.

 

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