Every Watson Gloves employee has a Watson Story. With Ali Zuberi, our IT Manager, his story started 9 years ago. Within this time, he was able to develop his career and grow the IT department from a 1-person crew to the 5-person team we have today. Learn about Ali’s Watson Story below!
Let’s get started with you sharing your Watson story.
I started almost 9 years ago back in April 2012 as IT & EDI Support. Back then, it was mostly just me running the day-to-day IT operations. When I started, I had a goal in mind to learn as much as I could and put in a lot of hard work. Five years later, the company found a need to grow the IT department and promoted me to IT Manager. Over the past five years, we’ve added an IT Support Specialist, Applications Support Specialist, and two EDI Support Specialists to the team.
How did you discover Watson Gloves?
I was job hunting for a role in IT Support with the help of a recruiter. He was working on filling an EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) role at the time and asked if I knew anyone that has EDI experience. I said that I didn’t know anybody off-hand but would keep an eye out. I asked if it was a role that I could apply for – the recruiter told me that I didn’t have any EDI experience. In that moment, I knew I had to sell myself. Here was my pitch: I was a quick and motivated learner and confident that I could learn EDI with my background in IT. He gave me the chance and booked me for an interview with Watson Gloves, and the rest is history!
It’s always interesting to learn how one finds their way into Watson Gloves! In what ways did Watson Gloves allow you to excel and grow in your career here?
The biggest thing that has enabled my growth at Watson Gloves is without a doubt the unbelievable support that I receive from the company. I always have support, not just from my manager, but everyone at Watson Gloves. It’s an environment where I’m given the opportunity to try new things and learn from mistakes. Given the freedom to learn has provided me with the opportunity to take on new challenges that pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed for growth. Also, being recognized for the value and work I bring to the organization is so important; that type of positive recognition goes a long way.
Ali Zuberi at Watson Gloves’ Annual Summer Tailgate Party
What is it like managing the IT Team?
Ali Zuberi and Bill Sampson together at
the 2014 AGM Boat Cruise Party
It’s really great to have a team that’s behind you. We learn together and ovecome challenges as a team. The key factors of success are having open communication and two-way trust. I tell the team the same thing that I apply to myself – always push yourself, learn new things, and don’t get comfortable. I’m always supporting growth, just as how the company has supported me and my career path. Also, IT is always changing, so it kind of goes without saying that IT professionals should always be finding ways to continuously grow.
Okay, we got to talk about 2020. As the IT Manager, you must be incredibly busy!
Haha, no kidding – it has been incredibly busy and hectic, while also very rewarding professionally.
So tell us what work was like for the IT team leading up to the pandemic and the actions you took when responding to the pandemic.
When the pandemic hit in March, it really felt like everything changed in a snap. In one morning, the leadership team made the decision to send the office teams to work remotely. A lot of things were happening all at once, so we really had to step back, take a deep breath, assess the situation, and then come up with a game plan on how we can mobilize and facilitate remote work for most of the team. We also had to figure out how to support the onsite team members, specifically those essential to continue working in our warehouses and factory.
In July 2019, we upgraded the VPN systems for easier virtual connection to the office computers. This made things easier when we started preparing all employees’ computers to work remotely from home at the beginning of March 2020. We started utilizing the full Office 365 suite before COVID-19, so that helped us adapt to virtual communication, such as remote meetings and general communication on Microsoft Teams. And our leadership team recently increased the IT budget to allow us to purchase new equipment and pivot in mobilizing our teams to work safely and effectively both on-site and at home.
I could imagine behind the scenes that it was very chaotic and hectic. But on the front end, it was very seamless, so kudos to your team.
I really appreciate that because behind the scenes, it was very chaotic and hectic. We had to help make a smooth transition to remote work for staff across all three branches. COVID-19 was also something new, so people had to deal with the stress and anxieties caused by the pandemic, while on top of that, starting work in a home environment and needing to adapt to that. We had to make sure that we were there for support in all of that and to make the experience as seamless as possible. Our goal on the IT team was to make sure there was no disruption to the business, while at the same time, get all our day-to-day tasks completed.
What does the future look like for IT?
Within the IT department, it’d be continuing to grow and get better – to continuously look at internal processes and find ways to better those processes. As the company and business are growing, we also have to make sure back end infrastructure is there to sustain that growth.
As for the future of IT, the biggest change I think would be the flexibility to work remotely. During this pandemic, virtual connection and communication have grown considerably – “collaborating from a distance” as people say. We’ve seen businesses move to video calls and meetings. And that’s a change that’s not just limited to work. My kids in school have to adapt as well with distance learning. It’s a learning experience for all of us. So, for IT, I think we’re going to see a lot more emphasis on online collaboration in many aspects of our life.
Any last thoughts?
The biggest point I’d like to reinforce is how thankful I am for the opportunity and growth Watson Gloves has provided me these past 9 years. Like I said before, it’s all thanks to the continuous support, trust, and recognition the company has given me. Everyone in the company says it’s like a family environment here, and it truly is from the top down. The CEO & Chairman, Marty Moore, and President, Kasey Whitman, know everyone’s names in the company, who we are and what we do, and that’s really saying something. The supportive environment and team are what continue to motivate me – it’s knowing that you matter and that you are valued. Like many people who have celebrated 20, 30, 40 years here, I want to one day proudly say, “Oh yeah, this is my 25th year at Watson Gloves!”
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