Best 100: University of Miami, no. 3

In many respects, Richard Ganga is the prototypical IT professional at the University of Miami.

After spending more than 11 years in a variety of IT roles at Motorola Inc. and Arthur Andersen and as the founder of his own information security consultancy, the University of Miami graduate returned to his alma mater two and a half years ago to pursue an executive MBA and a master's degree in engineering. Before long, Ganga ran into university CIO Lew Temares, who offered him a job as an IT security manager.

Temares "told me about this great opportunity, and I grabbed it with both hands," says Ganga.

That's emblematic of the kind of passion that IT professionals have for working at the University of Miami. A 2003 Best Places to Work in IT honoree, the university has moved up a notch to the No. 2 spot in this year's ranking. A highly diverse demographic makeup combined with a commitment to training have made the university an ideal environment for IT workers. The sun and surf of South Florida are also pretty alluring.

"A lot of it has to do with the kind of entity that UM is," says Tim Ramsay, associate vice president of information management at the university. "It's a health care, research and education entity. The breadth of the work that IT people are asked to do is universal."

Like many employers in the private sector, the University of Miami offers a solid benefits package that includes up to 22 days of sick leave per year. But it's the university's commitment to education and the access to IT training that make the school stand out from other workplaces.

For instance, in addition to taking IT training courses that the university offers, IT employees can sit in on classes that are taught by the school's IT executive education unit, if space is available. IT workers can also take classes related to customer service, supervisory skills and leadership development that are offered by the University of Miami's human resources department. The school's IT workers are also encouraged to attend industry conferences and make presentations at them when possible.

In March, the university began a project to install asset management, advanced service-desk and security software modules from Computer Associates International Inc.'s Unicenter suite. As part of that effort, which is expected to continue through September, the university sent several people to CA's Islandia, N.Y., headquarters for training and six IT workers to the CA World conference in Las Vegas last month, says Ramsay.

It helps that scores of IT conferences are held in South Florida between November and May each year, enabling university IT staffers to hold down their travel and expense costs and make the most of the school's annual training budget, Ramsay adds.

Of course, there's more to working in IT at the University of Miami than the seven days of training that each IT worker averages annually. Compensation for IT workers at the school is competitive, and last year, 12 percent of the university's IT workers were promoted. Not bad in an economy where compensation and job growth for IT workers at many organizations have remained flat. No wonder the university's IT staff turnover rate was a minuscule 2 percent in 2003.

Says Ramsay, "IT workers start here and they don't want to leave."

The university's IT workforce is also diversified. Of the school's 298 IT workers, 190 are minorities, including 34 of 66 IT managers.

There are a wide variety of job opportunities as well. For instance, the University of Miami is renowned for its research in fields ranging from ophthalmology and neurology to marine science. If research isn't your thing, there are opportunities to support other areas, such as administration. "It gives IT workers a chance to move between different areas within UM," says Ramsay. "You don't have to move from company to company to get that kind of diversity."

Then there's the beach. But residents of South Florida will tell you that there's a lot more to the area than the sand and waves. "South Florida is a very exciting place to be," says Ramsay. "There's probably more to do here within 100 miles than there is anyplace in the world. There's something here for everyone."

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