We Are IT | Meet Breeze Howard

Monday 05/08/2023

Breeze Howard is one of a kind. She bikes before work, has a passion for logistics, runs an archery 4-H club … and she loves meetings. Well, not the meetings exactly, but the interactions with people and the ability to have input into how ITS operates. Breeze started working for ITS in 1996 as a computer lab monitor while studying at FSU and went full-time with ITS in 2002. Now, as associate director of system infrastructure support, she manages the Linux and Operations teams and runs the technical side of several projects. She fills her free hours of the day serving on numerous ITS committees and task teams.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Tallahassee. My family is here. My in-laws are here. We’re all here.

Where did you attend school?

FSU. That is when I started working here. I got my bachelor's degree in computer science.

Why did you choose to work in technology?

During my first year as a student, my boyfriend—who is now my husband—worked at Academic Computing & Networking Support, the precursor of ITS. He let me know they were looking for computer lab monitors.  I thought, “Sure, I can do that.” I got an interview and the job. And, yeah. I just stuck around. I’ve worked here my whole career.

I started as a chemistry major, but I switched my major to computer science since I was already taking those classes with my boyfriend. He was teaching me how to program, and I liked it. But I didn’t know I had a passion for it. My passion is logistics, but I didn’t even realize that until the last five or 10 years.

So, I just kind of fell into it because of the right circumstances and being in the right place at the right time. Life doesn’t always take you where you expect to go, but sometimes you end up right where you are supposed to be.

How long have you been at FSU?

I started working as a student employee in the computer lab in Carothers in 1996, then switched over to the Systems group in Sliger. I started full-time in 2002.

After college, I went off and saw the world for a year. I did a study abroad in Japan as my final semester at FSU. Then moved to LA for my husband’s job. That is when I realized Tallahassee isn’t so bad. So, we came back, I got my old job back, and I have been working here ever since.

As for seeing the world … I’m really glad I tried it, but I’m glad it didn’t stick.

What is your role at FSU?

I was raised on the Linux team. That’s my home. Up until last year, I was involved in very technical, Linux administration and was doing a lot of hands-on work, even as a manager.

Now I work with a lot of spreadsheets and meetings and play more of an administrative role.

I run the Linux and Operations teams. I also run some projects from a technical perspective. I am currently working on a project formalizing the onboarding and billing process for Amazon Web Services and Azure accounts and getting that to a point where it is a service we can offer departments.. I am also currently involved in projects evaluating new software solutions to address several ITS needs.

I am also on lots of committees and project teams. I am an extrovert and enjoy having a say in how things are done, so I volunteer for all the things. I am on the ITS Professional Development Committee, the Cloud Center of Excellence and the Change Advisory Board, and I ran a tiger team for email group management, to name a few.

So, yeah. Lots of spreadsheets and meetings.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I like people, and it’s cheesy and cliched to say, but I would say one of the best things ITS has is a really hard-working group of individuals who are all trying to get stuff done and figure out the best way to do it. We are all working in the same direction.

The other thing I like is finding ways to optimize. I have a shirt that says “Happiness is the Optimization of Systems.” That’s my personal motto. I always think, “How can we do this better?” I love it when we find ways to automate technical tasks and streamline processes. Optimization of systems at a technical and process level—that’s my jam. I love logistics.

What is the most rewarding project you have worked on at FSU?

That's like, 25 years of projects! ...

I would say one thing I am pretty proud of is the Amazon Web Services disaster recovery project.

It was the beginning of 2020, and the project was three months into a six-month engagement with consultants when the person running the project left FSU. So, I stepped into his role and became the unofficial technical lead. Then COVID happened.

But I got to work with everyone on all the infrastructure and enterprise applications teams, and we knocked it out. We were working with something completely new, and none of us knew exactly how to make it work, but we got it done. Everybody really came together to figure it out, and we built a cloud disaster recovery process in the midst of COVID in a reasonable amount of time (maybe just a little later than planned) and under budget. It was stressful. It was tough. But now we have a nice, documented and well-organized process that works. It is solid, and we test  it and improve it every year.

So, I wouldn’t necessarily want to do it again, but I am pretty proud of what we accomplished.

Other than your cellphone, what is your go-to, can't-live-without piece of tech?

Laptop? I guess it is my laptop. It’s not as essential as my cellphone, but it does have a bigger screen.

If you were to invent one piece of technology, what would it be?

An infinite, renewable, safe and cheap energy source. I mean, if I don't have to be practical or possible, why not aim high?

What is a fun fact about you?

I sleep talk, occasionally sleep walk, and once I even sleep drove. It was when I was 17, and as far as I know it only happened once. But what do I know? I was asleep.

Talk a little bit about your family.

I have two kids. They’re nerdy and artistic. My oldest is about to be a TCC student. She wants to go into computers, too.  She loves D&D and mythology. My youngest is in high school. She draws art and plays too many video games. Then, I have a husband who is a programming nerd and video game and board game fanatic.

What do you do in your free time?

I go to the gym or go biking on the St. Marks Trail every morning. I play a lot of board games (because it’s logistics!). I also lead two 4-H clubs—Wild About the Woods and Arrowheads  Archery clubs. Each kid picked a 4-H club to join during COVID, and now I run both clubs. That's how that works. I’m learning more than I ever thought I could about trees.