Digital innovation and dog shows: 24-hours with IT Director Megan Baker

As Keen’s IT Director, Megan Baker oversees all US equipment processing centre (EPC) technology needs and plays an integral role in the roll-out of Keen’s mobile platform system across the country. She also dedicates her free time to an unusual passion: her 10 award-winning golden retrievers…

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My day begins at 5am when I get up to feed and walk my 10 golden retrievers.

My husband and I live in a small town called York Springs in Pennsylvania, which is about 40 minutes from Keen’s office in Carlisle and 10 minutes from the historic city of Gettysburg. I’m a long-time dog breeder and trainer, so I’ll plan the evening’s training in the morning and head off to work – I like to get into the office at 7am.

As soon as I’m in, I review any IT systems issues and check for any ‘hot items’…

A ‘hot item’ could be a customer wanting to find out how to better use the technology we offer or helping our teams implement our new mobile platform server at our Tacoma, Baltimore, Clayton and Sanford EPCs. This technology involves providing live data to the customer, thus helping them identify issues and areas of cost-saving more quickly. In some cases, the mobile inspection happens before the product leaves the customer’s plant – by providing this data to our internal teams, they’re able to identify quality concerns with the customer’s product sooner. My team are notified of any system issues as soon as they happen – the idea is to be proactive and solve challenges as soon as they arise.

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"For me, a good day is harnessing efficiencies for customers - saving them both time and money."

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"Even though I have 'IT' in my title, my role touches on all parts of the business."

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"For me, being a good leader is about selflessness."

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"My 10 dogs are my life! They've got 10 distinct personalities and to get the most out of them, I work with them in different ways."

What else is on your agenda at the moment?

I work on the hardware and software used in trucking and truck maintenance, too. We currently make use of the Qualcomm product line of equipment – these devices connect directly to our asset trucks, gathering tractor information on vehicle issues. GPS technology is also part of the Qualcomm package and helps our asset trucks provide physical locations to our customers electronically.

For me, a good day is harnessing efficiencies for customers – saving them both time and money.

We recently moved from AS400 to Microsoft SQL for our trucking operations, which means all the reporting functionality is in one platform. All data can be interconnected quickly and easily, and Microsoft has also improved the Reporting Services (SSRS) and Power Business Intelligence– allowing us to provide more live real-time data to our customers in various formats.

Even though I have ‘IT’ in my title, my role touches on all parts of the business.

I work on everything from process improvements, analytics and billing to payroll, operations and customer service. I’m serving both our internal and our external customers – and my motto is ‘Challenge accepted’. If you’ve got a problem, I’ll do my very best to fix it!

For me, being a good leader is about selflessness.

I worked with someone a few years ago whose passion was hardware installations. I knew the best thing was to let him own that side of the function – not only because he was good at it, but because he was passionate, too. It really helped bring the team together.

I spend a lot of time travelling to Keen sites around the US to help embed new technologies and to hear from the users themselves.

The IT function can often get wrapped up in its own world of shiny new products – and we need to remember to listen to the users themselves. They look at technology from a different perspective – and can help us ensure we’re developing tools in the right way.

I have my love of dogs to thank for my role at Keen.

I had the good fortune to meet Harold Keen’s wife at a dog show 23 years ago, and she introduced me to former vice president Betsy Keen, who ended up offering me a role in the customer service team. Within a couple of months, the company had reorganised and I was leading the IT department. Back then, we operated with three PCs and an AS400. We now have 250 users across a wide area network and offer our customers a host of efficiency-driving technologies, such as APIs and web services. We’re looking forward to making use of the Wallenius Wilhelmsen product line of software packages in the near future.

My 10 dogs are my life – my four-legged children, if you will…

I learn a lot from my dogs – they’ve got 10 distinct personalities and to get the most out of them, I work with them in different ways. Unlike some breeders, we’re not very good at giving our dogs away and tend to keep them for life! They’re highly intelligent animals and we compete regularly in national dog shows. The dogs we do give away go on to do some impressive work – in search and rescue and bomb detection, for example.

When I watched Hidden Figures – a film about a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA – I was blown away.

To me, the film speaks to the power of determination and overcoming adversity. It was truly inspirational. When it comes to music, I’m a huge John Denver fan – his country and folk music brought a lot of meaning to a lot of people, and I still enjoy listening to him to this day.

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